Shake Can As A Dog Training Tool

The shake can is a wonderfully simple yet useful tool for dog training.

Let me say at the outset that a shake can is a tool for getting a dog’s attention, it is not a weapon. I am adamantly against the concept of spanking, hitting, smacking or otherwise administering blows to a pet. Doing so is not a part of responsible training, it only teaches your dog that you are someone to fear.

A shake can is constructed from an aluminum can with five to ten coins placed inside. The opening in the can is then sealed with packing tape (see photo).

Assemble a shake can with an aluminum beverage can, 5-10 pennies and packing tape.
Assemble a shake can with an aluminum beverage can, 5-10 pennies and packing tape.

Dogs, like people, may become accustomed to sounds, even annoying noises such as that of a shake can. Therefore, start out with just enough racket to get your dog’s attention. You can always add more sound later.

You will need your pet’s attention any time you want him to learn something new or respond to a command. If he is already responding, you won’t need to shake can. However, if he ignores you, rattle it lightly, just a single time, then begin your intended activity as soon as he is paying attention.

A shake can is also useful for misbehavior. Willie, like most puppies, explores his world with his mouth. That’s acceptable for a puppy playing with a peer, but biting one’s owner, even play-biting is unacceptable, and puppies must be taught good and bad behavior. Willie wants so much to play and he knows only one way. Sometimes he hears NOBITE and LEAVEIT so much that he fails to respond, and that is a good time to get his attention with a short shake of the can, accompanied by a LEAVEIT. As soon as he lets go he is rewarded with something appropriate to chew on, such as a rawhide stick.

As you can imagine, our house is covered with such goodies so that a reward is never far from reach.

Likewise, there are shake cans planted strategically around the house.

A shake can is even useful when improper behavior takes place across the room. For example, if your puppy is urinating in inappropriate places and voice commands are not making him stop his flow so he can be taken out, a shake of the can will usually do the trick at which point you can give him your usual command for exiting the home toward his outdoor bathroom area.

Praise him liberally when he “goes” outside, and a little treat reward upon returning indoors doesn’t hurt, either. Doing so reinforces that he did the right thing.

Use the shake can as a tool and it can be a great asset in the puppy training process. Start with short, gentle shakes, gradually increasing the sound level and/or the duration of the shake if he begins to become “immune” to the rattle.

See you Monday, Dr. Randolph.


  1. I was told by someone who saw a show called Lucky Dog that the can would help with separation anxiety. I can’t find the show and am wondering if that is true. It seems it might make it worse, startling them when they are already upset and barking frantically.

    • I’m with you, I think it would tend to heighten anxiety. Ideally, you’d get a referral from your veterinarian for an evaluation and consultation with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. If you don’t have one nearby, find out from your pet’s doctor whom he can work with and you can have a Zoom call among you, the specialist, your veterinarian and your dog and get some expert help. Click on the link above to find someone close to you (you’ll still need a referral to work with the specialist) and that will be a starting point for your local doctor, also. I’ll say a prayer for your baby to get some relief. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

  2. Would something like this work if i want my dog to avoid bumping into specific things? I.E.

    My dog has a tendency to knock over my trash can (not to go through it but just tends to run into it alot) would attaching these shakers to the can so that they shake when it knocks over have the potential to teach her to avoid the can.

    • It probably won’t hurt. I’d start with just ONE can, however. If she seems excessively upset by the interaction, I’d discontinue it. You don’t want to create a phobia. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

    • Adding noise MIGHT ramp up your dog’s aggression. I’d suggest a professional trainer for aggression problems. Aggression is nothing to play with. Someone could be hurt. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

  3. My brother-in-law went to a trainer and they said to throw the Penny can at them and hit them. I do not agree and he insist it is the right thing! I will never throw it at my dogs.

    • NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good for you for standing up for what’s right. The shake can is for exactly that: SHAKING. It is a tool for getting a dog’s attention and making him look at you. Nothing more. It’s not used to frighten a dog and must NEVER be used to hurt a dog. Shame on that trainer and anyone of his ilk. Thanks for reading, Dr. Randolph.

  4. I have a ten month ild belgian shepherd.ive been having problems since we moved from a large house to a duplex apartment. He now hears new people, closing car doors and just alot of new sounds.i had hoped it would pass but here we are two months later and its just as im going to try the shake can when he starts barking and see if that will help with our barking problem. Thank you

  5. Have them all over my house also. My Dad used it many years ago to train (along with training classes) his Lab. They do work wonders.

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