Hand targeting is teaching your dog to use his nose to touch your hand on cue, that is if you put your hand out and say “touch”, your dog should come running over and touch your hand with his noise.
This is a very useful skill for many reasons:
• Teaching walking on the leash
• Teaching many obedience behaviors
• Socialization exercise-teach your dog that when people reach down to pet, your dog knows what to do and doesn’t pull away or jump up.
Hand targeting is very easy to teach. Start your training session with a baggie of delicious treats. With your dog in front of you, put your hand out and as a matter of curiosity your dog should naturally touch your hand with his nose. The moment your dog touches your hand say, “Yes!” and immediately give him a treat. After about 5 repetitions, start adding the cue “touch” as you present your hand. Remember to follow with “yes!” when your dog completes the behavior and give a treat.
The word, “Yes” is a marker word. In other words, it marks the behavior the instant your dog performs the desired behavior. Very quickly your dog will understand that “yes” means he did the right behavior for you.
Once your dog is quickly touching your hand when you place it out in front of him, start moving your hand further back, about 6 inches away at first to encourage your dog to have to reach out or even move to touch your hand. This is when you know that your dog is “getting it”. Continue to increase the distance and difficulty level of having to touch your hand. Move your hand to the right, left, above and below your dog’s head.
Now that you know your dog understands “touch” play a training game with your dog and a family member or friend. Start with having them present their hand to your dog as you had started the training procedure. They should be presenting their hand fairly close, making it easy for your dog to touch. As you see your dog understands, have them move their hand further away, making it more difficult for your dog to touch. Now, you and your training partner can sit across the room from each other and one at a time present your hand to your dog and say, “touch”. Your dog will have fun running back and forth between the two of you, getting treats for performing hand targeting.
We would love to see video of your dog performing the “touch” command. Please feel free to upload your video on our Facebook page or email it to us for us to share with others.