A few years ago Evey and I were privileged enough to be photo/video demonstrators for another trainer’s interview. In that interview the trainer was asked, “What are the two most important behaviors to teach your dog?” That got me thinking. What two behaviors would I choose? Today I’m excited to introduce one of my two favorite behaviors: Hand Targeting!
What is it?: Hand targeting is when your dog touches his nose to your outstretched palm.
Why Teach it?: Targeting is a great way to maneuver your dog. For example, a dog that enjoys this behavior might walk on to the scale at the vet without hesitation to touch a target hand. It can be used as a visual cue when teaching your dog a recall (come when called) and heel position. It gives shy dogs something to do with strangers and helps build their confidence. For distracted dogs, it is a way to regain their attention. You can also teach LOTS of other behaviors once your dog’s know how to target. Additionally, hand targeting is easily transferrable to other objects, making it easy to create a helper dog that closes drawers and doors around the house without scratching your fine wood work.
1. Hold your hand flat out about half an inch from your dog’s nose and wait for them to sniff your hand. The moment you feel your dogs nose on your hand Click then deliver a treat to your dog.
2. Repeat several times then take a break.
3. Once your dog predictably touches your hand at half an inch from their nose start increasing the distance you offer your hand from their nose. Remember to take baby steps move inches away at first then feet so the dog has to get up to touch your hand. Click the moment your dog’s nose touches your hand and then deliver a treat.
4. NOTE: Don’t be tempted to move your hand toward your dog. The goal is to have your dog come to you! Be patient and let your dog figure out how to get the reward. Practice this in different rooms of the house. Then go outside and practice in progressively more distracting environments for your dog. Have different people target with your dog. If your dog doesn’t respond take steps back both in terms of difficulty and distraction. You might have to have new people “re-teach” the behavior. Don’t fret the second third and fourth people always get faster and faster results.
5. For Fun: Try steps 1-4 with a wooden spoon in your kitchen. This will serve as a target stick and be helpful later on when teaching other behaviors that require you to have extendable arms!