Training Exercise - Training a hand target
Target training is one of the most useful behaviours you can teach your dog. In fact, this is a behaviour that I use every day for all of my dogs, as well as most dogs I see in a training setting and in the veterinary world.
Have you ever wondered how Zoo animals are taught to present feet, teeth, shoulders etc for veterinary treatment?
Or how the Dolphins are taught to jump high out of the water and through hoops?
Basically they are taught using a technique called targeting. This means learning to put part of their body on something.
In dogs we generally start with a nose to a hand. And well, let’s face it, dogs are naturally nosey!
Using a nose touch can be a way to move your dog on and off couches, in and out of crates/cages, on and off the scales in the vet clinic, through doorways, and in and out of cars just to name a few. It is also a behaviour that you can quickly adapt for teaching some cool tricks and also use in dog sports.
Using a nose/hand target can be used to gain your dog’s focus, and with this, you know exactly where they are looking also.
How do you train a hand target?
- Set your dog and yourself up. Have your clicker (if you are using one), and treats ready.
- Present your empty hand to your dog at a distance of about 10-20cm just below their nose level (hold it still).
- Dogs being dogs will naturally move forward to sniff/bump the hand
- Click and Reward your dog (with a treat from the opposite hand). Repeat several times.
- Practice with both hands.
- Once the dog has successfully targeted their nose to your hand add a cue word. I use “touch”, you could also use “target”, “bop” etc.
- Start asking your dog to move toward the target at a greater distance and at varying heights.
- If your dog is focused on your hand holding the food. Put that hand behind your back.
- If your dog is not moving toward the target hand, try taking the target hand away and represent it a little lower.
Things to remember
- Don’t wave your hand around if your dog is not moving toward it.
- Don’t move your hand toward the dog – it must move toward you.
- Check your timing – ensure you are marking the nose on the hand behaviour, not the nose moving away from the hand.
- Keep your sessions short!