How To Teach “Touch” (Hand Targeting)

Hand targeting is when your dog places his nose on your flat palm (or a different designated hand signal), aiming for your hand like it’s a big bulls eye. It’s a versatile behavior to teach your dog. It can be used to call your dog to your side, to position him from your left to your right or vice versa when in tight quarters, to get him off furniture and onto the floor, and to help build confidence in shy and fearful dogs. It can also double as a cute party trick!

Step #1: In one hand have a bunch of treats and your clicker, if you are using one. Tuck this hand behind your back. Place your empty hand a mere few inches away from your dog’s face. Hold it there and wait for him to place his nose on your palm. Mark (either with the clicker or the verbal marker, “Yes”) and reward when he makes contact.

Step #2: Once you see him easily completing the task, see if Fido can target from a greater distance.

Step #3: Add the verbal cue. Say, “Touch” as you see him coming in close to complete the behavior.

Training Tip: Your dog may have an easier time if you start the exercise with him in a standing position rather than a seated or down position. He’s more inclined to walk towards you.

Troubleshooting Tip #1: If your dog is visibly confused, try keep your hand out for several more seconds and give him a chance to give the right behavior, move backwards with your hand still extended to see if your body movement will draw him in towards you, or simply place your hand behind your back and restart the exercise while making it a bit easier this time around.

Troubleshooting Tip #2: If when your dog doesn’t touch your hand, you decide to touch his nose and then reward him, you’ve taught him the exercise is that you touch him and he gets a treat. That’s the opposite of what you want him to learn.

Be careful not to fall into this trap.

© Give Paw Dog Training LLC 2017