Hand Targeting

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Ideas for cues: "Touch", "boop", "target", "props", "bump" 

Hand targeting is an excellent behaviour to teach any dog. It is the foundation behaviour for many service dogs as it can lead to the dog being able to target a location; a button to open the door, a shoelace to pull, a zipper to unzip, a drawer to close, a door to open, you name it! How does this help a regular pet dog? It can double as an awesome recall and you can use it to move them from point A to point B (off the couch, onto their bed, into the car, away from the counter, onto the vet's scale, etc). How useful is that?!

How to teach it:

Step 1: With your dog in (ideally) a standing position, present your open palm or two fingers a couple of inches away from your their face. If your dog looks at it or moves toward it, click (with the other hand, away from their head) and reach into your pouch to reward them with a treat. Be patient and keep your hand still. You will present your hand and hold it there. It might take them 30 seconds to look at it or investigate it closely. Once you click and treat, remove your hand and present it again.

Step 2: Now click only when your dog makes contact with your hand or two fingers with their nose. 

Step 3: Repeat step 2 until your dog reliably touches your hand or two fingers when you present it. 

Step 4: Now add the verbal cue. Before presenting your hand, say, “Touch” and then present your hand. (Be sure to pause for a second between the cue and reaching your hand out.) Click when they make contact and feed as usual. 

Step 5: When your dog responds reliably to the verbal cue, begin to increase the distance of your dog’s head from your hand by a few inches at a time. 


Step 6: Keep increasing the distance little by little. Also move your hand to different positions, higher, lower, toward the other side of your dog’s head—and try the exercise in different rooms of the house, then outside in a boring environment, then outside in a more challenging environment, and so on. 


Caution: Be sure that you don't bonk your dog's nose with your hand. It's important that they bonk your hand with their nose rather than vice versa! If your dog finds this exercise aversive and avoids your hand, get in touch with us or practice your dog's recall instead. Some dogs are hand shy and need help in the handling department before they feel comfortable doing this behaviour.

​Need some feedback? Upload your video of you training this behaviour to the discussion forum and let me help you!

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Lessons in this Course:

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