This is a simple, fun behavior where your dog bops their nose to the palm of your hand and is useful keeping your dog engaged with you around distractions. You can guide them to a specific location or teach them a new behavior. For example, if I want to move Davy, my German Shepherd, away from the front door – I go to the desired location and ask him to touch my hand. This activity can be used to move your pet off the sofa to another place or on the sofa for a cuddle. It takes a little training with treats to instill a solid hand touch.
To start, present your hand toward your dog and wait for them to investigate. If they are disinterested, smear some food on your hand than mark (say “Yes”) as soon as their nose makes contact with your hand and give them a treat. Repeat this a few times before making it more difficult by holding your hand further away. When your dog is doing really well and stepping in to make contact, you can roll their reward away from you so that they can come running back to you for the next repetition. Dogs love this fun game of dash and it helps to add more momentum to their nose touch. It’s also a confidence building exercise.
Anytime you teach your dog a new skill, it supports your bonding process. It’s simple, easy, fun, and can be a stepping stone to future skills and tricks like spin, down, and recall. Every good activity your dog learns can be used to replace or prevent undesirable behaviors.
If you have a fearful or reactive dog, hand targeting is a great way to distract them in the presence of a trigger before they get too excited. With practice, it is an easy way to regain your dog’s attention.
It can be a great management tool to move your dog closer to you to a better position for grooming and nail trimming. This will give you the chance to add duration to a hand target which may also be beneficial during veterinary exams. Most importantly, it can help to teach a reliable recall. It’s easier for your dog to perform a speedy, reliable recall when he already knows the skill of hand targeting.
Once you and your dog get the hang of this, you’ll find plenty of moments where it comes in handy! Happy Training.
Happy Pet! Happy Home!
Get more pro tips to take care of your pets by subscribing to our newsletter and blog.