Hand targeting is one of the easiest dog training behaviors you can teach your dog.
It’s dead simple and is ridiculously useful. I wish I’d known about the many uses of hand targeting when I had my “bad dog” Lucky. That dog taught me so much about dogs, behavior, and dog aggression. I was relatively new to dog training when I realized the extent of Lucky’s behavior problems and while I did the best I could with him, I was still learning and didn’t have the depth of knowledge I now have.
Hand targeting works great for all dogs and it’s great for lots of different situations.
You can use hand targeting to keep your dog’s focus on you (instead of the jogger, bird, other dog, rabbit, etc.). You can move your dog around easily (instead of tugging on his collar and forcing him to move). You can make veterinary or grooming visits go more smoothly by being able to direct your dog’s head and body in a specific direction (instead of manhandling him into the perfect position). You can use it to help with loose leash walking (the dog can’t forge ahead if he’s targeting his nose to your hand). You can also teach your dog a neat trick like ringing a bell to let you know he has to go outside (the bells are the new target!).
For service dog training, we use targeting to show the dog exactly where we want him to push something.
For instance, if the dog is learning to close a cabinet drawer, it’s very easy to get the dog’s nose in the right position so nosing the cabinet closed is a cinch.
This week’s dog training video highlights how easy it is to teach targeting to your dog.
Schooner will walk you through the steps to teach targeting.
Step 1: Hold your hand out flat, palm facing the dog. Drop your hand right down in front of your dog’s nose so he can’t miss it. Click and treat the instant you feel whiskers, nose, or tongue on your hand.
Step 2: When your dog is successfully tapping his nose to your palm when it’s right in front of him, begin to present your palm slightly to the right or left. Then present a little higher or a little lower.
Note: If the dog doesn’t move toward the hand within 2 seconds, pull your hand away and put it behind your back. Get your dog’s attention and the present the hand again, very close to his face.
Step 3: When your dog is good at tapping his nose to your hand no matter if it’s high, low, to the right or to the left, then present your hand again and pull your hand forward a few inches as your dog reaches toward your hand. The goal is that your dog will take a step or two while following your hand.
Step 4: Begin to move your hand further so the dog has to take several steps to follow your hand.
Your Turn: There are lots of uses for targeting. What situations do you think you can use targeting with your dog?