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Trainer’s Corner: Teach Your Dog Targeting

by Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC, Training Expert

When it comes to dog training, targeting is a fun and very useful behavior to teach your dog. It refers to teaching an animal to touch a part of his body (like a dog’s nose or paw, or a bird’s beak) to something like an outstretched hand or a stick.

A small, sample list of some of the behaviors that can be taught with targeting include:

  • walk through a door
  • lay down
  • turn
  • come
  • focus
  • go to a mat

Teaching Hand Targeting

For teaching it, all that you need is small treats and a clicker, if you use one. 

Steps: 

  1. With clicker and treats in your left, a pocket, or bowl on a table; place either your fist, palm or fingers in front of your dog’s muzzle. (If necessary, you can first rub the treat on the palm of your RIGHT hand to encourage your dog to investigate.)
  2. As soon as your dog’s nose touches the RIGHT palm, fingers or fist, click or mark verbally.
  3. Then, get a treat and deliver it from the RIGHT hand.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times; and practice this several times a day.
  5. When your dog is really good at this, then you can hold your right hand a few more inches away from your dog. Click or mark and feed as soon as your dog touches that hand with his nose. As you progress, you can move your hand farther away or in different directions. You can increase drive to your hand by walking backwards as you are presenting your RIGHT hand.

 You can also teach your dog similarly to nose target other objects. Your target hand can also help to move your dog into a position when teaching another behavior like ‘turn’ or ‘down’.

Lisa Desatnik, CPDT-KA, CPBC, is a certified dog trainer (and certified parrot behavior consultant) with So Much PETential who uses and teaches the most positive strategies for changing pet behaviors. She offers individualized dog and puppy training for manners and problem issues. Learn more about her at www.SoMuchPETential.com.