A cued hand target is a useful foundation for many more advanced behaviors and gives you a way to capture your dog’s attention and direct their movements. Be sure to practice in a low distraction environment first!
Step 1. Present your hand a couple of inches away from your dog’s face. Click/mark and treat for any interest they show, whether an actual touch of their nose to your hand or just looking at your hand. After you treat, pull your hand back toward you and then present the hand again for another touch. After the first few times, reward only for full nose contact.
Step 2. Repeat this until your dog reliably touches your hand when you present it. Make sure you present your hand in a consistent manner (flat open hand with all fingers together pointed down, or a closed fist, etc). Continue to present it very close to your dog and at a similar height each time. Your dog may try other things or seem to ignore you – this is likely your dog working through the process of elimination to determine the definite right behavior! Have patience and make sure you are being consistent!
Step 3. Now that your dog is touching your hand reliably when you present it, it is time to add the verbal cue. Before presenting your hand, say, “Touch” and then put your hand down.
Step 4. 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.
Step 5. Keep increasing the distance little by little. Also move your hand to different positions, higher, lower, toward the side of your dog’s head—and try the exercise in different rooms of the house.
Uses for Hand Target
- Use it as an alternative way to have your dog come to you.
- Need your dog to move away from the door while guests come in? Cue “touch” to encourage your dog to give them space!
- On a walk and need to avoid something? Cue your pup to touch in the other direction.