Hand targeting (asking your dog to touch your hand with their nose) is a fun trick to teach your dog, but it’s also a useful foundation behavior. For example, hand targeting can be a great tool to help increase your dog’s reliability when you’re working on coming when called, and also for getting your dog’s attention when you need it. Advanced targeting skills are also used in many canine sports.
To teach your dog to TARGET your hand:
1. Start in a quiet place with no distractions with your dog in front of you.
2. Have your treats ready in one hand, and keep your other hand empty.
3. Ask your dog to sit and then give them one of the treats.
4. Now, bring your empty hand to the side of your dog’s muzzle about two inches from your dog’s nose.
5. Your dog will probably turn their head towards your hand to check your hand for food. As soon as their nose touches your hand, say “yes” to mark the behavior (the nose touch) and give your dog a treat from your opposite hand.
6. Move your hands back to your side or up to your waist and then repeat steps 4 and 5. Repeat often.
If your dog doesn’t touch your hand on the first try, pull your hand back by your side and then put it by their muzzle again. If that doesn’t work, try putting a few treats in your hand, make a fist, and put your closed fist by your dog’s muzzle. Once you have your dog touching your hand regularly you can build on this new foundation behavior!