We’ve worked on hand and object targeting in our Doggy Business LLC play groups a few times over the years, and thought this would be a fun skill to revisit. It’s an easy one to teach and once your dog has a solid hand target, you can use it to help them learn more complex skills, such as coming when called, loose leash walking, and tricks.
To teach the basic hand targeting behavior:
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 add your verbal cue by saying your verbal cue (we use the word “touch”) before you put your hand out.