This is a simple, but incredibly useful
foundation behavior. Let's teach our dogs to target a target stick,
your palm, and a ball, to begin with.
To shape the Hand Touch/Target behavior:
1. Get some tasty morsels of food and a
clicker. Having a short leash on your dog prevents his wandering away and
eliminates long periods of failure between his successes.
2. Hold your open hand, palm facing the dog,
just an inch or two from his nose and wait quietly. I position my self on
the dog's right but facing his right shoulder so that I can see what he is
doing and I am in "heel position" to the dog.
3. Wait quietly for the dog to touch out of
4. At the very moment his nose touches your
hand, click and feed your dog. Remembering that this is a thinking game for
dogs will help you to resist the temptation to pet or verbally reward at
5. After successfully repeating the above
steps several times he might suddenly "refuse" to perform the behavior. He
has merely entered into a learning dip; he will come out of it if you do
nothing but wait. In learning dips dogs are often looking for help and
reassurance that the food is being earned for this simple task. Your waiting
allows him to find the answer on his own, which will solidify the behavior
in his mind.
6. After the dips (there are normally two) the
dog will display renewed interest in touching your open hand and may
intensify the behavior. Until you add a command you won't see another dip
unless you raise criteria too quickly and cause him to really quit.
7. You may raise criteria slightly by moving
your hand to the left, the right, then up, and then down, waiting for the
dog to respond with a touch each time you stop your hand in a new position -
click and feed for each touch.
8. You may further raise criteria by having
the dog jump up or travel forward to touch your hand - again, remain silent
- clicking and feeding after each touch. Your hand should be still before
each touch, for to do otherwise is asking the dog to touch a moving target.
9. When the dog is consistently offering the
touch behavior whenever you hold out either hand, the behavior is ready for
a verbal command.
Touch a ball.
Hold the ball in your hand above the dog's
head, then briskly move the ball in front of your dog's nose. (Don't
be so abrupt that you are scary, though!) Most dogs will sniff the ball,
because they are, literally, nosey! As son as the dog touches, click,
then treat. Repeat, until he is smooth.
Lower your hand, check that the dog can target
the ball 12 inches from the ground, 6 inches from the ground, on the ground,
on the ground with your hand 1/2 inch from the ball, on the ground without
your hinting hand...
Touch the Target Stick
Present the target stick to your dog. When he sniffs it, CLICK and treat.
If he is reluctant to sniff it, the first time or two you can put a dab of
something yummy on the end of the stick. Don't keep on luring,
though...just jumpstart him...
Repeat several times, and begin altering the height of the stick randomly.
Hold it a few inches higher, lower, to the right, to the left. Turn around,
do it in a different direction. Take it into other rooms, and practice
getting the dog to touch the tip of the ball in each direction you face.
Broaden your movements, slowly pulling the target stick across the room as
your dog follows, as if a magnet were pulling him.
this crazy behavior? It's easy! It's fun! Puppies LOOOOOVE it! And it is the
base, most important behavior you can teach for quickly learning many
advanced behaviors down the road. You're teaching muscle memory now to your
puppy. Teaching him to target and move with the target.
Now that your dog can target three things, can
you think how you might use targeting to teach him to find your cell phone
when you lose it?
Get your clicker, and plenty of treats, and sit down with your dog. The easy
way to teach shake, if your dog cooperates, is to hold a smelly treat in
your closed fist and put it in front of your dog, about shoulder height. Let
him sniff it. Chances are that he’ll try to lick your hand, nudge it, or paw
at it. As soon as his paw hits your hand, CLICK and then give him a treat.
Try several more times. Your dog will soon be offering his paw to you first
thing to get the treat. When he gets to this point, start giving the vocal
command “Shake.” Remember to always click BEFORE giving the treat, at the
exact moment his paw hits your hand. When he’s ready, give your open palm to
your dog. This will be your hand signal for shake. Ask him to shake, click
if he paws your hand, then give him the treat. He may be confused for a
while, so backpedal if you have to until he is ready to paw your open palm.
Once he’s pawing at your hand, try to clean up your act by increasing the
time he has to leave his paw in your hand, then clicking and treating. You
should be able to get him to leave his paw there until you release it.
Reach out as if you were going to ask for
shake, but click before
the dog’s paw touches your hand. Repeat until he is reaching but not
touching. Try this from a step, then 2 steps away from your dog. Tether
him, if necessary, for a few repetitions, so that he can be successful at
this new behavior, rather than just trying to “shake” and experiencing
Once he is waving his paw, get a
bit pickier. Start rewarding only the higher paw waves, or start rewarding
a double wave, rather than a single…