Hand Target Training
The 'Touch' cue teaches dogs that an approaching hand is not a threat and therefore does not require a negative response. Many advanced behavioral issues can often be traced back to seemingly innocuous beginnings like a puppy reacting nervously to an outstretched hand or general human touch.
The key to avoiding the escalation of such issues is to desensitize the dog to things that might be considered scary (such as human hands) as early as possible. Teaching the 'Touch' cue is a great way of building that foundation and is a useful cue to teach both puppies and adult dogs.
‘Touch’ is also a great confidence-building exercise and can be used to help all dogs accept the approach of a human hand, something that is likely to happen to them many times throughout their lives.
- Dogs are naturally curious animals, so start this technique by presenting your hand to your dog. As he goes to investigate your hand and touches it with his nose, praise and reward him.
- Take your hand away, put it behind your back, wait a second or two, and then present it again.
- Repeat this exercise until your dog is touching your hand whenever you present it.
- When your dog is good at this task, start adding the word 'touch' as he goes to touch your hand with his nose. After many repetitions you will find that he will respond as soon as you ask him to 'touch.'
- Try this exercise with both hands so that he gets used to touching either one.
- When he is reliably touching your hand, use this cue around the home. Call your dog to come to you, and as he gets close, extend your hand and ask him to 'touch.'
- Every touch should be rewarded at this point--some with praise and others with a treat.
- When your dog is responding well indoors, take the exercise outside where there are more distractions.
- Gradually increase the distance between you so that your dog has to travel farther to touch your hand.
Why Does My Dog Need To Know This?
The ‘Touch’ cue can also be used if you want your dog to touch other things with his nose such as an object or toy. It can be taught as part of a retrieval exercise or if you want your dog to close a door or switch on a light. This cue is regularly taught to dogs that are being trained to assist people in various ways. ‘Touch’ can also be used to distract dogs that are nervous or fearful of certain situations. Teaching your dog to play the ‘touch’ game by extending your hand to your dog, rewarding him for touching it and repeating the exercise until the perceived fear has passed, gives him something positive to focus on rather than the person or situation that makes him nervous.
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