Want a handy training tool? Try hand targeting. Hand targeting is teaching your dog to target or touch your hand with his nose. What use could you have for hand targeting?

Think about the times you've tried to maneuver your dog to a certain place or position by tugging on his leash, pulling him by his collar, or pushing his body with your hands. By trying to physically coerce your dog into place, he resists. If that happens to you, hand targeting might be just the thing you need. Another good use for hand targeting is getting your dog to come to you or refocus on you. “Come” or “watch me” can be used, but only if they are strong enough to use in the situation – if not, hand targeting might be a useful alternative to help regain your dog's focus.

To get started, have some tasty treats ready. Decide what part of your hand you want your dog to target, such as the back of your hand, your index finger, or something else. Be careful to use a hand position that does not resemble any other hand signals you use. For example, if you use an open hand with the palm facing your dog to signal “stay” then don't use the palm of your hand for a hand target.

Hold out your hand in the position you want a short distance in front of your dog. Most likely, he will touch it with his nose to check it out – perhaps to see if you have a treat. Doesn't matter why; mark the moment he touches your hand with your clicker or verbal marker (“yes” for example) and feed a treat from your other hand. Move your hand a bit and try again. As your dog gets the hang of it, move your hand farther away. Practice it several times a day until your dog gets the hang of it, and then you can start to introduce a verbal cue, such as “touch” or “hand”.

Once things are going smoothly, you can begin using your hand targeting to get your dog where you want him to be. Happy training!


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