Teaching Your Dog to Touch

August 2019

Audience: Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers

Goal: The cue "touch" (hand targeting) directs your dog to target your palm with their nose.

When and where to use "touch"

  • "Touch" can be used to orient your dog's body into a desired position. For instance, when you get ready to groom your dog, it may be easier to bring them directly in front of you by asking them to target your hand.
  • Hand targeting is a great way to call your dog to you in an emergency.
  • Hand targeting can be used as a game to move a fearful dog through an environment that scares them, and can stop an exuberant dog in their tracks by redirecting them.
  • "Special handshakes" that dispense treats after touch are often a great way of getting a shy dog comfortable with strangers.

What you need

  • Start in a quiet place.
  • Have 20-30 of your dog's favorite treats ready. How to train the cue "touch"
  • Practice in 2 minute sessions, twice a day.
  • If your dog tends to get distracted and wander away from you, put them on a leash.
  • Stretch your open hand about 1-2 inches away from your dog's face. They'll most likely stretch to sniff your hand. When you feel their wet nose touching your hand, praise and reward them.
  • Turn the training into a more animated game and keep your dog moving. Once they touch your hand, praise them and throw the treat right past their nose to the ground 1-2 feet away. This will reset them and keep the game going.
  • When you get 10 successful nose hits to your palm, you can call "touch" right before your dog touches your hand for the following times. Praise and reward your dog.
  • Start to increase the distance you place your hand from your dog by a couple inches every day. Work up to your dog coming from across the room to touch your palm for a reward.
  • When your dog is fluent in "touch" in a quiet place, take your training on the road. First, try a few repetitions in front of your house and yard, then practice hand targeting 3-5 times on a walk.

Tips and next steps

  • Don't move your hand toward your dog's nose for them to touch. Wait for them to approach you.
  • You can teach your dog to target both of your hands.
  • If showing your dog your palm represents a different cue for your dog (a lot of dogs have been trained to know this cue as "shake paw"), use two fingers or the back of your hand for your dog to target.
  • Once your dog is 90-95% successful in a low distraction area, gradually add in distractions. More information about improving how your dog responds to cues
  • If your dog is hesitant to touch your hand, rub a treat on your hand or hold the treat in between your fingers.
  • Don't reach out or lean over a fearful dog. Sitting in a chair or on the floor may be helpful.

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