Touch Targeting

Phil Guida

Touch Targeting

Teaching a dog to touch his nose to your hand on command is a simple, highly effective training protocol that has many practical uses:

  • It can teach a touch sensitive or hand shy dog to welcome physical contact instead of avoiding it.
  • It can help a reactive dog to direct his attention to the handler, thereby interrupting fixation.
  • It can establish a bond between an anti-social dog to a human handler because it is a process that encourages teamwork.
  • It can help teach a non-biddable dog the value of working with humans.

The exercises begin with a simple behavior and reward protocol under low distraction.

Once the dog becomes proficient, we then raise the level of distraction and reduce the frequency of reward. By introducing distraction and practicing the exercises in different environments, we are providing a variable reinforcement schedule. Variable reinforcement schedules create stronger behavior, and create behaviors that are more resistant to extinction. This means that with time and practice, the dog will generalize the learning experience.

  1. Start with the dog in a quiet area (low distraction). Place a high value food treat in your closed fist and present it to the dog saying “Touch!” in a happy voice. When he touches his nose to your hand, mark “Yes” and open your hand. Repeat several times.
  1. Switch the food to the other hand, present the original hand, now open and empty, PALM UP, UNDER HIS CHIN. He will smell the food and should respond to the “touch” command exactly as he did in #1 above. Mark the instant his nose touches your hand and give the treat from the other hand. (Note: with highly reactive dogs, begin by tossing the treat on the floor.) Repeat several times.
  1. Repeat #2, but vary the placement of the open hand.
  1. Repeat #3 in different environments, under gradually increasing levels of distraction.