Dog Tricks Tuesday: Teaching your dog to Target
One of the first “tricks” that ADHDog learned was a command called Target. I’ve also heard it referred to as “Touch”. I call it a trick because it’s one of those behaviors that, once you have the basics down, can be expanded to train your dog to do many different things. The entire premise of Target is that you want your dog to make contact with an object. I’ve started off with my hand, because it allows you to morph the Target command into a second “Come!”, where your dog is returning to you and making physical contact in return for a treat.
To train Target, I recommend tucking a treat under your thumb and holding it against your palm, like you’re making the “Number 4” sign. If your dog is generally food motivated, he’ll usually begin to investigate on his own to see if he can get at the source of the delicious smells. If a dog is not food motivated, I’ve seen people use a cotton swab with an interesting or distinct smell to prompt the dog to investigate their palm.
As soon as his nose makes contact with your palm, mark the behavior (such as with a clicker, or an excited “Yes!” or “Good!”) and allow him to take the treat. You often have to begin with your hand very close to your dog’s face – as he gets the idea (you want him to touch your hand with his nose) you can begin to move away.
I’ll let you practice the basics for a little while. Next week I’ll talk about expanding Target to include other objects, such as a button, or a bell to tell you that your dog needs to go out – definitely handy!