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Teaching Hand-Targeting to Your Dog

By Andrea Arden

In January, Petfinder held a live Q&A on Facebook with pet trainer Andrea Arden. The following is an excerpt from that Q&A and was originally published on Petfinder’s Facebook page.

Teaching Hand-Targeting to Your Dog


How to Teach Your Dog Hand-Targeting

  1. Present your hand approximately six inches away from your dog at his nose level. Most dogs will investigate with a nose touch. Mark and reward with a treat from your other hand and be careful not to position that hand too close to your dog’s face. To begin, hide it behind your back to avoid distracting him.
  2. If your dog doesn’t touch your hand, refrain from pushing your hand toward him. Simply move it a bit, touch it yourself, or remove it and re-present it to encourage investigation.
  3. Repeat a few times. Most dogs make a quick connection between touching your hand and getting a reward and will repeat when you present your hand again.
  4. When you are confident your dog will touch your hand at six inches away, add the cue word “touch” just prior to presenting your hand.
  5. Now practice moving your hand a bit farther away so your dog has to stretch a bit to reach it. Some dogs are fine with an increase of six inches at a time, others need to go one inch at a time.
  6. When this is reliable, refrain from rewarding unless you have given the verbal cue. This way, your dog learns to touch your hand when requested.
  7. Practice moving your hand on different sides of your dog and in different areas of the home.
  8. Practice outdoors in various environments.

Andrea Arden, CPDT
Andrea Arden Dog Training
New York, NY

Learn more about Petfinder’s Train FurKeeps program.

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