Hi everyone! It’s been a while since my last post. It’s been pretty busy, so I wanted to leave everyone with something that is quick, yet useful. Nothing is quicker to teach your dog, or more versatile of an exercise, than nose targeting.
If you haven’t already taught your dog to nose target, great, it’s time to get started! In this video, the wonderful and creative Emily Larlham asks the dog to target her index and middle fingers with the use of the word “Touch.” This is a very common way to teach targeting and extremely useful, when trying to guide your dog via pointing.
However, another common method of teaching targeting is to have the dog touch his nose to the palm of your hand. I love to teach targeting this way for many reasons. Think of the inside of your hand as a magnet, and your dog’s nose is the opposing – but cold and slimy! – magnet. You want your dog’s nose to be automatically and unconditionally drawn to the inside of your hand on cue.
Using your palm as a target can be helpful in many ways. Palm targeting is great for fearful or skittish dogs that may not only fear people in general, but more specifically, the unknown intention of an open and moving hand. If the dog can associate palm targeting as a fun and rewarding exercise with the owner, then we can begin to transfer the targeting exercise to other family members, kids and finally strangers.
Targeting to the palm is also useful when teaching a dog a recall, or to come when called. When you consider the many different phrases that people use to call or welcome dogs into their space, such as “come here,” “right here” and “over here,” it just makes sense to perhaps use an alternate cue for targeting. Of course, the words used are usually accompanied by the obligatory outstretched arms and palms facing the dog. That’s why I like to use “Here” as the cue for palm targeting instead of “Touch.”
I wouldn’t totally abandon the “Touch” cue. It’s still extremely useful for targeting items, (versus people). For example, if I wanted to teach a service dog to nudge a light switch up or close a cupboard door with their nose, I would definitely teach Touch. Using a target stick to teach Touch could also help your dog to differentiate between the cues and associated behaviors, as well.
And if your dog already knows “Touch” using palm targeting, you can always transfer the cue. Transferring the cue goes like this: New Cue → Old Cue → Click and Treat. With targeting, it would look like: “Here” → “Touch” → Click and Treat. After several repetitions, your dog should begin to anticipate the desired behavior and go straight from the “Here” to targeting your palm.
To transfer this to a recall, simply begin to increase distance from your dog, as well as the number and level of distractions. As with all training, you want to keep targeting sessions short, and always end on a positive note. More happy targeting!