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  • Kristen VanNess

Nose to Hand: Teaching Your Dog the Hand Touch Command

What is Targeting in Dog Training?

Targeting is a word used in animal training. It means the animal puts a specific body part to a specific location. In this article, we will be teaching your dog to press his nose to your hand. Other examples of targeting might include your dog going to his bed, putting his front feet up on a rock, or resting his chin on your lap for grooming. Targeting can be used to move an animal or to train new behaviors.

Why Teach a Nose Target or Hand Touch?

Hand touch is usually an easy behavior to train dogs. It’s taught in puppy classes all over the world and used as an initial activity for many dogs in shelter training programs. Dogs are often curious, so we can easily get a dog to investigate a hand. Those touches become deliberate in the first session or after a few sessions as the dog learns the game.

Hand touch is especially helpful because we can use it to move a dog on and off furniture, on the scale at the vet’s office, invite a dog into the house, train new tricks, or use it to greet people.

It is also an excellent way for dogs to learn to interact. Hand touch is also a perfect opportunity for pet parents to learn how to have good timing, use a clicker or marker signal, and efficiently give a treat.

How to Teach a Dog to Hand Touch

Hold out a flat hand to your dog, like you are offering something. We want to avoid giving him a stop signal like we are stopping traffic. Offer the hand under your dog’s chin.

Most dogs will dip their heads to investigate. As your dog touches your hand, you can use a clicker or say “yes” at the moment of touch. Then, use your other hand to deliver a treat to the touch hand.

Remove both hands and then repeat the whole routine. Train in 3-5 minute sessions, and stay at this stage until the behavior is deliberate.

Advanced Hand Touch

Add challenge by varying where you put your hand. You can present your hand a little to the left, a little to the right, lower, or higher. Gradually change the position so your dog has to work harder to reach the hand.

Another way to add challenge is to have your dog touch more than once to earn the reward. Sometimes click or “yes” on the first touch and then reward, and sometimes only click or “yes” after the second or third touch. Gradually increase the number of touches. This is a great way to teach persistence.

How do I move my dog with a hand touch?

After your dog is more experienced, invite him to touch and move him onto a low dog bed. Click as he gets onto the bed and deliver the treat. Repeat this going on and off a few times.

You can also try spinning your dog in a circle or even training a trick like weaving between your legs. Get creative!

Do I need a command for hand touch?

It is up to you! Some families add a cue. You can give the word, then present your hand. “Hand,” “Touch,” “Target,” and “Nose” are commonly used - you can pick any word you want. We want to give the word before presenting the hand so that your dog learns the word means the opportunity will appear. Click for the touch and reward each repetition for now.

Some people choose not to use a command. The hand presentation is very obvious. For most uses, a dog will already be looking at us, and we won’t ask him to discriminate between tasks. Sometimes, working dogs or dogs training for competition will have to learn the difference between types of touches or waiting to touch.

We hope you have some ideas to teach your dog to hand touch. Start with the basics and build from there. For a great example of more variations, take a look at this video. If you'd like personalized one-one-one support, our team is here to help.


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