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AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Christie Canfield tells us how to teach your dog to tap objects with their nose, which can be useful for many situations.

Teaching your dog to target an object (touch something with his nose or paw) can be extremely useful. You can use targeting to teach them to greet someone politely, ring a bell, paw or nose a target, close a door or flip a light switch, to name a few behaviors.

How to Start

Teach them to ‘Touch’:

Choose a room in your home with little distraction. Have treats readily available and a clicker (if you use one). Open your hand and hold it with your palm open towards your dog, fingers pointing down. Move your hand so it’s an inch in front of your dog’s nose (some dogs may need half an inch to start). When she sniffs your hand, wait for her nose to make contact with your palm. As soon as it does, click or mark with a word like “yes” or “good,” and immediately reward.  Repeat until she is consistently and purposefully touching her nose to your open palm. Then add in the ‘touch’ verbal cue. As you present your hand, say ‘touch’ and reward her for doing so. Play this for several weeks until your dog has a strong, reliable “Touch” in many locations.

Next, add distance and movement.  Start small. Ask for a Touch from 1 foot away and incrementally increase that distance. Put your hand at different heights, closer to and further from your torso, etc. Play this for several weeks until your dog has a strong, reliable Touch in many locations.

Transition from touching your palm to objects:

With a strong Touch cue, you can transition the behavior to other objects. For instance, instead of your palm, ask for a Touch but present a post-it note. Repeat the above sequence until your dog reliably responds by touching the post-It.

Then you can begin sticking a post-it on your knee, the door, another person’s hand, etc. Wherever you place the post-it, your cue will include the name of the object.

For instance, you want to teach your shy dog to greet someone politely. Stick a post-it on a friend’s hand and ask your dog to “Say hello – Touch” as your friend offers her post-it covered hand. When your dog Touches, immediately reward her. She’ll eventually learn that “Say hello” will be followed by Touch, and then you will be able to drop the ‘Touch” part and just ask her to Say Hello.

For more great training tips, advice and to ask training questions about your dog, enroll in the AKC GoodDog! Helpline, a seven-day-a-week training service staffed by experienced dog trainers.
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