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Hand targeting — why and how to use it!

You finally took the leap into dog training (congratulations!) and you’ve completed your first training session and you’re wondering what the heck to do with this hand target behavior your trainer taught you.

Well, let’s start with a few basics that hand targeting will (likely) lead you into with your dog’s curriculum —

  1. Mat training — hand targeting can streamline mat training. In this video, watch one of my favorite dog trainers toss a treat into the bed to “lure” the pup onto the mat (I often skip this step and use a hand to lure the dog on instead).

  2. Power steering (a force free way to get your dog to move) — have you ever caught yourself grabbing your dog to stop them from jumping? Or maybe from grabbing some food that fell on the ground? We may not realize it, but grabbing our dogs causes stress and make them feel afraid, too. Now that your dog knows how to hand target, begin asking for their attention and body movement and alignment by asking for ”touch”. And don’t forget to reinforce with cookies some of the time to keep the behavior fluent!

  3. Recall training — tired of your dog evading you when you call them inside? Hand targeting is a great foundational skill that will trickle into the beginning stages of recall training. Once your dog is used to moving it’s body to you for a target, you can begin adding distance between your dog and your hand target. Be prepared to start running because your dog will love this game of “touch and go!”.

  4. To invite on/off the furniture — most dogs don’t love having their collar grabbed (unless you work on that training task), so make sure to ask for them to join you with “touch”, or to get off the sofa, as well. Whatever you need, “touch” is there to help guide you with a softer approach.

And if you haven’t started training yet, here’s a good video to get you started by Emily Larlham to get you started with your dog — here’s to a lifetime of connection, love and understanding with your dog!

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