Monday, January 31, 2011

Why Train "Touch" or "Targeting"?

(by Ana Grimh, CPDT-KA)

Does your dog do anything you'd like to change? Barking frequently? Pulling on leash? Jumping up on people? Etc, etc. If you answered with an enthusiastic (or exasperated) "YES," then there is a cue you must teach your dog!

The cue is "touch," and in our classes, we demonstrate this as your dog pressing his/her nose to our palm. To start teaching your dog touch, simply hold your hand out. Most dogs are interested in sniffing it, so use your marker word as soon as the nose touches your hand. As your dog gets good at this, start to move your hand around more (high, low, left, right, etc). You can also add a verbal cue (e.g. “touch”) by saying it right before you present your hand.

This simple, enjoyable cue has many applications. Some examples are:

1. Walking Nice – Much like using a treat or toy to lure your dog, where his head goes, his body will follow. Once your dog knows touch, you can hold your hand at your side to get your dog in heel position.

2. Jumping Up – For dogs who are persistent jumpers, you can teach them a jumping touch. This gives them a “legal” outlet for their jumping energy, put keeps their paws off of you.

3. Recall/Come – Some dogs get so enthusiastic about touch that it can serve as a recall. It can also be helpful for dogs who come, but stay out of reach of putting the leash on. Call your dog, and then ask him to touch so he gets closer to you.

4. Timid Dogs – Touch is also a good confidence builder. For dogs who are a little nervous with hands reaching for them, it builds a good association with hands.

5. Excitable Dogs – Touch is an “inexpensive” behavior. A dog can do it quickly, without expending a lot of energy. Dogs can learn to focus better by being asked for behaviors they can do easily, and touch is a great one for these frenetic dogs.

This is not an exhaustive list of uses for touch! There are so many reasons why this is an excellent skill to have in your training "toolbox" that I cannot list them all here. If you are interested in learning more about this cue, check out an upcoming training class with us - we teach and expand on this cue in our Beginner Doggy School!

Happy training!

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