Teaching Your Dog to Target

Learning to Target the Hand

I love to teach my dogs to target.  This trick/skill is useful in many facets throughout my dog’s lives.  Targeting can also be built upon to teach other skills and more intricate skills, it is a building block to good obedience!

What You Will Need

  • Great treats
  • Clicker
  • Your dog

Getting Started

  • I like teaching this command with very few distractions so find a secluded area
  • At first I like to teach my dog to target or “touch” my hand
  • Put treats in one hand or in a treat bag or your pocket
  • With the opposite hand, open it wide with your fingers to the side and put it in front of your dog’s face
  • When your dog touches his nose to your hand or sniffs at your palm, click and treat
  • Continue opening and closing your hand, click and treat when your dog makes contact with your hand
  • Keep doing this until your dog knows what he has to do to get you to click, now you may add the command “Touch”
  • Next hold your hand higher up, over to the left, the right or behind your back
  • Your dog should follow your palm wherever it is and touch it with his nose on command.
  • If at first he has trouble understanding when you move your hand go back a step and be patient.
  • Once your dog’s confidence is built and he understands the command you can have him repeat the behavior a few times before clicking and treating, then you can taper off the clicker.

    Teaching Your Dog to Target Your Hand Can Help Him Gain Confidence and Approach Things in His Environment

This behavior can be used to help fearful dogs feel more confident in their environment, it also builds a foundation for retrieving, for  delivering items to a specific area, it can be used for a competition send away, and even in agility.

I have a nervous dog, who is often afraid of things that he does not recognize.  I can use the “touch” command and my hand to get him closer and closer to objects he would not normally approach.  When my hand is on the object it gives him confidence to approach it because he trusts me.  It is also an easy way to get his focus back on me when he is exhibiting apprehension!


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  1. What a great little lesson on targeting! This is a great skill for any dog to learn.


  2. Shirley says:

    Useful skill for the dog to learn and for the owners to pass on. Thank you.


  3. Shirley says:

    Useful information for dogs to learn.


  4. Angela says:

    Our dog loves doing “touch” when we are out and about- helps her feel more confident and relaxed.


  5. Bette says:

    Great information. Can’t wait to try this out. I’m sure our dog will love it.


  6. Wendy McIntosh says:

    so after he can target your hand – then what?


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