Teach your dog to target your hand + PDF handout

Teach your dog to target your hand + PDF handout
Photo by Nick & Djalila / Unsplash

Teaching a hand target using clicker training is a great way to strengthen the bond between you and your pup and improve their attention skills. This simple exercise is easy to learn and can be used in all kinds of situations, like staying calm around other dogs or asking politely for things through hand targeting. Follow the instructions below or scroll to the bottom to download the PDF handout!

Teach your dog to target your hand

Teaching your dog to target your hand is a great way to bond with your pup and improve her obedience skills. Hand targeting is when you teach your pup how to tap the palm of your hand with their nose when given a verbal cue. This skill can help improve obedience and keep your dog settled around the house and in the neighborhood! You can ask your dog to touch your hand instead of pulling on leash or barking at another dog.

You can also teach your dog to ask for things politely by using hand targeting. For example, you can ask your dog to touch your hand with her nose before you walk out the front door, before offering a chew, or even before you feed her. It also helps build your dog's trust in staying close to you, which can lead to improved communication in other areas like leash walking and recall commands.

Steps to get your pup successfully targeting your hand:

1. To start, put some tiny and delicious treats into your treat pouch for your dog. The treats should be no bigger than your fingernail.

2. Hold your hand out in front of your dog's face, no more than 2-3 inches away. Your dog will probably touch your hand with its nose. As soon as you feel your dog's nose touch your hand, click the clicker and give your dog a treat. (When teaching hand targeting, make sure to hold your hand still and let your dog touch you first!)

3. Repeat this several times until she is reliably touching your hand with her nose when you offer your hand.

4. Once your dog has grasped the concept of eagerly touching your hand for a click and treat when it is within 3 inches of her nose, you can start to move your hand further away. You can also try new ways of presenting your hand, such as at your side. Stick with each new way of presenting your hand until your dog touches it reliably.

5. Now we're ready to introduce the word "Touch." When your pup nearly always touches their nose to your hand when you present it, use the word “Touch” as you show your hand. Continue practicing clicking and treating your dog for touching your hand when you use the "Touch" cue, in different settings and various distractions.

Hand targeting with clicker training is a great way to bond with your dog and improve their obedience. This easy-to-learn exercise can be used in all kinds of situations to help calm and focus your dog. Have fun clicker training your pup and enjoy the bond you create with this rewarding exercise!

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