Teaching your dog to bump his nose to the palm of your hand is a skill we call targeting. Once the dog learns how to target we can put this useful behavior on cue and transfer it to objects in order to teach a new skill or use it simply to move the animal from one place to another.
Some people use targeting to get their dogs to move in and out of the bath tub or in and out of the back of the car especially if the clearance is particularly high and the dog is a bit uncertain. The targeting tool gives you options when you are working with your dog so that you can move them from one place to another without having to physically push or pull them where you want them to go. You can teach your dog to target with any part of his body but we are going to keep this simple and teach him to use his nose first.
Steps for Targeting : Dog’s Nose to Your Hand
Getting the Dog to Touch
Open your hand with palm facing dog and a treat trapped under your thumb. As your dog’s nose touches your hand click and give up the treat. Repeat this 6 times.
Getting the Touch Without the Food Lure
Now offer your hand the same way ( palm facing dog) but without a treat trapped under your thumb. If the dog bumps your hand click and treat (time the click so that you are clicking at the moment your dog’s nose touches your hand). The treat now comes from the table or your other hand. Repeat this until the dog is really enthusiastic about touching your hand with his nose.
Holding your hand the same way, repeat step 2. If the dog loses interest or seems confused go back to step 1, and trap food under your thumb for 6 reps before trying again without food.
4. Stand up and Follow
When your dog is easily bumping your outstretched hand while you are standing, try moving your hand so that he must follow it for a step or two before he can touch it to earn his click and treat. If he won’t follow your hand go back a step for 6 reps and try again.
5. Transfer to another person
Add another person only when the dog is doing well bumping your hand for a click and treat. Sit close together at first and take turns offering your hands for him to bump for a click and treat. If he’s slow to go to the other person, go back to food in your hand for 6 reps before trying again without it. Remember that the dog still gets the treat, but it’s no longer right in your hand.
6. Add Distance
When you are able to have your dog target both of your hands start to increase the distance between you by a few feet, until you can send him from across a room.
7. Add the Label
Call it “Touch” when the behavior of bumping your hand with his nose is well established (meaning he does it immediately when he sees a hand extended without food in it.) Say “Touch” then extend your hand and wait, when your dog bumps your hand click and treat.