Training Your Dog To Target or Hand Touch

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Targeting is such a great behavior to teach your dog. What is targeting? Simply put, it is teaching an animal to touch a part of his body (like a dog’s nose or a bird’s beak) to something like an outstretched hand or a stick.

how to teach your dog to hand targetNot only is it an easy behavior to teach, it is very useful for teaching many other behaviors which I’ll talk about in a later post. Once your dog (or other pet) is reliably targeting (I’ll use hand touch for this example), you can move your hand up – down-to the right- to the left etc.

Just a small list of some of the behaviors that can be taught with targeting are:

*        walk through a door
*        lay down
*        turn
*        come
*        focus
*        go to a mat

Teaching Hand Targeting

To set you and your pet up for success, it is always great to start
in an environment with minimal distractions; and also very important
is having your pet’s favorite treats on hand.

What you will need:  Awesome treats and a clicker


  1. With clicker and treats in your left, a pocket, or bowl on a table; extend your right palm or fist about 4 to 6 inches from your dog’s muzzle. (If necessary, you can first rub the treat on the palm of your RIGHT hand to encourage your dog to investigate.)
  2. As soon as your dog’s nose touches the RIGHT palm or fist, click or mark verbally.
  3. Then, get a treat and deliver it from the RIGHT hand.
  4. Repeat 10 to 15 times; and practice this several times a day.
  5. When your dog immediately moves toward your RIGHT hand when it is presented, practicing moving it and moving yourself. You can increase drive to your hand by walking backwards as you are presenting your RIGHT hand.

When your dog is fluently targeting your palm, you can add a verbal cue if you’d like. Note that you do not need a verbal cue as the hand palm can become the cue in itself; but if you’d like to add a verbal cue, this is how.

  1. Now say “touch” or another word just *before* presenting your palm to touch. Click and treat when the dog touches your hand.
  2. Next, make a small movement with your hand, as if you are about to present it, but don’t give the verbal cue and don’t fully present your hand. Just fake it a little bit. If your dog ignores the movement, awesome! If he tries to touch your hand, just ignore it.
  3. Next, alternate between giving the verbal cue and presenting your hand with “faking” it. When you give the verbal cue, click and treat the dog for touching. If he touches when you haven’t given the verbal, just ignore it. Don’t correct him or say anything. Mix up the way you move your hand so that the dog sees a variety of different hand movements.
  4. Now we are going to teach the dog to wait for the cue. So present your hand without giving the verbal cue. Ignore the off cue touches, but leave your hand where it is. When the dog pauses, give the verbal cue and click and treat for a correct response.


You can also teach your dog similarly to nose target other objects. With nose targeting, you can teach a dog to push a door close or push a ball, or even a rolled up towel. I talk about that in this post.


Kids Can Teach Their Dog To Hand Target

Children can also train their dog to hand target. Here Andrew demonstrates hand touches with our family dog, Sam.


Can I be of help to you and your pet? Please contact me!

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