Teach Your Dog to Come to Any Spot You Choose (Hand Targeting)

Hand targeting is useful, easy to learn, and fun. The object is to get your dog to touch her nose to your hand, on your cue.  This gives you the ability to tell her exactly where you want her to go at any time, with just a simple hand gesture.  I find this to be extremely useful – even more than you might think at first.  It helps with long-distance recalls and acts as the perfect way to say “come on over here,” for casual call-overs and short distances.  The video shows it all.  Here are the written steps to help you further.

How to Teach Hand Targeting:

  1. Hold several small treats in one hand and rub the scent of the treats onto the fingers of your other hand.  Put both hands behind your back.  Now, bring the empty, scented, hand out from behind your back and hold it out just a couple of inches from your dog’s nose, with 2 fingers extended.  (Two fingers will become the signal that tells her this is specifically a command to “Touch” your hand.)
  2. When your dog touches her nose anywhere to your hand, immediately mark the behavior with enthusiastic praise, and quickly reward with a treat from your other hand (remember to keep this other hand hidden behind your back until your dog earns the reward).
  3. Repeat this several times and then switch hands, making your other hand the target now.  You can present the target hand to different sides of your dog’s face, but stay very close to the nose in the beginning, gradually moving further away if she is “getting it.”
  4. Do not add the verbal cue “Touch” until your dog shows consistent understanding that touching your hand with her nose is the behavior that earns the reward.

Hint:  When your dog is off-leash and you call her to “Come,” you can use this hand signal as a target to draw her all the way in, right next to your side.  Since you already called her to “Come,” you won’t need to say the verbal cue “Touch” – the hand signal alone will draw her in.

Okay, your dog has that first part down?  Now you can start to increase distance and change angles. Follow these instructions.  Pretty soon you’ll be able to use Touch from all the way across a room, and then from across a field.  In that case, it works just like a recall.  Awesome.

  1. Say “Touch” and show your pup the hand signal with 2 extended fingers, about 1 foot from the side of his nose.
  2. When your dog touches his nose to your hand, immediately praise and reward.
  3. Repeat this several times from different angles and then begin to practice with your other hand as the target.
  4. Once your dog shows consistent understanding, try increasing the distance from his nose to 2-5 feet.  Try moving him to your right and left sides using your hand as the target.
  5. As I said above, pretty soon you’ll be able to use Touch from all the way across a room, and then from across a field.  You can add the Sit command right afterwards for a beautiful finish to a recall.

Hint: You can turn “Touch” into a fun trick, too.  Once your dog really gets the concept, try getting him to jump up and hit your hand by putting the two-finger target out over his head.  Some dogs can get some really good air on this.

Now that you’ve got this down, take the next step.  Here’s Hand Targeting Part 2.

More Can’t-Miss Basic Obedience Tips and Exercises

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