The One 'Trick' You Need To Teach Your Dog: Targeting

Posted by Maureen Lake at

Targeting, The Amazing “Trick” of Dog Training

I have never heard of targeting before. I will be the first to admit that my dogs only know the basics when it comes right down to it. They walk happily on a leash, sit, lay, come, leave it, play games and of course "shake". I'm still  trying to figure out why we train that skill, I guess we want our pets to have good human etiquette too :-) There are obviously so many reasons to have a well-trained dog. Elaborating on all the reasons why is not the purpose of this post, but I want to share this cool training tool Grace learned at 12 weeks old and its use has been both amazing and impactful. The One 'Trick' You Need To Teach Your Dog: Targeting

A Bit Of History

Rosa, unfortunately,  had an appalling experience at puppy school. She bursts with anxiety and the instructor abused his knowledge of this to use her as an example. It was a horrible abuse of punishment and it took a long time to get Rosa back to her starting point prior to attending classes. When Grace arrived it was our mission to locate a trainer who  believed in positive techniques and not punishment. Choosing the right trainer is so important and often the most difficult. We set out to find someone who is a qualified positive trainer who would work with us using modern, force-free techniques. It was evident from the first session we found our gal! The One 'Trick' You Need To Teach Your Dog: Targeting

What is Targeting?

Targeting is just touching things and basically, it is a call to attention. The dog can focus many ways but as a beginner, Grace learned the 'nose touch' and will soon learn the 'paw touch'. I admit, I had never heard of this before, it wasn't one of the skills my dogs learned in the traditional obedience school of the past. At first, I thought, "OK what's the point"? "Why on earth would I want to teach my dog this"? But, it's never too late to teach - old dog- new tricks- right? Well, to be honest, the reasons are many.

Targeting -

  1. can be used as a confidence booster for your timid dog.
  2. can be used to keep attention on you especially with doggy distractions
  3. can be used as a prompt to learn new behavior and reduce using treats
  4. can teach your dog many useful things such as close doors, ring a bell, turn on|off appliances
  5. can move your dog into the 'heel' position and keep him there
  6. can teach your dog to go somewhere on command (go to bed, go lay down)
  7. can teach many, many more things that haven't occurred to me yet!

How To Teach Targeting

It's super easy to teach and there are so few steps it's ridiculous. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObvolARvul8 First, make sure you have some yummy treats that your dogs relish and put them in your hand. Place your closed fist (or open hand) about an inch or two away from your dog's nose. Most pups will touch your hand while sniffing the treats and at that exact moment say, "Touch!" or whatever command you're using and give your dog a bone  (treat)! Repeat, place your hand at different angles, use your other hand and after lots of practice your dog will gain confidence. Grace started bumping my hand! Now increase the distance between your hand|nose. Start 3 inches away, then 6 inches, a foot, two feet etc. Target practice in different locations and teach targeting everywhere you go. Grace learned this easy, incredible skill at 12 weeks old. At 14 weeks we use it to call her inside from play and to walk politely on a leash. Next, we want to teach her to use her paw as well. Touch has a million uses.The ideas and opportunities are endless with targeting limited only by your creativity and imagination. Do you use touch with your dog? For what? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts and ways. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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  • Great video. We are getting a GoldenDoodle in May and we want to make certain he/she is properly trained. I am bookmarking this site

    Robbi on
  • Great job Grace! In my puppy class they taught us the “touch” command! Mom says it works great when I’m chasing cats and need to come back to here! Grace you are too adorable!!! :) Keep up the great work! :)

    Spencer the Goldendoodle on
  • Oh- Gracie is so cute when she eats her treats. I am going to try this with Ted today. Always on the lookout for simple things I can teach him.

    Val Silver on
  • It really is amazing and Grace learned it so quickly. When I went to school with Rosa and Keria the instructor was ‘old school’. At the time, I didn’t know any better—- but I sure do now. I hadn’t been aware of this technique before but it’s a great one for all dogs to learn and use.

    Maureen Lake on
  • Yes! Target was the first thing we learned with Charlie at Intermediate Manners/Teen Puppy Class. He had the basics when we got him, but Target was the tool we needed to teach him how to pay attention to me and focus!

    MyDogLikes on


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