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Get your dog to focus by teaching “Touch”

Touch is a simple cue. On the surface it doesn’t look like much. Because of this many people either lack full appreciate of its practical application or they refuse to teach it at all since the see no benefit to it. A smart dog trainer will make this one of the first skills they teach a dog.

So let’s see how this seemingly simple skill could come in handy in many ways. By target I mean getting your dog to touch a target with his nose. This skill can be applied in different ways such as having your dog touch an object with his paw or hind leg but in this instance we’ll stick with the nose touch. Teaching to target an object such as your hand, a stick, a toy or any other you find suitable, provides your dog with something to focus on. If properly and consistently trained it becomes an excellent way to gain your dogs attention. This alone is a great reason to teach touch.

Here’s a common scenario. You want to sit on the couch but Poochie is taking up space in your favorite spot. You call him and tell him “off” but he ignores you. He may be looking away to avoid eye contact since he knows “off” will not bring any rewards other than the lose of his comfy couch. By getting him to target your hand you also get him to move away from an object or space, in this case the couch.

Like most behaviors, if taught correctly it becomes a strong part of your dog’s repertoire and grows to be second nature, meaning your dog should be able to respond automatically without thought to your cue of “touch”.

This can then be applied in the park such as during the times when he’s going nuts for a squirrel (although I have to warn that the skill needs to be incredibly strong and have been highly reinforced in order to work against a distraction this strong). The stronger the distraction, the stronger the skill needs to be.

Getting your dog to turn and follow you can be simply achieved by asking him to “touch” your hand and follow along. This technique is often used with reactive dogs to disengage them from the presence of another dog which in this case has served as a trigger.

Other uses for touch:
– Your dog can learn to ring a bell or push a button.
– It can give confidence to an already shy or fearful dog and is a great starting place for obedience training.
– It can be useful at times when you need an emergency recall
– And as already mentioned, it’s great at getting your dog to focus.

How to teach
1. Gently bump your palm or fist to your dogs nose. (A helpful tip is to rub something good on your palm so that your dog gets the scent)

2. Mark with a “yes” or a click.

3. Reinforce with a treat

4. Continue to do this and give your dog sometime to pick it up on his own. He’ll soon realize that touching your palm or fist will earn him treats and will offer up the behavior willingly. Be sure to click at the exact time he bumps his nose on your palm. Not before and not after.

5. Once he is offering up the behavior regularly begin to throw in the cue “touch”.

It’s as simple as that really.

Work on this freely thought the day. A few seconds there, a few seconds there. Change up the treats. Start with something not so special like everyday kibble and surprise him with better stuff like chicken or liver. See his interest and response rate spike up? You might.

It’s a very simple skill to teach and your dog should catch on fairly quick.

The video shows you the finished product and what that looks like.

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