Nose Targeting

What you are training

We’re teaching the dog touch a target with his nose.

Why you should train this

  • The dog will associate a hand with good things
  • Recall; ask your dog to touch your hand from a distance
  • Follow a target into the car
  • Switch on a light
  • Close a door

How you will train this

We’ll use the lure-reward method to encourage the dog to touch a hand.  Dogs respond better to hand signals than verbal commands, but a verbal command is required in case he’s not looking at you when you want him to touch your hand.  Initially we’ll train the hand signal and later add a verbal command, eventually adding a visual cue.  Your hand signal will be to hold your hand out towards the dog.  We need to know that the dog can touch the target reliably before adding a verbal command, that way you’re teaching a new behaviour FOLLOWED BY a new command, not both a new behaviour AND a new command at the same time.

Step 1

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches your hand.

  • Hold your hand to the side of and close to your dog’s face, but not touching his face
  • Your dog should investigate your hand, as soon as his nose touches your hand
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 2

If your dog is reliably touching your hand when presented at least 80% of the time, you can add a verbal command.  Note that the verbal command comes before the hand signal.

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches your hand.

  • Say ‘touch’
  • Hold your hand to the side of and close to your dog’s face, but not touching his face
  • Your dog should investigate your hand, as soon as his nose touches your hand
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 3

If your dog is reliably touching your hand when presented at least 80% of the time using the verbal command, you can vary the location of your hand.

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches your hand.

  • Say ‘touch’
  • Hold your hand to the side of and close to your dog’s face, but not touching his face
  • Your dog should investigate your hand, as soon as his nose touches your hand
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat with your hand in different locations

Step 4

If your dog is reliably touching your hand when presented at least 80% of the time you can vary the distance and location of your hand.

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches your hand.

  • Say ‘touch’
  • Hold your hand to the side of and close to your dog’s face, but not touching his face
  • Your dog should investigate your hand, as soon as his nose touches your hand
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat with your hand in different locations and distances

Step 5

If your dog is reliably touching your hand when presented at least 80% of the time, regardless of the location or distance, you can transfer the touch to a Post It note.

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches the Post It note.

  • Stick a post it note to your hand
  • Say ‘touch’
  • Hold your hand in front of and close to your dog’s face, but not touching his face
  • As soon as your dog’s nose touches the Post It note
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 6

If your dog is reliably touching the Post It note when presented at least 80% of the time, you can vary the location and distance of your hand. 

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches the Post It note.

  • Stick a post it note to your hand
  • Say ‘touch’
  • Hold your hand out
  • As soon as your dog’s nose touches the Post It note
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat varying the location and distance of your hand

Step 7

If your dog is reliably touching the Post It note when presented at least 80% of the time, regardless of the location of your hand, you can phase out your hand. 

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches the Post It note.

  • Stick a post it note on the floor
  • Say ‘touch’
  • Point to the post it note
  • As soon as your dog’s nose touches the Post It note
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 8

If your dog is reliably touching the Post It note on the floor at least 80% of the time, you can vary the location of the Post It note.  

Criteria

You will mark (‘yesss!’) your dog as soon as his nose touches the Post It note.

  • Stick a post it to something within the dog’s reach
  • Say ‘touch’
  • Point to the post it note
  • As soon as your dog’s nose touches the Post It note
  • Mark (‘yesss!’) 
  • Reward
  • Repeat varying the location of the Post It note

Help

  • If your dog shows no interest in your hand, rub a smelly treat on your hand to encourage sniffing.
  • If your dog is consistently failing to correctly perform the exercise 80% of the time, go back to the previous step.
  • Ensure that you give your dog lots of praise when giving him the treat.
  • When your happy that you dog is performing the task consistently, you can start to gradually phase out the treat, using praise in its place.  Ensure that you continue to treat intermittently.

Homework

  • Ask each member of the family to do these exercises with your dog (you can use your dog’s kibble and add treats intermittently).
  • Vary the locations where you do these exercises; different rooms in the house, in the garden, when you’re out for a walk.

More reading

We’re using ‘lure-reward’ training to put a behaviour on cue.