Hand targeting is a fun and easy skill for a dog to learn and for a human to teach. Here's an excellent blog post by Denise Fenzi explaining Hand Touch!
I've taught many foster dogs hand targeting and here are those posts:
K was worried about people (clearly she'd been grabbed a lot) and hand targeting helped her to build trust and confidence:
Torii was touch aversive and hand target did a tremendous amount to build trust and for her to figure out that we weren't going to be grabbing her:
Royal was just wicked smart and loved to train so, this was fun to teach him:
This post with Seven is pretty good and it's what helped me in working with Viva around hand targeting:
When I'm struggling in the training realm, I will often go online to trusted positive training blogs, websites and youtube videos. If I'm really stuck I will reach out to a force free trainer for 1:1 training assistance. And I will also go back to my own training blog posts with past foster dogs. That's what I did with all the above hand targeting posts. Why did I do this? I was not getting the desired behavior outcome from Viva when teaching her hand targeting. And to rewind even further I had been on the fence about even teaching this skill to her. Since Viva can be conflicted about people I didn't want that conflict to spill into learning a new skill. Viva has now been with us for a number of months and during all those months we've ton a lot of force free training. Through all our training we have build a good amount of trust with each other. I do believe that Viva views me as being reliable in terms of trust. So, I made the decision to teach her hand targeting so that I can build more skills around her targeting things when I ask her to "touch". My plan is to teach her to come towards me, "touch"ing an object in my hand when we are doing the work around her seeing a dog.
I have a number of draft blog posts of all that I've done around teaching "touch" to Viva. But, I'm starting off with this post as the first in the series, since it shows the behavior results I was looking for in teaching her "touch".
First off I'm providing high value food rewards. I have 1/2 a hot dog and 1/2 a string cheese. Viva is 20lbs and in this training session I only used about half of the cut of food. Remember you don't need and you don't want big chunks of food. It will make your dog fat, they will get full fast and your dog doesn't know the size of the food just that it's yummy.
All cut up and we only used about 1/2 of the below food during this training session.
I just read this blog post and I love it and I figured might at well share it right here! The post is Mamma dogs don't use treats...
I set up the camera and Viva photobombs the camera!
As I said earlier, my longer term goal is to teach Viva to come towards me, "touch"ing an object in my hand when we are doing the work around her seeing a dog. But we have to build up to that goal. We are going to start off with me moving around and seeing if she will put her nose on the open part of my hand.
I'm looking for her to have some enthusiasm with this game. It's the enthusiasm that was missing when teaching her "touch" early on. It's very important for her (and any dog) to have fun with this game and she does enjoy this as you will see.
You will see in the below video that she is figuring out what I'm asking of her. Interesting that she prefers to "touch" my right hand. As I thought about this - I always reward with my right hand and she knows that hand is the most reliable in terms of providing food reinforcement. She's so dang smart. What you don't see is that D'light is about 15 feet outside of the kitchen (we are babygated in the kitchen) chewing on a bone. Viva is well aware of this and I'm pleased that she was able to focus on this game.
We practiced this a number of times and she quickly figured out that if her nose touches my hand she gets a food reward.
I begin to use the verbal cue "touch". Don't introduce a verbal cue until the dog is fluent in the action you are teaching. You can see the focus and enthusiasm she has. This exactly what I want. She's having fun and so am I! You can also hear Catty barking... she's in another room with a beam and she's finished that and wants out! This was a good distractor as Viva was able to work through Catty's barking. One final observation is that you can see that Viva is well aware of where that food is sitting. Just like she knows it comes from my right hand.
I move the food and try to remember to feed her using my left hand - I want to see if that makes any difference. Good girl Viva!
I'm ready to play some more!
This was a lot of fun for both of us and remember training sessions don't and shouldn't be very long. We did all of this for no more than 10 minutes and even that is a bit long.
Another bonus of training is that it is indoor enrichment. You are helping your dog to use their brain, build confidence and have fun. And best of all you are engaging with your dog, building a strong relationship.
Stay tuned as I share about our training sessions that were interesting learning experiences for me but, not as exciting for Viva. And I as I've said a number of times, I'm looking for that enthusiasm like she had in the above videos.