a photograph of a black border collie sitting in the grass and a hand reaching out to them to represent teaching the dog the touch cue

Teaching Touch Hand Targeting to Your Dog

Touch is a wonderful tool for all dogs, especially fearful and/or reactive dogs. This technique involves teaching your dog to touch their nose to your hand on cue, which can be used as a distraction or to redirect their attention in a positive way. “Touch” can be particularly beneficial for reactive dogs because it provides them with a clear and simple task to focus on, helping to redirect their energy and alleviate their anxiety. It also helps to build confidence and offers a safe way for your dog to greet people.

To teach touch hand targeting, start by rubbing some treat "scent" onto your hand then presenting your hand, open palm to your dog. It's important to make sure your dog is calm and focused before you begin. If your dog jumps or lunges towards your hand, take a step back, take your hand away and wait for them to calm down before trying again. Once your dog is calm, place your hand a few inches away from their nose and the second they touch your hand to sniff the treat scent say "yes!" and reward them with a treat. As they become more consistent, you can add the cue "touch" and repeat this process several times, gradually increasing the distance between your hand and your dog's nose. Don't forget to switch hands or your dog will become set on only offering touch with one. Over time, your dog will learn to touch their nose to your hand on command no matter where you are.

Once your dog has mastered the touch command, you can begin using it in situations where your dog may be fearful or  become reactive. For example, if your dog sees another dog approaching and your dog gets tense, you can give the command "touch" to redirect their attention to your hand instead of the trigger. This can help to shift their focus away from the trigger and onto a positive and familiar task.

Remember to always reward your dog with treats and praise when they successfully complete the touch command in a reactive situation. Consistency and positive reinforcement are key to effective training.

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