How To Teach Your Dog To Touch

Hi guys! So for today’s little trick training how to we will be joined by Sputnik, AKA Mr. Mash!

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Mr Mash is so handsome! He even has his own Blog. Here he is posing on the Guru Pet Food stand at Countryfile Live!

Today I’m going to explain my method of how to teach your dog to touch your hand. It’s worth stating that I think teaching a dog to touch a hand with their nose is beneficial in day to day life! It shows our pups that an approaching hand is friendly, and not a threat. Something that was very helpful in Luna’s rehabilitation. And how to move touching a hand to touching a target stick, which is a super useful piece of kit to teach other tricks in the future! So without further ado, let’s get started!


Touch

You will need:

  1. A clicker – make sure your dog is conditioned to the clicker, see how to condition your dog to a clicker here
  2. A reward – normally small treats or toys

Method:

Step 1: Kneel/stand in front of your dog and present your dog with a flat palm. Do not try to touch your dogs nose just leave your hand in a static position. Dogs are naturally inquisitive and normally will investigate your hand to see whether there’s anything good there!

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Presenting a hand to Spud

 

 

 

Step 2: As soon as your pups nose touches your hand as they investigate, click and reward. Make sure your timing is right, as soon as you feel that nose on your hand, click!

 

 

Step 3: Move the hand you have asked them to touch behind your back, wait a few seconds.

Step 4: Present your hand again, and repeat steps 1-3 several times.

Step 5: When your dog is touching your hand as soon as you present it you can start adding in the command. I like to use “Touch” but you can input any command you like, I know some friends like to use “Nose”.

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Spuddy touching Mummy’s hand!

 

Step 6: Begin to offer your hand in different positions and say the command “Touch” but only once. When they touch click and treat! If your pup isn’t  sure what you are asking go back to step 5 and repeat a few times before trying to step back up to Step 6 again.

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Luna reaching higher to touch my hand! Touch can also be useful for dogs that you struggle to lure with food! Knowing the touch command allows me to lure Luna into the beg position without food – although I never struggle to Lure her with treats, such a foodie!

 

Target Stick
Need to know Touch

You will need:

  1. A clicker – make sure your dog is conditioned to the clicker, see how to condition your dog to a clicker here
  2. A Retractable Target stick – You can get a target stick with a built in clicker which is so useful! Rather hard to hold a clicker, target stick and a treat all at once! You can get one here: Target Stick With Clicker
  3. A reward – normally small treats or toys

Method:

Step 1: Keeping the stick retracted, stand/kneel in front of your dog and show them the ball on the end of the stick and ask them to touch.

Step 2: Your dog will hopefully understand what you are asking and touch what is closes to them (the ball on the end of the stick). As soon as their nose touches click and treat. Some dogs may try to go past the ball and touch your hand as taught previously, this is where your timing of clicking is crucial. Even if they brush the ball, click and treat! but make sure that they haven’t reached your hand before you click.

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“Love my Birthday present from Spud by the way, blue is definitely my colour!”

Step 3: Move the target stick behind your back and wait a few seconds.

Step 4: Present the target stick again and repeat steps 1 through to 3 several times.

Step 5: Once your dog has touched the ball several times consistently you can start to make the stick longer. Only push it out by 1-2 inches at a time and repeat steps 1-3 several times at each length until you have the stick fully extended.

If your pup is having trouble touching the end of the stick you can use something to lure them onto the end of it, such as cream cheese, Pâté or peanut butter (make sure it’s a dog friendly one! The ones that contain Xylitol are not dog friendly, please check the ingredients). Also be sure not to give your pup too much of these food items that are not made specifically for dogs, it can upset tummies! Use sparingly, it is only a lure after all, and they’re getting a treat after too!

Once your pup has mastered touching a target stick you can eventually begin to use it as a guide for more advanced tricks.

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“Look ma! No hands!” I can now use the target stick as a guide to bring Luna up onto her hind legs and follow it around. This is super helpful as with larger dogs, if you try to use your hand they tend to lean on you, most can’t reach when you’re using a target stick!
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“For fluff sake woman, hold that thing still!” Using the Target stick as a guide to ask Luna to trot in a circle around me.

 

Thanks for reading guys! I hope you find these little how to posts helpful! Next time will be how to teach your dog to spin both left and right, as requested by @My.locococo on Instagram! Please let me know in the comments or via message on Instagram or Tweet us if there are any tricks you would like to learn how to teach. If we don’t already know the trick, we will learn it with you! What is your dogs favourite reward when training?

 

Clickers and Trick Training Basics

I thought, before I went running off and showing you guys how I teach certain tricks, it would be best to first explain my teaching methods and some of what I use. Now I am by no means a qualified trainer, and you may well have your own methods, but for those of you who are interested I’ll crack on!

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Sitting Pretty doesn’t just happen overnight!

 


Starting out

Start out simple! If you have never done any trick training before do not throw yourself in at the deep end! This may seem obvious to a lot of you but I’ve seen it so many times before, and then people give up because they become frustrated with their pup! Not their fault If you haven’t done much trick traing start out with the basics and trick I personally consider easy to teach (this is not always the case, every dog is different!).

Tricks I consider easy to teach:

  • Sit
  • Down (Lie Down)
  • Stand
  • Paw
  • Hi-5
  • Wave

Follow the blog if you’re interested in learning any of the above tricks in the near future! I’ll be combining these 6 basic tricks into one post!


Treats

Small training treats are best suited to trick training, and the smaller the treat the better! We don’t want those pup’s getting chunky!

I use a variety of treats, but I need to know that they are okay with my dogs tummies before using them, as we do go through quite a lot even in a short training session!

Having a set of treats can be useful too. I have either 2 or 3 sets of treat with me for a training session. A basic treat, a slightly more sought after treat, then something amazing! If your pup is taking longer to pick up a certain trick then it may be worth increasing the value of the treat, as this often helps speed up the process!

Some training treats I use:
Mixed Sausage Bites – Can be broken/cut up into really tiny pieces
Guru’s Venison Sausages – I still have yet to take a knife to their heads but they break up okay
Lily’s Kitchen Little Liver Rewards – Can be snapped up smaller but are the hardest of all mentioned
Pet Munchies Sushi Training Treats – Can be easily broken in half

 

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Not a training treat, however holding something this yummy and resisting the urge to gobble it down is not without Training!

Clicker

I use a clicker for a lot of my trick training, I find it’s much easier to precisely target the specific behaviour that you are trying to teach.

What is a clicker?
A clicker is a small handheld device which makes a clicking sound when you press the button.

How does a clicker work?
You must first ‘condition’ your dog to the clicker. You do this by pressing the clicker then giving your dog a treat/reward immediately after. When I first condition a dog to a clicker it normally takes 1-3 days depending on the dog. I will normally condition 2-3 times a day for 1-2 minutes each time. This will teach your dog to associate the sound of the clicker with a reward!

How can I tell if my dog is correctly conditioned?
Wait until your dog is not paying attention to you, and click. If they react quickly to the sound and come to you expecting food, or whatever you have decided to use as a reward, you know it has worked!

What if I can’t get/forget a clicker?
Now I’m possibly one of the most forgetful people you will ever meet. There are many occasions where I’m stuck without a clicker, so my back up is a sound that I can make consistently, that is also not a sound they hear often. My personal sound is a whispered ‘yessssssssss’ so I hiss at the end like a snake! It isn’t as consistent as a clicker, however it is still better than just your normal voice!

The Best clicker?
there are loads of different clickers out there and they all do their job just fine! Personally I like to use one that I can clip to something because I’m forever dropping and losing things!

Here’s a link to the clicker I use: Petface Clicker

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Bum Bag

To me a bum bag with several pockets is essential! Mine has 3 zip compartments and a Velcro pouch. The Velcro pouch carries my poo bags (essential!), biggest back pocket is used for toys, the middle compartment for treats and the front carries my clicker and any other small equipment I may need for that training session. If you feel ridiculous in a bum bag, a treat bag that you can clip to your trousers will suffice. Personally I get annoyed with most treat bags for not sitting open well enough or being too easy access for the dogs to stick their noses in and self-serve!

I actually take my bum bag on all dog walks, because general walks can be used as training time too! For those fashionista’s out there, you can buy yourself a fancy bum bag in lots of places now too! Just be sure that it has a waterproof lining so it’s easy to wash gross treat bits out!

Here’s the link for my Petface bum bag: Petface Bum Bag

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Our command for this is ‘Shame’

 


Toys

If your pooch likes or prefers a toy as a reward then great! My advice on toys is to try to use something that doesn’t take you forever to reward them with (for example throwing a ball miles every time you want to reward your pup will make your session take forever!). If you use a ball then just asking them to catch it I have found to be much more productive. Tug toys are a great quick reward too!

Luna and Aurora’s favourite toy reward are Kong squeaky balls!

Here’s the link for the squeaky balls: Kong Squeakair Balls


Environment

Remember that your environment can affect your trick training! It is best to start trick training in a very familiar, indoor environment where there are little to no distractions.

With every new trick I teach the girls they always learn it either in the living room or in our bedroom. These are the places with the least distractions for them. When I am confident that they understand the trick, and only then, will I begin to try to move it outside. First I move to the garden, which is familiar, but with more distractions, including sounds and smells! Then once I’m confident they have it in the garden I will move to a quiet public space and get busier and busier!

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Our command for this trick is ‘Hide’!

 


Attitude

Your attitude will have so much impact on a training session, and I cannot stress this to you enough! You MUST be positive, because why would your dog want to listen to and cooperate with you if you were in a crappy mood? I personally am someone who feeds off the vibes of others around me, and I believe a lot of dogs to be the same way!

If you are for whatever reason frustrated, stressed, angry, upset, or any other negative emotion, and have a training session planned, cancel those plans. Go have some chill out time instead and save the training for another time, because you don’t want to be undoing all your hard work and breaking that special bond that trick training helps you and your dog build! It’s supposed to be fun dammit! You fun sponge! But seriously don’t panic, we all have those days.

Unfortunately I can’t give you a link to buy a better attitude, sorry!

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Sitting still is an essential ‘trick’ for every day life in my opinion!

I don’t have time to trick train

Yes. You. Do.

You do not need all the time in the world to do some trick training with your dog. Personally I spend 5-20 minutes every evening before we settle down and watch TV doing some trick training. But you don’t even need to do that much, 5 minutes 3 times a week is enough for your dog to start learning basic tricks. Set aside 5 minutes of your usual walking time to do a bit of trick training, as mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical stimulation!

I find it easiest to set out a schedule for trick training, because I’m a horrible procrastinator! But if I plan things, I’m much more likely to get them done!


 

I hope you find some of these things helpful. Of course this is not gospel, this is just my madness, however there is occasionally some method in my madness, so maybe you’ll find something helpful?

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post, if you found it helpful, what you found helpful and if there’s anything you think I have missed and/or would like to know more about in relation to trick training. Also let me know if there are any tricks you would like to know how I train or want to see me train the girls in the future! Basically I want a whole customer survey from you, by the end of the week. Chop, chop!

If you happened to be one of the poor souls that made it this far through my ramblings, and you possibly enjoyed the post, feel free to click that follow button and subscribe to my future posts!