I am in love with one of the tricks in the list of “Easy” tricks by Do More With Your Dog!, the world’s leading trick dog program. In the list the trick is named “touch my hand/target stick.”
In fact it was the first trick I taught my dogs using a clicker. At that time I had no idea about the potential of this simple exercise.
For example, when you want your dog to turn to a certain direction, what would you do? If your dog knows cues for Left, Right, Front, Back, Up, Down, and so on, you could direct your dog with verbal cues. But, few dogs have so much vocabulary. Would you hold your dog and move him as you like? Then, what? Would your dog stay in that position? Wouldn’t he wiggle, refusing to face away from you?
Here the Hand Touch (“touch my hand”) comes in handy. All you have to do is place your hand in a position where you want your dog to place his nose. Yes! So easy! If you don’t want to bend to reach your small dog’s height, you can use a target stick and make him touch the target. If you can’t reach your dog’s nose because your dog is too long, again you can use a target stick.
Now I think that you can imagine how useful this simple trick is in trick training and other types of dog training. If you want your dog to go through between legs to do the leg weaves or figure eight’s, you can simply place a hand on the other side of the legs from your dog, tell him to touch your hand, and repeat it. When you want your dog to heel, you can place your hand in a position that your dog’s nose would have to come when he is in the heel position.
Also, I find this trick very useful when I recall my dogs. If you say to your dog “Come!”, he might come close to you. But, if he has a target to touch, the picture in his mind becomes much clearer and he thinks “Ok, I will touch that hand.”
In addition, I am finding the “touch my hand/target stick” trick useful on our activities as therapy pets volunteers. For people who have difficulty in reaching my therapy dog, Mint, or don’t feel confident with touching a dog, I hand them my target stick so that they can interact with Mint without sitting up from a recliner or actually touching Mint.
Although it may take a while to teach your dog to do sustained hand touch, he would learn to touch your hand quickly. Dogs are naturally curious and touch your hand if it is presented before them, trying to investigate what it is. When your dog touches your hand, say “Yes” and give him a treat. If he licks your hand, say “Yes” a little earlier, just before the actual contact with the hand. Once he’s got the behaviour, you can introduce the command “Touch”. Say “Touch” and place your hand before him.
This is a video from my dog Mint’s training last week. I was using the Hand Touch to reinforce his head position while doing the heelwork.
Hope you enjoy teaching your dog the Hand Touch if you haven’t already! It’s so easy to teach and easy to use!