Tricks

Hand Touch – A Powerful and Convenient Tool

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.

target_stick
This is my first beagle, Cookie, and my first target stick.

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!

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Defy the odds – Are Beagles really untrainable?

Let me introduce my first training partner and great teacher, Cinnamon.

The above photo was taken on the day she joined our family in September 2007. At that time we had an older Beagle called Cookie. But, I had never thought about teaching him anything other than domestic obedience commands, such as Sit, Down, and Come. In addition I didn’t expect much from Cookie because I was frequently told “Beagles are untrainable”

However, things changed when I noticed Cinnamon’s mental and physical agility. Within a few days after her arrival, she started showing her exceptional physical ability by escaping from her puppy pen a few times. We never saw the scene of crime, but we found her in the hallway in the middle of night. When we went to check her puppy pen, it hadn’t moved or broken. So, the only way she could have got out was climbing over the pen or crate to get out.

When Cinnamon was 14 months old, we joined an Agility class. However, until the last a couple of sessions, I was unable to run her off leash, because I didn’t trust her recall. 

A few months before Cinnamon made a debut in an Agility competition, I got my first clicker along with a target stick and a clicker training guidebook. Once we started clicker training, I was hooked instantly! Cinnamon enjoyed it from the beginning too. She was amazing, learning new behaviours quickly and proving that “Beagles are untrainable” was a false myth.

The first thing I tried using a clicker was teach my dogs to touch my hand or a target stick with their noses. Once they learned it, we practised foundation behaviours such as Sit, Down, and Stand, and Cinnamon quickly learned to do them only with verbal commands.

Well, we had a great start to clicker training but not everything went so well in terms of our training. I am going to tell you about countless challenges we have gone through in the subsequent posts.