In case you don’t know, there is a secret ingredient when it comes to dog training… It’s the command “touch!”
So what is touch–what’s everybody barkin about? Touch is a command that teaches your dog to “target” certain objects (most commonly a hooman’s hand) with their nose. Simply put, a dog that knows “touch” has been taught to lightly bump an object with their nose. Still confused? Allow my dog Raven to demonstrate:
Touch isn’t limited to just your hand–once your dog knows how to target one thing, you can teach them to target all sorts of things!
Touch is a popular training technique used by all kinds of animal trainers and behaviorists. Just take a look at this baby Rhino learning how to step onto a scale by targeting a tennis ball on a stick.
If you haven’t already left your computer and started teaching your dog “touch,” here are eight reasons why this command is simply the best:
1. Targeting can help boost a dogs confidence
I’m going to use Raven as my example again (because when does a proud pet parent not want to talk about their dog). Raven is an absolute weenie when it comes to new and unfamiliar things. After rewarding Raven for merely existing in the presence of something “scary” I will often encourage her to “touch” the object. Doing this has helped Raven overcome a lot of scary things in this world, like trashcans, and the creepy Chef statue outside the Italian Restaurant next door.
2. It can prompt a dog to offer a new behavior without using a lure.
There are so many instances where I use “touch” instead of a lure. One great example of this is when I need Raven to hop onto a scale at the vet. All I have to do is hold my hand above the scale, and Raven will hop right on! Teaching Raven to target my hand also helped me teach her to do other things like”load up” into the car or the bathtub.
3. You can use it to keep a dog’s attention
If something is distracting your dog while you are out on a walk (i.e. a squirrel playing across the street) “touch” can be a great way to bring your dogs attention back to you.
4. It’s the first step in teaching your dog more complicated tricks, like turning on and off a light switch.
Once Raven learned to target my hand, I taught her how to target post-it-notes. After that I put a post-it note anywhere I wanted her to target. Doing this helped Raven learn how to target things like handicap buttons, and helped me eventually teach her the cue “push.”
5. “Touch!” can serve as a recall cue.
Let’s be real, asking your dog to “come!” doesn’t always work, especially if your dog is off having a good time. Touch is one of those tricks you can keep in your back pocket, for times when your dog isn’t responding to their normal recall cue.
6. It’s useful in dog events like Canine Freestyle, and Agility.
The touch command is extremely useful in dog sporting events because they are often required to touch precise locations.
7. It’s easy to train, and great for beginners.
Above all, touch is one of the easiest commands you can teach. The “touch” command opens a lot of doors when it comes to training your dog, and will allow you to spend more quality time teaching your pup fun (and useful) tricks.