Why Touch?

Pug DogI had mentioned in a previous post about the benefits of clicker training with your dog. Now for a trick that not only creates a game for your dog, but also provides a number of additional training opportunities!

The trick is “touch.” It’s simple enough, you teach your dog to touch something with his nose. Start by holding a clicker and a couple of treats in your left hand, out of your dog’s reach. Put your right hand out, palm facing your pup. Likely, he’s going to go straight for your right hand, checking it out. When he does, click the clicker and give him a treat. Once again, put your right hand out, when he goes to sniff it and touches it, click and treat. Keep doing that, and if he loses interest, simply help him out…make your right hand interesting by moving it towards or away from him. Continue over and over again, it takes lots of repetitions for a dog to fully understand what you’re looking for. Once he gets 99% consistent, add your cue and say “touch” before you put your right hand out. Click and treat as you had been before. It’s a great trick to practice at anytime…even while you’re on the couch watching tv!

Once he understands the trick, there’s lots you can do with it! If you have problems with your dog getting distracted on walks, bring a clicker and treats with you. If you see another dog approach, put out your right hand and say “touch!” Click and treat! Make it fun so that he’s interested in the game…put your hand high, low, behind your back. Make that pup work for it! Try it when someone comes over the house to distract him from greeting and jumping up on your visitor.

You can also teach him to touch other objects besides your hand. Something as simple as a tupperware cover or paper plate. Hold it in your right hand and the clicker and treats in your left. Start like you had when you began the trick….put it in front of him, click when he touches it. It won’t take long for him to realize it’s the same game you had played with your hand, so you can quickly add your cues. Now hold it lower, “touch,” click and treat. Lower and lower, until you place it on the ground. If he gets confused, help him out as you had before…hold it higher or make it fun by moving it around. Once he understands to touch it on the ground, you can start moving it! One foot away…two feet away. Make it a game, how far can he go! Once he gets that, if you have a dog that doesn’t like to go into the crate, teach him with touch! Put your plate into the crate and tell him “touch!” When he goes into the crate and touches the plate, click! When he returns to you give him a treat. Good boy! Play that game and suddenly the crate doesn’t seem so bad to him!! You can do the same in the evening when you want him to settle. Put the plate on his bed and tell him to touch. Start clicking only after he’s touched the crate and pauses on the bed. Longer and longer. Once he’s standing on his bed for a while after touching the plate, you can add a second cue, “settle.”

Making the game fun and interesting will make it easy for your dog to learn. And be creative with what you can do with it! It opens up a number of opportunities to expand your dog’s training while making it fun fun FUN!