The Target or Touch Command

An Overlooked but Amazingly Useful Dog Skill When Training Your Dog.

There’s a specific dog skill that’s incredibly easy to teach and constantly comes in handy. Exotic animal trainers teach it to dolphins, bears, and even mice. Yet few pet dogs learn this skill and fewer owners have even heard of it. The command is called “target” or “touch” and it’s arguably one of the best skills you can teach your pet.

What Is Targeting?

When asked to “target,” a dog should walk over and touch an object. The object can be a target stick designed for training, or simply your hand. Most dogs will learn the behavior by using their nose to hit the target, but some dogs might try a paw. The premise might seem simple, even pointless, but there are numerous applications. It can be used as a step when training a recall or as a basis for more complicated behaviors. As an example, the “target” command can be used to encourage a dog through an agility tunnel or over a jump.


touch commandHow To Teach Target Training

To teach “touch,” begin by holding out your hand or the object you want to use as a target. Most dogs will naturally walk over and sniff–probably to see if the owner is holding a treat. The moment the dog touches your hand or object with his nose, offer a rewards with food, a toy or praise. Whether your dog is clicker trained or you are using a marker word, click or mark just the instant your dog’s nose touches your hand or the object. After a few repetitions, most dogs learn this skill very quickly. As your dog sharpens his skills, “target or touch” can be used to get your dog to heel, jump, or even turn off the light switch! You can teach him to target different items such as a stick or a bell. Often, the dog finds targeting to be a fun game. Don’t be afraid to get creative, think of it as a building block for teaching complex behaviors or tricks. “Targeting” also has practical benefits. If your dog is distracted you can redirect your dog’s attention back to you instead of the distraction. In an emergency, “target or touch” could get your dog to come if they aren’t responding to your recall.

Although extremely simple and easy to teach, the “target or touch” command is often overlooked. Few dog owners teach their dog to target, but it can be one of the most useful skills a dog can learn. Not only does it make training easier but it can be a fun game. If you would like to learn how to train your dog, sign up for a dog training class.