Hand Target / Touch Training Challenge!
with Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity, Training Advocate

Hey everyone!

Thanks for joining me for my first Dogly training challenge. My goal is to help more dog owners learn useful behaviors to set their dogs up for success in a variety of scenarios.

During week 1 of this challenge we will be teaching the foundation of this behavior. If your dog already knows the behavior, you can still participate and just go back to basics for fun!


The hand target is a simple behavior that teaches a dog to touch your hand with their nose.


The hand target or "Touch" is one of the first behaviors I teach almost every dog I work with. It has so many uses such as:

  • Teaching mouthy puppies that hands are for more than biting
  • Teaching dogs to orient towards handler
  • Teaching reactive or frustrated dogs an alternative behavior when seeing potential triggers
  • Helping communicate where you want your dog positioned with more precision
  • Husbandry behaviors: standing on a scale or grooming table, standing still for vet procedures
  • Come when called - Giving dogs a place to target can be extremely useful when teaching a fast recall, especially when distracted.

This will be a work at your own pace challenge, but please tag me in your videos on IG (@acanineaffinity) or Facebook (ACanineAffinity) so I can share and help keep you accountable.

What you will need:

Some small, yummy treats

A clicker or verbal marker word that your dog associates to rewards (YES/GOOD)

A few minutes in a quiet space

Step 1:

  • With your dog standing or sitting in front of you, present your flat hand 1-2 inches away from your dogs face. Click/mark & reward as soon as your dog moves towards your hand with their nose
  • Troubleshooting - if your dog tries to "shake/give paw" try using a closed fist rather than an open hand or orienting your hand in a different position.
  • Repeat, working to encourage your dog to touch your hand with his nose by clicking and rewarding for closer approximations. (Some dogs will immediately touch your hand, others need more time)
  • Repeat in short training sessions (1-2 minutes) until your dog is consistently touching your hand when presented.

  • Troubleshooting- If your dog is resistant to touch your hand, try rubbing a treat on your palm to entice them with the smell. Licking is ok at this stage too!
  • Remember to keep your hand close to your dogs face at this stage, just a few inches away.

Step 2:

  • Once your dog is consistently touching your hand when presented, begin to move your hand to different positions, still remaining close to your dogs face. This will help with generalization to the behavior early on.
  • Repeat this for a few short training sessions to ensure your dog understands the behavior when your hand changes positions slightly.

Step 3

Adding in the cue word "Touch"

  • Immediately before presenting your hand say "Touch" and present your hand. Click & Reward for a correct response.
  • ***If your dog doesn't respond they aren't ready for the word yet! We wait to add in words until the dog is performing the behavior solidly as words cause confusion. They need time to associate this new word with a behavior they understand. If the behavior isn't understood, adding a word too quickly can ruin the behavior. Go back to steps 1-2 for a few more sessions.
  • If your dog responds, great! Repeat with your hand staying in the same position. Always saying the word BEFORE you present your hand. This will ensure your dog can associate it to the behavior.
  • Practice with short sessions until your dog is responding well with the cue word at least 8/10 repetitions in a row.

Step 4: Adding Movement/ Distance

Once we have a solid base behavior and cue word, it's time to get your dog up and moving!

  • Start by standing in front of your dog and giving the "Touch" cue with hand out from only about 1 foot away. Click & Reward for correct response.
  • If your dog looks at you confused, you've asked for too much. Decrease the distance by half and try from there.
  • Once your found a distance that works for your dog. Begin to slowly take small steps back away from your dog at that approximate distance, giving the "Touch" Cue each time you take a step back. Click & Reward correct responses.
  • If your dog gets stuck, make it easier! We want this behavior to be extremely reliable and there is no need to repeat the cue or get frustrated if your dog isn't responding. This is just information that your dog doesn't understand or is too distracted in the environment.
  • Practice short sessions of moving around a quiet room, slowly increasing distance between you and your dog as he is successful with repetitions.

Troubleshooting: Trying to move too fast will leave your dog confused. Take it slow. Ensure your dog is continuing to target your hand and not just moving towards you. Timing of your click will be very important. Remember to click when you feel that wet nose on your hand and immediately reward.

Mix in some stationary touches as well to continue to help generalize the behavior!

Step 5

Start over in a new environment! When adding in distractions we need to be patient and work at our dogs level. Start with minor distractions and be prepared to go back to step 1.

Don't repeat your cues - saying "Touch" over and over because your dog is distracted is doing you and your dog a disservice.

That's all for now! As we progress we will add in turning this into a full recall, uses in new places, duration touches and out on walks!

Be sure to tag me so I can share your success!

Happy Training!