view all puppy resources

simon-moog-_IvTz18z_J8-unsplash
Hand touch is easy to teach and has lots of uses
Hand Touch

Hand Touch

From guiding your dog up on the scale at the vet or off the furniture, for some self-control games, as something for pup to do with your hands besides bite them, to a way for shyer dogs to greet new people.

We’re going to take advantage of pup’s natural curiosity. If we offer pup our outstretched, empty palm, he’s likely to check it out by sniffing. Be ready when he does to quickly drop 5 treats, one at a time, for him to eat out of your empty palm. Watch how the trainer in the video was ready with the treats before he presented his hand for the first time!

Offer pup your empty palm. When he comes forward to sniff it, quickly drop treats (1,2,3,4,5) into your palm for him to eat, then remove your hand. Do 3-5 reps, then take a play break before repeating.

If pup is too distracted to notice the target hand, minimize distractions. Take the target hand away each time, and if pup doesn’t notice the target hand when presented, remove it and re-present. It’s easier if pup is standing when you present the hand. Be careful to drop the treats in the hand one at a time, but not so slowly that puppy lifts his head between treats. Curve target hand slightly to make a bowl to drop treats in once pup is touching.

Moving Touch: Once puppy is happily approaching your offered hand to touch it, see if he will take one or two steps to get to the hand. This time, when you present your hand, instead of having it still try moving it slowly away from puppy. When he catches up, be super generous and reward as before.

Sticky Touch: You can add duration to the hand touch, so that puppy keeps his nose stuck to the palm of your hand. This makes the hand touch really useful as a way to keep pup in position. Once puppy is enthusiastically approaching your hand, and touching it firmly with his nose, begin to sloooow down the delivery of the treats. When you take your treat hand away after the delivery of treat number one, wait for some sort of commitment (which would be either a nose poke or remaining in position when you count one-one-thousand in your head) and swoop treats number two and three to him. Repeat for treats four and five. Basically, you are waiting for puppy to show commitment to the behavior even when the rewards are slowed down. Look for harder or more sustained touches, then resume rewards!

Make a Choice: Any puppy who has a couple of seconds of holding the touch, or any frustration poking, is ready for the next challenge. We are going to ask him to choose to touch your empty hand instead of going for a treat. Crazy, right? He can do it! Hold out your empty hand as before, but ALSO hold out a treat pinched between the thumb and fingers of your treat hand, 8-12 inches away. If he goes for the treat (and he probably will, he’s a dog after all) you will simply tuck it out of his way so that he can’t get it. Simply drop the treat into the treat hand and close the fingers over it (practice this first without your puppy if you think you need to). Represent, give him the same choice again, and repeat until he chooses to put his nose in the target hand. The instant he does, reward immediately by dropping the teaser-treats into the target hand.

This is all very quiet training. There is no need to correct your puppy for making the wrong choice, or to prompt or encourage him. Let the rewards tell the puppy what works and what doesn’t!