Basic training, part 1: Touch

I have been a trainer for over 7 years and as much as I enjoy a challenge, I still get pleasure out of teaching basic skills to dogs. By far, my all-time favorite skill to teach is called “Touch.”

I will explain the steps below, but first I want to explain ways that you can use Touch. Touch is basically a hand target and is a great way to get your dog’s attention. It can be part of your everyday routine, just like Sit or Down. Below are some of my favorite ways to use Touch.

Use it instead of using a recall word, such as “Come”; use the Touch command to get your dog to come to you. I especially like using this when at a park or in public, because the dog has to come right to my body and I can easily grab them if they are loose.

Use it on walks. When a dog or person is approaching you, instead of allowing your dog to go up and greet every passerby, turn those moments into a training exercise. Step to the side of the sidewalk and ask your dog to touch your hand multiple times. Make it into a game. This will keep your dog distracted long enough to let the dog or human pass by, and then you can continue on your walk.

Use it if your dog puts on the brakes when out for walks. I have many owners tell me that their dog will just stop and refuse to budge while on walks. If this happens, don’t pull your dog, which will only make them want to stay put even more. Use Touch to get them walking again.

Use it to redirect a barker. If you have a dog that is always barking at the door or window, Touch can be a great way to get your dog’s attention away from the distraction and redirect it onto to something more appropriate.

By now you are probably thinking, “I get it, Erin, but how do I teach my dog this fabulous command?” Well, here you go.

Start with your dog in a sit or stand position.

Have several small pieces of treat in one hand.

Hold out your other hand close to your dog’s nose. When your dog touches your hand with her nose (no teeth allowed!), say “yes!” and give one piece of treat. If your dog is unsure what to do, you can get your dog’s interest by rubbing your touch hand with a treat to entice your dog. Repeat several times.

Next, at the same time as your dog touches your hand with her nose, say “touch” and give a piece of treat. Repeat several times.

When your dog is intentionally bumping your hand with her nose, hold out your hand and say “touch” then reward with “yes!” and treat. Practice by moving your hand into different positions and asking for a “touch.”

And there you have it. One of my favorite - and most used - commands!


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