Teach Your Dog to Target. Nose Targeting, Paw Targeting, Shoulder Targeting—Each is Useful, Your Dog Will Love It and So Will You!

Lisa uses nose targeting to teach Willow where to stand on the standup paddle board

Targeting is the first thing I teach my dog.

It’s also one of the first things I help a client teach their dog.

Targeting is easy to train, dogs love the exercise, and once trained there are myriad of uses in daily life.


But what is targeting?

When I describe the goal of targeting—teaching your dog to touch their nose to the palm of your hand—a puzzled look usually appears on the face of the client in front of me. But once I explain the real life uses, they love it too. 

Lisa uses hand targeting to position Willow on the board for stability.
Lisa uses hand targeting to help Willow learn where to stand on the standup paddle board.


Targeting has many uses:  

  • can help a shy or timid dog gain confidence
  • an effective technique to position your dog wherever you want him 
  • to get your dog off of anything (bed, sofa, coffee table) or on anything (the scale at the veterinarian’s office)
  • aids in training your dog a Rocket Recall 
  • an effective lure to use in order to obtain a new behavior 
  • to keep your dog busy and less stressed at the veterinarian’s office
  • to turn a light switch on or off, open or close a cabinet door
  • and many more!

I always begin teaching a dog to touch his nose to the palm of my hand. Since dogs are naturally curious and like to sniff our hands, it’s easy to get the behavior. 

With your dog in front of you, encourage the dog to touch his nose to your hand by placing your hand (fingers together and pointed down or to the side, palm facing the dog) one inch in front of the dog’s nose. Your dog will likely lean forward to investigate and then touch his nose to your palm. The moment you feel his nose touch your palm, say Yes! and give him a treat from your other hand, then return your target hand to your side. Repeat the sequence four or five times. When the dog is eagerly touching your palm,  you can begin to add the verbal cue “nose.” Say “nose”, then present your target hand close to your dog’s nose, and when he touches it, say Yes. Repeat five to ten times. 

When your dog is responding reliably to the cue, move your hand to different places near your body so he learns to move toward the target when it’s farther away, when it’s in motion, and when it’s above or below his nose level.  

Practice makes all things possible.

Happy Targeting!

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is the author of The Original Rocket Recall™: Teach Your Dog to Come. She’s a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*tec Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. The company’s trainers enjoy providing virtual behavior consulting and training solutions to clients around the globe and offers coaching, mentoring and behavior case support for pet professionals. www.coldnosecollege.com


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