Touch training is teaching a dog to touch a target with their nose or paw. Touch training is great to help keep a dog’s focus, or for any dog that needs a little extra mental stimulation.
Touch is also great for Recall/ Come when called training. In your Recall training you are already using your hand as a target. Teaching a Touch command can help improve your dog’s Recall skills.
This training can be helpful in teaching more advanced tasks, such as Service Dog things (turn off light, close door, etc). Touch training is also extremely helpful for nervous, anxious, and fearful dogs. Touch training helps boost confidence in a dog, and is a fantastic way to help dogs learn how to let go of fear and anxiety.
To start training Touch:
Have your treats ready but out of sight. Use an empty open hand, palm up, and present it about 2 inches away from your dog’s nose. When first training a new cue such as this, only say the cue word at the moment your dog performs the desired behavior, not before. As soon as the dog touches your hand, say your command word “Touch,” immediately followed by your Marker Word, “Good” or “Yes,” and reward. Be sure to remove your hand away from the dog (behind your back), so that the hand is newly presented each time.
Present your hand, as soon as the dog touches it, say “Touch! Yes,” and reward. Remove your hand and start again…repeat.
As your dog starts to understand the idea, slowly move your hand further away. Take your time doing this. If your dog is making mistakes, go back to make the training easier (move your hand closer to the dog).
When your dog is able to move 2-3 feet to touch your hand in various locations, you can start applying the training to an object. Begin with an object your dog is comfortable with. Have the object near you and start your Touch training with your hand as normal. Do this for several repetitions. Once your dog is into it, start moving your Touch hand closer and closer to the object until you are resting the back of your hand on the object. Do this several times so that the dog touches your hand while on the object. You can then move your hand just past the object (or higher up the object) to get the dog to touch the object. Highly praise and reward any time the dog touches the object. As your dog starts to get the idea, touch the object with your hand while saying your command word, “Touch,” then remove your hand and wait. Be sure to look at the object you want the dog to touch, do not stare at the dog. If the dog comes to the object and touches it, highly praise and reward. Wait for 30 seconds to a minute, if the dog does not touch the object, mark with your No Reward Marker, “Uh-Oh,” and briefly step away (be sure to break your eye contact). Then take the training back a step to make it easier. As the dog does well, start applying Touch to other objects the dog is comfortable with.
Once the dog has progressed to being able to touch several objects from varied distances, you can apply the training to an object the dog is fearful of, or progress to more advanced task training.
Fearful Dog-Touch Training
Touch training is amazingly helpful for nervous, anxious, and fearful dogs. When using touch training for fearful dogs, be sure to move slowly and at the dog’s own pace. NEVER rush training with a fearful dog. Begin as above and then start with the least scary objects. Get your dog comfortable with these items first before moving onto the items the dog is most frightened of. Take your time. If the dog seems overwhelmed or is shutting down, move the training to something else the dog knows and enjoys, or take a break.
Task Based-Touch Training
This type of training will involve a dog learning a task, such as Service Dog training. This can be things like turning off a light, closing a door, or nose bumps to alert the handler to a medical condition.
To advance your training into task based, I also recommend teaching your dog a Paw command, so that you can request the paw with touch when needed or preferred.
Check out our YouTube Page for a hands-on look at Touch Training.