Nose Targeting is a critical part of our contact training. Our dogs love to get the chance to give those rapid-fire nose presses into the palm of our hand. Even the delivery of the food rewards does not interfere with the dog’s successive nose taps into the hand target; this is your dog’s first game to master!
Prior to getting your dog, have a practice session of dropping your treats into your open palm from a distance of about 15” (your hand is held open as though your dog were nose targeting into it). Practicing the mechanics of this game without your dog helps to ensure your mechanics do not hold your dog-training back. When you are happy with your ability to drop and catch cookies, you can add your dog.
Transition to sitting comfortably in a chair or on the floor; place your treats so that they are easily accessible to the hand you will use to deliver the treats. Have your dog stand facing you. With only one cookie in your hand, present your other hand for the dog to touch. The palm of your target hand should be held taut and as straight as possible. At first, you will be presenting this hand so that it is facing the dog (i.e., your hand is perpendicular to the ground). When your dog looks/moves toward or touches your palm, rotate your hand so that your palm is now facing straight up (i.e., horizontal to the ground), and drop a single treat into the center of your palm and catch it, allowing the dog to scoop it up from the middle of your hand. Do not deliver it to the dog’s mouth. This is an important mechanical detail of the game. Dropping the treat to your hand and not directly into the dog’s mouth helps to encourage your dog’s focus for the work of touching your hand rather than on the delivery of the treat. Be certain that your target hand never moves once you’ve presented it to the dog. You want to build value for your dog touching his nose to the palm of your hand; therefore, the dog must be able to predict where that hand will be at all times.
Once the dog gets the treat, rotate your hand so that it is once again facing the dog, in the same position that it was in prior to the delivery of the treat. Keep your hand there and wait for the dog to notice your target hand again. Repeat. If the dog only moves toward and sniffs at the target hand, you need to start to increase your criteria until the dog actually touches the hand. Present your palm and instead of the dog getting the treat for just looking at your palm, wait a moment for some additional movement from the dog, e.g., his head straining towards the palm, the dog leaning towards the palm, etc. Reward the dog for one or two investigations, but then start to increase your criteria, waiting until you feel the dog’s nose touch the palm of your hand. Break it off to play (if you dog doesn’t tug then run at least 40-50 ft. to get the dog aroused before you start a new session with the opposite hand). Continue this layer of training until you have a solid, firm target behaviour of pushing into your palm with a nose wrinkle and lifting his nose back up out of your palm. You can eventually work up to multiple nose touches, but the best way to get there is to make sure your target hand does not move between repetitions and you have a strong solid behaviour to start with. Remember to offer both hands but not both hands in one session. When trying to get the dog to tap harder try shaping the tap with your eyes closed. This will help you be able to distinguish the harder nose touches as it will force you to use your sense of touch and therefore be able to reward the harder ones.
Training Activity Time:
Aim for at least two training sessions a day. Keep your training sessions short with frequent balance breaks during each session.
Dog licks, bites, almost touches: alter the position of your hand. Try to present your hand at an angle so the dog has to come up underneath the hand in order to touch. Often times this eliminates the unwanted behaviours. To work on intensity, close your eyes and go by feel for stronger pressure. The dog pressing and holding his nose in your palm is not a response we want to encourage because the surfaces on which your dog will be doing his contact behaviour on may be not something we want our dogs to hold their nose into (e.g., really wet grass, dirt in a horse barn, etc…).
Nose touches and playing its your choice game