Dog Training

How to Train Your Dog ‘Touch’ or Nose Targeting

September 18, 2022

‘Touch’ or nose targeting is when your dog is taught to touch their nose to the palm of your hand on cue. Why should you train your dog ‘Touch’? Where the dogs nose goes, the body follows!

teach your dog to touch

‘Touch’ can be used to get your dog in place for a heel, can be transferred to objects for easy learning of skills such as ringing a bell to go outside, or as a target for agility training. It also helps build positive associations to outstretched hands, thereby lowering the chance a dog will see an approaching hand as a threat! Training a dog ‘Touch’ or nose targeting is an easy and versatile skill!

(If you want to make the skill extra cute, you can teach the cue ‘Boop’ rather than ‘Touch’!)

How to train your dog ‘Touch’:

What you’ll need:

* I use the marker word “Yes” when I train. If you haven’t loaded a marker word with your dog yet, do that first. This article explains how 🙂

In this post we’ll cover:

  • Two methods of teaching your dog to ‘Touch’: Lure & capture training
  • Progressing the difficulty of the skill

Important: For most dogs I recommend using the “capture method” of training your dog ‘Touch’. However, if your dog knows “shake a paw” and consistently offers THAT behaviour when they see your hand (*Ahem, my dog…..) luring will work better for you!

Train your dog ‘Touch’ using the capture method:

What is capture training & why should you use it?

Capturing is when you teach your dog to perform a natural behaviour on cue! You wait for your dog to voluntarily perform the behaviour without prompting, then you mark & reward it. When you consistently reward something your dog will start offering it more frequently (what gets rewarded gets repeated!). Once your dog starts offering the behaviour rapidly you add a verbal cue to it! Capture training is like puzzle solving for a dog: it’s a lot of fun and works their brain. Whenever possible, it’s the method I suggest!

Dogs are naturally curious animals and sniff things, so this makes training ‘Touch’ with capturing easy! To do so:

Train your dog to touch or hand target
  1. Present your hand with a flat palm right in front of your dogs face. Instinctually, your dog should try to sniff it. When your dog touches their nose to your palm, mark “Yes” and reward them.
  2. Take your hand away, wait a few seconds, then present it again. Mark & reward when the nose touches your palm.
  3. Repeat this process until your dog is ~ 80% successful in eagerly touching your palm when it’s presented. Next, add a verbal cue! As your dog goes to touch your hand with their nose say ‘Touch’. Mark and reward.
  4. Repeat this training by saying ‘Touch’ as you present your palm close to your dog until your dog is eagerly offering the behaviour!

Train your dog ‘Touch’ using the lure method:

What is lure training and why should you use it?

There are two times I suggest using the lure method to train hand targeting rather than the capture method: 1) If your dog shows no interest in your outstretched hand, therefore making the capture method impractical, or 2) If your dog really likes shaking a paw and offers that each time they see your hand presented.

Lure training is when you use a treat to guide your dog into something. We commonly use it when teaching puppies to ‘Sit’ or ‘Lie down‘. Think of the treat as a magnet to their nose; it guides them into the position we want! Lure training is often way faster, but it does not work the dog’s brain as much. Also, if the lure isn’t faded out quickly your dog may only offer the behaviour with a treat in front of their nose! Get rid of the lure as soon as you can!

To train your dog to ‘Touch’ using the lure method:

train your dog to touch or hand target using lure training
  1. Put a treat between your fingers (see picture above). Present your hand with a flat palm right in front of your dogs face. Instinctually, your dog should try to get the treat. When your dog touches their nose to your palm, mark “Yes” and let them have the treat.
  2. Take your hand away, wait a few seconds, then present it again with another treat. If your dog shows no hesitancy in going for the treat, move to step 3 where we’ll add a verbal cue!
  3. This time as you present your hand say ‘Touch’. When their nose hits your palm, mark “yes” and let them have the treat.
  4. Practice the verbal cue with luring a few times, then try presenting an empty palm as you say ‘Touch’. If your dog puts their nose on your palm, mark ‘yes’ and reward them from your other hand! If they don’t move towards your hand when you say ‘Touch’ go back to step 3 and lure a few more times. Make sure you phase out the lure as quickly as possible though!
  5. Repeat this training by saying ‘Touch’ as you present your palm close to your dog until your dog is eagerly offering the behaviour!
Teach your dog to nose target

Progressing the difficulty of ‘Touch’:

Once your dog has mastered the cue at a very close distance, slowly start moving your hand farther & farther away!

You can also start switching the hand you offer as you say ‘Touch’ to help your dog generalize the command.

Training your dog ‘Touch’ is a fantastic building block for tricks, agility, recall, teaching object touching (such as turning off a light switch or ringing a potty bell), and much more!

Happy training 🙂

Disclosure: Happy Hounds uses affiliate links. Purchasing with these links will not cost you any extra, but I get commissions for purchases made through these links. Affiliate links help me to continue to offer free resources & blog posts. I would love if you used them!

How to Train Your Dog ‘Touch’ or Nose Targeting

About the author:

Stephanie Rombough, DBTMc, is a force-free dog trainer in Edmonton, Alberta. She owns Happy Hounds Dog Training, offering private in-person or virtual dog training services. 

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

join my email list!

If you enjoyed this post I would really appreciate a share or comment to help other dog owners find it too!

My mission at Happy Hounds is to help owners train their dogs using positive, force-free methods. A trained dog is less likely to end up in a shelter, and a dog trained with positive methods is more likely to be confident & happy. Everyone wins!


More about me>


Please like & share!

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap