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Target training for dogs: what is it and how does it work?


Target training for dogs is about your four-legged friend touching a target with a body part such as the paw or nose. The versatile training offers various options and is suitable for almost every dog, whether puppies or seniors, whether small or large. A classic exercise in target training is chin giving, in which the dog lays its head on the open hand - Shutterstock / a katz

During target training, your dog learns to touch a target you have set with your paw, nose, chin, forehead and almost all conceivable body parts. This can be your hand, for example, but also a specific target object that you are pointing at. The best known is probably the classic paw giving, which is a basic exercise in target training, and is explained in more detail below. Most dogs have a lot of fun doing the task and at the same time improve their skill in the exercises.

Target training with the dog: basics

The basic exercises for target training with the dog are in particular the paw target (paw feeding), nose target, body target and looct target:

  • paws target: When giving paws, the basic thing is that the dog touches your hand with its paw as soon as you hold it out to it. Like the others, the exercise can be expanded as required. For example, the dog should touch an object with its paw or place its hind paws on something.
  • nose target: The nose tag works like the paw target, only that the contact with the dog's nose is made. For example, the woof should poke your hand with your nose.
  • state target: In addition to paws and nose, all other parts of the body can theoretically be stressed, such as the forehead or the chin.
  • look target: This form of target training does not require any physical contact. The Looktarget is all about the dog looking at the target and not touching it.

Target training for beginners: giving paws made easy

Giving paws - probably the simplest target training exercise - requires a few treats and a little patience. To teach your dog the trick, show him the dog treat and then hide it in her fist. Your dog will now try to get the good piece. If at some point he hits your fist with a paw, give him the treat. Repeat this over a period of time until your dog understands the connection between treats and paw contact.

In the next step you always say a certain command when your dog gets to the treat by pawing. This is how you condition your four-legged friend on command - such as "Paw", "Give Five" or "Paw". Repeat this until your dog understands the connections and gradually leave out the treats. Only practice giving paws when your dog is sitting on the floor with his buttocks and the front paws are free.

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Target training with a target stick

A popular tool for target training is the target stick. The stick is held about half a meter away from your dog at its nose level. Now wait until the baton awakens the interest of your animal partner and he comes closer. If your dog nudges the stick, give him a treat immediately or click if you use a clicker. Repeat the whole process until your sofa wolf understands the connection between nasal pricks (nasal target) and treats. If he hits the target stick safely over time, even after you have stopped giving treats, you can try to hold the target stick against certain objects. Your dog should now poke the touched objects with the nose and then get treats again, which you will of course stop after a certain time.

Important: You should never lose patience when target training with the dog. Your dog must enjoy the task - coercion and impatience are counterproductive. Be patient and please never overwhelm your dog.