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Happy February! This month’s training challenge is with our upcoming webinar, Pandemic Puppies: Finding Harmony in the Future in mind. We wanted to include something that is helpful to the pets we’ll be talking about later this month in the webinar, but is also helpful for all pets and easy enough to include in a training challenge. So, here it is:
Teach or proof a nose to hand target
Ellen has a great video on what a nose to hand target is, how to teach it, and what it can be used for. Check it out here:
What is it?
A nose to hand target is when your pet touches their nose to your hand. We often just refer to this as “hand targeting” but I wanted to include the specificity here to make it known that an animal can target different parts of their body to different things. For example, one of the coolest applications I’ve seen is a hyena who was taught to target their neck to the bars of a crate so their caregivers could take jugular blood samples easily and in a way that wasn’t scary to the hyena.
Why it’s useful
Ellen goes into a lot of cool ways that you can use a nose to hand target in her video. Here are some of my favorite ways that I’ve used a nose to hand target:
- Teaching a more precise recall (come when called). You can get the pet into exactly the location and even orientation you’re looking for with a target which isn’t possible with a generic recall.
- Relocation. Want your dog to get out of the way? Hand target. Want your cat to jump off the counter? Hand target. Emily used a beak to spoon target for one of her birds who would try to bite hands coming into his enclosure to feed him. He was happy to move away to the spoon so that anyone who watched him could care for him safely!
- Jump to hand target. I use this with those jumpy dogs who just need to get those one or two jumps in before they can sit and be calm. I talk more about this in this blog post about how the Water Principle in hapkido applies to our pets.
- Harness training. I worked with a cat years ago, Milo, who was comfortable with wearing a harness but wasn’t as keen about it going over his head. We taught him to put his own head through the harness with a DIY target stick (a pom pom attached to a chopstick).
- Hand shyness. While this isn’t always the most appropriate approach to hand shyness and you should absolutely work with a professional before trying this on your own, it can be an effective way to help pets who are uncomfortable with hands. My favorite example is Castiel, who was very uncomfortable with hands and eventually learned to target new people’s hands as the final step in his greeting protocol.
- Exercise. I worked with a pup who had hind-end mobility issues. His caregivers were concerned about how they would provide him with the physical exercise he needs. We decided to teach him a nose to hand target and would ask him to walk just a step or two at a time to touch the hand. This was plenty of exercise for him! Now, I ask Oso to run across the house and jump up to a hand target to get extra winter exercise.
- Tricks. There are so many tricks that can be taught using a nose to hand target (or other targeting behavior)! Spin, jump, bow, figure 8s, and more.
And, the last reason I find this a useful behavior, is because it’s usually an easy behavior to teach. There are absolutely pets who say otherwise, but on the whole I see the majority of folks having quick success with this. Not only is it an easy behavior to teach, but I find that it’s often easier to perform than some of the more common tricks, like sit. There are plenty of times I’ve seen a dog who’s too distracted to sit, but not too distracted to perform a hand target.
How to teach a nose to hand target
The simplest option is to extend your hand a couple of inches away from your pet’s nose, wait for them to investigate, then mark and treat from your opposite hand when you feel their nose or even whiskers in the beginning. Ellen does a great job of showing different ways to teach this in the video above.
Note: if you have a pet who’s uncomfortable with hands near their face, work with a behavior consultant on how to safely teach this behavior. There are more options available than what we can get into in a generic post or video!
Who should learn a nose to hand target?
Almost every pet can benefit from this– including all species! A hand target specifically may not be appropriate for all pets, in which case you can use something else for them to target to.
- Go forth and teach a nose to hand target!
- Does your pet already know this behavior? Your training challenge is to then proof or strengthen this behavior. Check out the below videos on how to do that:
- Share pics and videos of you working on a hand target with your pet! Email us at [email protected] or connect with us on Facebook or Instagram @petharmonytraining