Teach your dog to love your hands! Teach a hand target!


Why we love to teach a hand target

Teaching a dog to target your hand with their nose, is super easy and super useful!  Teaching a hand touch teaches a dog that an approaching hand is not a threat, and therefore they don’t need to respond negatively! Many behavioural issues can be traced back to seemingly innocuous beginnings such as a puppy reacting nervously to an outstretched hand.  We want the dog to understand is that the human hand is not scary – a hand means FUN STUFF HAPPENS.

It's a great behaviour to train because:

  • It builds confidence and helps dogs accept the approach of a human hand, which will happen many times throughout their life.
  • It may help your dog to learn to approach and interact politely with strangers (i.e. they present their hand and your dog touches it to say hello, as opposed to jumping up on them).
  • It allows you a calm, easy way to redirect your dog away from objects (i.e. leaving the object to go to you and touch your palm).
  • It is also a good tool for perfecting a reliable recall. When your dog returns to you after you call him or her, presenting your hand gives him or her a specific spot to head to rather than potentially circling around you and playing a game of catch me if you can.
  • Hand targeting can also be added to the list of behaviours your dog can use to ask nicely for things. For example, you can ask him or her to hand target before getting to play in the dog run, walk out the front door, or come up on the couch for a hug.
  • It's good for getting focus on walks or in distracting environments.
  • It's handy for moving a dog onto the vet scales, off the furniture, into another space and for keeping the dog still at the vets when being examined.

How to teach a hand target

Step one:

a) Start off somewhere really quiet. Rub a treat on your chosen hand to make it smelly or hold it in between your third and fourth finger

b) Present a flat palmed hand with a flourish from behind your back and hold it just to the side of your dog's nose.

c) As your dog goes to investigate and touches with nose, mark then reward with your other hand

d) Take your hand away, put it behind your back, wait a second and present it again

e) If you are using a treat in your hand, stop and just use the flat hand.

f) Repeat until they do every time the hand is presented.

Step two:

g)ADD THE CUE “Touch” (or whatever you want to call it) before you present the hand.

h) After several repetitions say "Touch" as you present the hand.

i) Now repeat the process with your other hand

Step three:

Once you dog is reliably doing the touch with both hands on cue then you can start to increase the difficulty!


• Start to move around a little way from them – call them – extend hand – “touch”. Gradually build up distance.


• Try it in different environments building from the house to the garden during the walk etc.


• Try and lengthen the contact with your hand to one second, then two seconds etc before marking and rewarding.

Now have fun trying it everywhere and anywhere!

Download the hand target training exercise