One of the easiest yet most valuable behaviours we teach our dogs in foundation, and that we use throughout their lives, is the hand touch.

First, it is how we start all puppies with “learning to earn” and “shaping” as it is such a simple thing for them to figure out – you can use their meal times to earn each piece of food. It also becomes the default “please” behaviour, which is essential for creating and maintaining a great work ethic. Every time they want something, they say please with a hand touch.

It is a behaviour that happens right by you, so your puppy learns that being with you is a very rewarding thing. This leads to great recalls and allows you to give your dog a high rate of reinforcement, as you can reward multiple hand touches for coming back to you

It is used to maintain drive and focus in training when something goes wrong. In order to keep your dog’s drive high, you can ask for a hand touch and reward that before starting again. Thus, rewarding a successful behaviour, as well as preventing other unwanted behaviours, such as running off, taking other equipment, barking, spinning, sniffing, and other displacement behaviors. And, since it occurs by you, resetting to start again is easy.

It is the initial stage to teaching nose targeting for contact training 2 on – 2 off.

It is such a quick behavior for the dogs to do, but is also a behaviour you can easily add difficulty to by adding repetitions. All in all, it is a key and fundamental behaviour that will improve so many aspects of a dog’s life and understanding.

Ultimate Agility has two classes starting on 6 July; Registration opens on 28 June. Visit our website to read more about Ultimate Reinforcement and Ultimate Handling, and see how the hand touch is used as a building block for a fabulous reward structure.

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