Teaching Your Puppy the Hand Touch
Training your puppy to learn a hand touch is a great beginning behavior for either a puppy or adult dog. This behavior involves the puppy touching his nose to the palm of your hand and is a great behavior to use to teach more complex behaviors such as “spin” and “sit up and beg”. It is also another nice behavior to warm up with when you are starting a new training session as it gets your puppy focusing on you.
To teach this behavior, we will show the puppy we have a treat in our right hand. Transfer the treat to your left hand and present your right palm to the puppy a few inches in front of their nose and say “touch”. Since you had a treat in that hand previously, your puppy will most likely lean in and sniff your right hand. When his nose touches your palm, immediately praise and deliver a treat. The faster your verbal praise and food reward, the easier it will be for the puppy to make the connection that “touch” means touch his nose to your hand.
Do not move your hand to the puppy’s nose since that is not the behavior. We want to be sure that the puppy is moving towards our palm and not just allowing us to touch his nose. Practice this behavior 10 times or so twice a day until your puppy immediately goes for your palm when you present it.
At this point, you can remove the step of showing the puppy you have a treat first and just present your palm. When your puppy is readily touching your palm, you can start to lengthen the duration of the touch by delaying the praise and food reward by a second or two.
Get creative with this behavior and play around with ways you can use the hand touch to get your puppy into some creative positions or to maneuver them through and around things.
While you shouldn’t encounter many problems while training this behavior, if your puppy is not willing to touch your hand in the beginning, you may need to keep the treat in your right hand and just hide it under your thumb. This will encourage your puppy to investigate your hand since the treat is still present. As your puppy begins to understand the behavior, you can eliminate the treat being in your hand and try to get your puppy to touch your palm without food.