How To Teach Targeting
Targeting is one of the most important exercises to teach when you are first starting out with a dog training program. This exercise teaches your dog how to move toward a target.and touch it. The target can be a target stick, as in clicker training or it can be your hands. You can also use both the target stick and you hands. Targets can also be other objects as well. In agility we also use a target container. I like containers that have a lid on them, like tupperware or a cool whip container. These work well in that all your food treats are stored at the destination instead of on you. Post-it notes can also make great movable targets as well.The target stick can be a very helpful tool in that it allows an you an ex tented reach. this can be helpful if we are teaching exercises in agility, like the weave poles, dog walk, A-frame, teeter or even jumps. It can also be useful for people who have limited mobility or people who are confined to a wheel chair.
Using Your Hands As A Target
Hold some treats in your hand and present your hand toward your dog, when your dog moves toward and touches your hand; mark the moment with your "good" or click then give then the treat. Repeat un till your dogs moves quickly toward your hand.
Next hold the treats in your hand, present them to your dog and as your dog moves toward your hand step backward a few steps and encourage your dog to follow and touch your hand. When your dog touches your hand; mark that moment with your "good" or click and give the treat.
As your dog begins to run to your hands while your are stepping backwards add more and more steps backward. A good goal would be to be able to take 10-30 steps backwards for each treat marker.
The target stick is also called a wand. There are many types of target sticks from fixed length wands, retractable wands or combination wand and clicker. You can also make a target stick with a small wooden dowel or even a nice straight stick.
How To Get Started With The Target Stick
You can get your dog started by rubbing some food at the end of the stick and presenting the stick near your dogs' nose. When your dog moves toward the stick, touches the stick by sniffing or licks the stick; Mark that moment with your "good" or "click" and give a treat. Repeat this exercise several times until your dog easily moves toward and touches the end of the stick.
Next move the stick to different positions, like to the right of the dog, to the left of the dog, above the dogs head and below the dogs head. After your dog has touched the stick anywhere you move it, then step away from your dog and present the stick so your dog needs to walk to the stick. Of course, mark each of those moments when your dog touches the stick with a "good" or click then give a treat. Repeat this exercise until your dog follows the stick where ever you present it.
Now you can have fun with this exercise. See if you can get your dog to stand on their rear legs or bow toward the ground or crawl under a object. If your dog refuses, reward small step toward each goal. Gradually getting closer to your end goal.
As with any practice sessions, keep them short and fun. Remember most dogs have a short attention span. So practice a few minutes several times a day.
Watch for signs that your dog is getting the idea of the exercise. As your dog get it, raise the criteria for each skill. In other words instead of walking two steps to touch the stick, make it three, four or more. Remember keep the exercises easy, with a slight challenge toward progress.
Once your dog follows the target freely you can use this to assist in your heeling exercises or the come exercise. You can use this to introduce agility obstacles or prompt the dog to get inside the car. I am sure you ca think of many other ways to use this valuable toll.
How To Teach Other Target Objects
Common targets can include a target dish or plate. I like containers with lids. You can also use Post-it notes or even a laser pointer. All of these are taught just like the target stick. Start out by rubbing some food on the target object. when your dog moves toward, sniffs, touches it with their nose or licks the object: mark that moment with the "good" or click signal, then give the treat. Raise the criteria once you see that your dogs is performing each skill easily. Other target objects which can be used can be left up to your imagination.