This is a “funny”, though I’d not teach a Dane to bop a kid on the head. But dogs and puppy already know how to target in their instincts: find their stick, find their favorite place to snooze and the like.
But by targeting, trainers mean a pup can find an object or place and touch it, down on a mat and the like on command.
I’ve been playing find it games with the little tot, which is a baby version of targeting. With the little ones, we have to build upon their ability to identify objects, places, and people before we can send them to them for a reason, right?
Later on instead of just touching it, they are learning for example to sit, and wait on that mat. We want them soon to actually do something about that object or place. Those of us who are training a service dog want them eventually to learn to pick up the little trash bag and go to the dumpster with it, or have a nice down stay on a mat when we go eat out.
One of the most useful targets and easiest to teach is the handlers hand: this becomes an alert, or to reach up and feel that there is an overhead obstacle for the sight impaired. And it’s a terrific way to redirect a pup’s attention from that loud bang to paying attention to you.
I’m using Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels, http://www.sue-eh.ca/page24/page26/styled/ and she’s got a great obedience plan laid out in little baby steps for forgetful and sometimes in a hurry me!
Karen Pryor’s website also has a simple to follow and excellent article about targeting. http://www.clickertraining.com/node/546
So simple to teach, with an open hand and a treat between your fingers. When the pup touches your hand to get the treat, click and give them that treat and a few more. Do this a few times, then offer an open hand without the treat. If they touch it, click and give them lots of treats and affection. That what you wanted!
Keep practicing the open hand touch a while, the add in a twist. The hand moves a little. If they follow, click and jackpot with the good stuff they like.
Once reliable with a little move, try a bigger move. This little guy here may not be a Dane but he certainly has the idea of hand targeting! The more they follow your hand, the more reward they are getting.
Some dogs don’t like to get on the scale at the vet’s so when they are following your hand, have them step on something like a small board. Make them follow your hand to get on the couch, or up on a chair, or climbing the deck stairs.
As they get better, have them target your spouse’s hand, your kid’s hand, your neighbor’s hand, then a stranger/volunteer’s hand. Many training centers will have targeting classes you could go to, for both a targeting practice and more work on working in distracting places!
This may already be a habit for a pup that’s been playing find it games. You can go about teaching object targeting lots of different ways.
One way is touching the object yourself and clicking/rewarding them for following your hand to touch it. You can put a treat on a chair to lure them to it, and click/treat when they touch the chair.
You can tap their favorite squeaky and click the very second the nose touches it. Real fast you’ll need to lure their nose to the treat so they don’t pick up their toy! But it works. Then you continue teaching them to touch things they know.
Once they have the idea, you can up the ante, like poor Kenai up there with his soda pop carton dropped in the tub. You can combine your find it games of every possible object with this targeting. There’s a great book called “When Pigs Fly” that encourages a pup to touch and mess with objects. It’s one of my favorites.
WHAT’S NEXT? AND WHY?
A very useful target is their bed at home, a mat you can take with you to class or in public. Once they can find it, you can begin teaching a down on that mat as your training progresses.
That mat comes to mean down and stay, it is used for nothing else. That’s a bit in the future, unless you have a furry little Einstein who can’t stop learning!
But while the little one’s learning to target, be thinking about tasks you’ll need or want from them as they grow. I’ll add again a document list of find/touch/bring objects for you to get ideas from, and tailor to your own needs.