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Behavior Basics: Target

Target is such a useful behavior that it borders on a training tool more than just a neat thing to teach your pet. Be sure you have read the rest of our behavior series on basic training, sit, lie down, and leash walking. Target is simply teaching your pet to touch something with their nose, or paw if you prefer. You could train a separate behavior for both! Here, a Lincoln, NE veterinary clinic will discuss how to train the nose target, but the steps are essentially the same if you prefer to use a foot.

Gather all necessary supplies for a training session (you will need a clicker or verbal marker). The one additional element you may need would be whatever you want your pet to target to. Some people prefer to use their open hand, or a closed hand. Others may want to use an object, like a ball on a pole, or a sticky note on a wall. What you choose to use may depend entirely on how you plan on using this behavior. For this example, we will use an open hand.

Once your pet is calm, hold the palm of your hand up to their face and touch it to their nose. At the second you touch them, mark it (either with a click, or whatever your mark word is) and treat. Repeat this 4-5 times.

You should now be able to hold your hand just a few centimeters from their nose and they should want to move towards it and touch it themselves. Mark and treat. Repeat 4-5 times.

Continue repeating this process moving your hand farther and farther away as they are successful.

You can then go back closer to them and begin placing your hand to the side so they must turn their head one way or the other, or above or below. This starts generalizing the behavior for them a bit.

Start incorporating your cue word if you want one by saying it just after the mark and then moving it forward (like in the “sit” article). There is already a hand cue if you were using your hand, or the presentation of the target object can be a cue.

You may wonder what uses this strange behavior has. While it is not on the traditional list of things to train your pet, the uses for target make in an invaluable tool. You can use target to train your pet to leash walk better. It can be used to train them to enter a crate. They can learn to walk on a ramp with target. If you use a stationary point on a wall and train them to hold it for a while, it can be useful in their visits to their Lincoln, NE veterinary clinic! Really, the question is what can’t it be used for! And yes, you can teach your dog, cat, ferret, guinea pig, goldfish, etc. this! If you need help with any of your training adventures, don’t hesitate to contact your Lincoln, NE veterinary clinic with questions!


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