How to Teach your dog the touch command

“Touch” is a great alternative command to “come”.  It’s a great way to communicate with your dog and all dogs love the “game”.  It’s also rather easy to teach.  All you need is a ready hand, some high-value treats, and preferably, a hungry dog (one that has not eaten in a couple of hours).


To begin, place your arm straight down past your waist and have your palm facing your dog.  You do not need to have your dog in a sit or down, but if he chooses to do so that is fine.  What is most important is that your palm be no more than 6 inches from your dog’s nose.  Then say “touch” and move your open palm a couple inches toward your dog so he sees the movement.  Most dogs will naturally inquire as to what is going on with your hand and naturally move their nose to sniff your hand.  As soon as, and I mean immediately, your dog’s nose touches your palm you say “yes!” to mark the wanted behavior and then give him a high value treat from your non-touch hand.  Rinse and repeat for a few more times, then move your palm in a different location, maybe from the right of your dog’s snout to the left side, still 6 inches away at the most.  Say “touch” and when your dog’s nose touches your palm, say “yes!” and treat.  Rinse and repeat.


Sometimes, a dog won’t try to sniff your hand or move his head at all in the direction of your open palm.  In this case, Put the high-value treat between your middle and ring finger and place your palm no more than 6 inches from your dog’s nose and then say touch.  He will, of course, then move to snatch the treat from your touch hand.  Rinse and repeat 10 times or so.  Then remove the treat from your touch hand, and try to do touch without the treat.  Usually your dog will then move his nose toward your touch hand.  Even if he doesn’t get his nose all the way to your touch hand, say “yes!” and reward for the good try.  Repeat and as he gets closer to actually making contact with his nose, say “yes!” and praise him with greater excitement and give reward. Eventually he will get it.


Once your dog has mastered the touch at close quarters, you can back up and try it from a few feet away.  Rinse and repeat many times.  If he does not quite figure out touch from that distance, move closer until he does start touching your palm with his nose.  Rinse and repeat, and then back it up a little and you will probably have success.  Over time, you will be able to back up further and further until you are clear across the room and having success.


Last, play puppy ping pong.  That is a game in which you and another person engage your dog in a game of touch between the two of you.  Start relatively close to each other, maybe 5 feet apart.  Get into position with your palm open and below your waist and say “touch”.  Your dog will come and touch you and get your treat.  Once he devours it, have the other person say touch and your dog will move from you to your partner to touch and get the treat.  Rinse and Repeat, and have fun!

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