So you've got your clicker and treats, and you've taken some time to familiarize your dog to the sound and meaning of the clicker. It's time to start teaching some things!
What is targeting?
Targeting is the name for many different behaviours in which your dog uses a part or all of its body to target (touch) something else. Your dog may use its nose, paw, or whole body. An example of targeting is a nose-touch to your palm, which I will describe how to teach below.
What are the uses of targeting?
The uses are endless!! First and foremost, it's a really easy starter skill to teach your dog as you learn about clicker training. Dogs love this game, and will gain a lot of joy from it. It is useful for teaching your dog to come to you, for complex tricks, to go to a mat and lay down, to help redirect your dog in distracting areas, and more.
Here I will describe how to teach a simple hand-touch.
• Have your clicker, lots of small treats, and a quiet room. Get down to your dog’s level.
• Hold out your hand close to your dog so that your palm is facing your dog. About 6" away to start is best.
• When your dog sniffs or bumps your hand, C/T.
• Repeat until you notice that your dog is obviously seeking out your hand to bump it with his nose when you offer your hand. When you see this, you are ready to name the behaviour.
• To name the behaviour, give your cue word, then offer your palm, and then C/T when your dog touches it.
"Touch" --> Offer palm --> dog touches --> Click! --> Reward
• Begin practicing in different positions – sitting, standing, kneeling, both hands, etc.
• Play “hard to catch” with your dog. Walk a step or two away from your dog, get your dog’s attention and use your recall cue to get your dog to move to you to target your hand.
• Slowly increase the distance until your dog will come to you to target your hand from a few feet away. Practice it in the backyard and at the park, until your dog can do it absolutely anywhere.
So, your dog is now targeting reliably from a distance, no matter where I am, now what?
Now you can start to fade the clicker out, as the clicker is used during the teaching phase only. To do this, you will present your cue word, and when your dog touches your hand, instead of clicking simply reward your dog. And then you have it! You have taught your first behaviour! It will still need to be practiced, but you can now move on to teaching something new!