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Holiday 2009: Teach Your Dog to Touch - PetSmart

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Published on Jun 7, 2011

A New Pet Trick to Ease Holiday Stress

During this busy holiday season, perhaps the last thing on your "to do" list is to train your dog or cat. But teaching your pet this one simple behavior has many benefits.

First, it gives you a technique to help manage your dog more effectively when greeting holiday visitors and can help your cat (and dog too!) be a bit friendlier rather than avoiding people. Learning this behavior also makes your pet think, which is mentally stimulating and contributes to your pet's mental health. Third, your pet will have a fun trick to show off to family and friends. You can fit the short practice sessions into your pet's regular feeding schedule and also whenever you offer treats so the training time doesn't add to your already busy schedule. Finally, you reap the benefits of taking a few minutes several times during the day to relax, clear your mind of holiday stressors and just allow yourself to have fun communicating with your pet.

The behavior you'll be teaching your pet is to "touch" the side of your closed fist or open palm with either the nose or a paw. Once your pet has learned the "touch" behavior, you will help her generalize the response to other people's hands. You can then use the behavior so that instead of jumping on people, you can tell your dog to "touch" visitors' hands. Use it to encourage a shy pet to approach people. It also may help prevent people, including children, from reaching for your pets, which can often frighten them. By moving your hand around and having your dog "touch" it at intervals, you can create new behavior patterns, such as circling around you and weaving in and out of your legs. Follow the step by step instructions, watch the video and have fun!

We think a clicker helps your pet learn this behavior faster because the click' clearly indicates which behavior is being rewarded. Clickers are readily available at most any pet store, including PetSmart, but if you don't have a clicker or don't want to get one, then just say "YES" when your pet does what you want.

Step 1. Close your hand around several pieces of your pet's kibble, or a small treat, and put your hand in front of your pet's nose. Chances are she'll come up and sniff your hand, resulting in her touching your hand with her nose. Click or say "YES" the very moment your pet's nose touches your hand, then open your hand and give her the goodie. Repeat this as many times as necessary, until when you hold your hand several inches away, your pet will immediately move toward your hand and touch it. Now you are ready to say "Touch" when you offer your pet your closed hand with the treat inside.

Step 2. Repeat Step 1, only now hold the food in the opposite hand from the one you want your pet to touch. You want to remove the odor cues for the touching. When your pet touches the hand you've offered that does NOT contain the food, click or say "YES" and immediately give her the food reward from your other hand.

Step 3 and Beyond. Now it's just a question of positioning your hand a little farther and at different angles from your pet's nose so that she learns no matter where your hand is, she has to move to touch it in order to be rewarded after hearing the "touch" cue.

Have all family members practice with your pet so she learns to touch anyone's hand when given the cue "Touch." Next practice with other people your pet knows and likes. When different people first attempt the training with your pet, they may need to make it easier for your pet by positioning their hands close to your pet's nose and again holding the food in the hand your pet is supposed to touch. When your pet is super reliable with "touching" on cue, make it a little harder. For example, show your pet your hand briefly, then move it behind your back or require your pet to walk around something to reach your hand.

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