How to teach a nose touch

What is a nose touch?

 You say, “Touch!” and your dog swiftly bops the palm of your hand with his nose.

Why teach a nose touch?

  • allows you to position your dog any way you want (like beside you on  a leash walk, away from a toddler if they get in a tight space, lined up for the vet to examine him, for a photo, or to teach a trick like “twirl in a circle”)
  • gives your child and dog a great game to play together
  • helps a puppy to learn to come at your hands with a closed mouth (self control is a delightful thing)
  • gives your dog something to do when he might be nervous (like in the waiting room at the veterinarian’s office, waiting his turn in group class, or in between ears when you’re cleaning them)
  • refocuses your dog on you if he is staring at another dog, a cat, or something else that is none of his beeswax
  • helps dogs feel happy about people’s hands near their faces
  • can be transferred to other objects, like shoes, so you can teach your dog to nose touch people’s shoes instead of leaping on them in greeting
  • helps dogs who are nervous about objects (like a vacuum cleaner or wheel barrow) feel more confident (it becomes a nose touch game rather than a “what the heck is that thing!?” encounter)
  • zillions of other uses

 How to teach a nose touch (please read brief instructions below first; the video moves fast)

The video shows only Session One. In subsequent sessions, you will build up greater understanding, put a cue word on the touch behavior (“Touch!”), and incorporate the nose touch into the above uses. It only takes a few 1-minute sessions to master this.

For your first session, keep one hand clean and keep treats in the other. The clean hand is the hand your dog will touch with his nose. Use tiny, non-crumbly treats. 

Step one—Hide your clean “touch” hand behind your back. This will pique your dog’s interest. Your dog may nuzzle the other hand holding the treats.  Just ignore that and make a fist around the treats.

Step two—Present your rigidly flat palm out to your side, roughly nose- level with your dog. Say nothing. Just wait. Make sure your thumb is parallel to the ceiling.

Be ready! Many dogs will immediately bop your palm (or at least sniff it) the first few attempts. This is sheer luck (see video) but you still want to be ready to reward.

Step three—The instant he bumps your hand with his nose, keep your touch hand right where it is as you say “yes” and deliver a treat with your other, treat hand. Ideally, reach over and place the treat as close as possible to the spot where your dog bopped your palm and let your dog take the treat at the spot. (In the video I keep the food hand separate because that happened to be easiest for this puppy.)

 Repeat 5-6 times in a row. If your dog gets stuck:

·            look at your touch hand, not the dog

·            hide your hand and then make it reappear (“flash” it); works for most dogs

·            just be patient and let them puzzle it out

·            reward “almost” touching to help jump-start the process

 Congratulations! You’ve completed your first touch training session.


Tips to note: In the video, there were a couple things I would do differently had I not been working in grass, and with a stationary video camera on a tripod. 

For each new attempt, back away from your dog a step or two to encourage them to stand (rather than them getting stuck in a sit position). It is not a “sit” exercise and will only complicate things during later sessions.

If your dog tends to sit rather than stand, say “yes!” when their nose bops your palm, but rather than reward the dog in a sitting position as I was often doing, toss the treat onto the floor. That way your dog will go after the treat and be “reset” in a standing position for the next attempt (note: does not work well on grass because the training session turns into a treat hunting expedition).

Please let me know what you think of this video attempt; one of my clients requested it and I think it’s a great idea to post a video from time to time. (The text came out awfully small—I will make it more legible next time.). Thanks for watching and happy training!


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