Target training has been used for years in animal training. From dolphins, to lions, to dogs, it is a great exercise to stimulate an animal. You can use the following information to help you teach your dog (or cat!) to target. The possibilities of what you can develop this skill into are endless!
Start by scenting your hand, or an item of choice. A “target stick” is used by some while teaching targeting foundations. A target stick is often a stick with a ball at the end of it. You may use any item, however. Encourage your dog to investigate the scent. Once thier nose touches, say the command “touch,” while simultaneously rewarding. Repeat this until the dog is spontaneously touching regularly. Once your dog is offering the behavior, you may begin to use the “touch” command before you expect it.
Where to go from here? You can transfer your targeting to various items, once your dog understands the exercise. Tell your dog “touch” while your hand is near the light switch to guide them into turning the lights on and off for you. (Say “lights,” or something of the nature once he touches the panel, to associate a new command with the task.) You may also teach your dog to close doors, answer the (corded) phone, or even spin in circles to a moving target. The possibilities are endless!
Have fun, and be creative with targeting this summer. It is a great mentally-stimulating activity that is good to practice indoors on hot days!