Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Obedience "must train" - The Nose Touch

I've had a number of occasions lately to be thankful that I have taught my dogs to touch their nose to my palm -- something I call the nose touch.

What is the nose touch?

The nose touch is when I say "touch" and the dog firmly presses their nose into my outstretched palm.

Why do I find it useful?

It's a great way to maneuver a dog without having to pull on the leash, grab the collar, lure with food, pick them up, etc.

With Ziggy:
  • Ziggy is a sweet dog.  He is also rather lazy, and has a bit of a stubborn streak.  If he doesn't want to go somewhere, a pull on his collar only leads to a dog who puts on the brakes even more.  No fits.  He just anchors himself into place and gives me a completely impassive look.  
    • But the nose touch gets him to move!  It frees me from having to beg, pull, or push him into place.
    • The logic seems to be touch = food = something I can do to get a reward!
  • The folks at the ISU vet school rehab center also appreciate the nose touch, as it allows them to get Ziggy to do his rehab exercises more easily.

With Rip:
  • I use the nose touch A LOT with Rip.
  • I use it to get Rip where I want him to be.  
  • I  ask him to "bounce" - or come off the ground in front a bit - to touch, which he finds very motivating.
  • The nose touch comes in handy when teaching him things like finishes.  I have him bounce up to touch my hand, to get him to move left or right, then I use the touch to bounce him into place.
  • I'll feed Rip his dinner as a reward for touching my hand (Touch = a small bit of food from my hand), so Rip is very motivated to touch.  
  • I'll even use "touch" in place of "come" from time to time.  I seem to have built more rewards into touch, so Rip almost always barrels towards my hand.  But that's probably more a fault of my recall training than a benefit of "touch."  ;)
  • I ask him to touch a lot when we're heeling.  
    • I have him touch to get his attention.  Rather than correcting him when he looks away, I ask for a series of hand touches to get him back in focus.  
    • I have him do a little "bounce" touch to get more drive when heeling -- like during the transition from slow to normal pace.

With Maggie:
  • Oh, heck, let's face it - Maggie is an old lady who is deaf and gets to do what she wants most of the time - but she still remembers that touch is high reward, and she'll gently press her nose to my hand if I hold it out there for her.  And she always gets a treat for it!  :)

(Maggie was at rest during my "nose" photo shoot, 
so I just took a nose picture of her snuggled up in her bed)

How do I train "touch?"

Touch is a fairly straightforward thing to train.


When I train the nose touch, my criteria are that a corgi nose is firmly pressed into my open palm.  I don't want teeth + nose.  I don't want near touches, or gentle tap nose touches.  I want a nice, firm nose touch, wherever my hand may be - close to the floor, behind my back, above the dog's head, etc.

Initial Training

The nose touch is easy to train if you're clicker training, or even if you're not.

I clicker trained Rip and Ziggy to touch, clicking for ever-closer progression toward my palm, and delivering the treat from the hand that I've asked them to touch.  Using the clicker to train touch is now my favorite way to train it.  It's a great thing to train when just learning to use the clicker, as dogs tend to catch on very quickly.

Maggie I trained without a clicker (this was before my clicker days).  She is hugely food driven, so I had small treat in my hand, and rewarded when her nose came in contact with my hand -- which it naturally did as part of trying to get the treat.  I think it took her about twice before she figured the game out.


Though my dogs know "touch" very well now, I continue to offer a high rate of reward for it.  I'll often just do touches for treats, or touches for bits of their meal so that it I have a lot "in the bank," allowing me to use touch without it becoming boring, or low reward.

I hope you and your dogs enjoy the nose touch as much as The Pack and I do.  I am regularly thinking of new ways to use it!

1 comment:

  1. I use the nose touch with Jimmy for many of the same reasons you use it with Rip. It definitely pulls his focus back to me. It also works as a warm up for an agility run by getting him to touch my hand that is held high over his head. Lots of stretching and hind end work warms those muscles! I think it was probably the very first thing he learned after Sit.


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