Saturday, April 7, 2007

Training "touch"

The first thing you have to do is train the dog to alert you. You can do this in a variety of ways, and it really depends on the size of your dog. A little dog can't reach your hand, so it has to alert either by nudging your leg or pawing at you. My dog is 53 pounds and 24" at the shoulder, his head is right about at my palm when my arm is down, so it makes sense for him to nudge my hand.

I smeared my left hand with a meat roll* for dogs. My dog is bonkers for these meat rolls, he prefers the beef or lamb to the turkey. I cut up the meat roll and held the chopped roll in my right hand. I want him to nudge my left because all his training (except for agility) makes him have to be on my left and he's extremely comfortable with that.

To start, he sniffs the hand that had the stinky meat smeared on it. He got rewarded immediately. It's best to do this with a clicker, you can do it better with that but I can't find mine and have to buy a new one. So everytime he went to sniff my hand I said "Good Touch". After about three or four times, he would do it when I said touch. It's much easier to train something when the dog is doing it on his own, and him sniffing my palm is exactly that. After 10 times, I just let him be. Next day, same thing. 10 times touch, let him be. I do it in rapid succession too. Also, during the first day, I started to tell him touch before he hit my hand, and as soon as he did I just said "Good" because it's faster than saying "Good Touch" and it's imperative to reward the dog the instant he does the behavior.

Today, I advanced it. I was running around, he had to work to come up to me and get my hand while I was moving. The hardest part was to get him to nudge my hand when I was sitting. He did it when my hand was on my lap but not so much when it was beside me. Something to work on.

And yes, this has been done over about 60 hours time. Less than three days, only three or four training sessions. Dogs learn faster than you think. I will practice this until Monday, I believe. Today is Saturday.