I have trained the nose touch for many years, however Drama is the first dog where my goal is a “sustained” nose touch. With my other dogs, the criteria was to just touch my hand, which resulted in varying degrees of “pecking” or “touch and go”. I used food in the hand I wanted touched for a period of time to obtain the behavior.
A sustained nose touch can be a benefit in many areas of K9 Fitness and general training.
Once a sustained nose touch is obtained, my goal is to be able to move my hand and have my dog “follow” without releasing the hold. We have this now after just a few sessions but need to build into many different training environments.
With the above list in mind, it is important to have a “soft” nose touch that is sustained rather than a “pushing” motion. A soft sustained nose touch will allow the handler to slowly shift the dog’s weight, ask for position changes and allows the dog to focus on their body and limbs vs a food reward.
What I have learned about teaching a sustained nose touch
Foundation do’s and don’ts
Building a HOLD
The trouble I had is getting the behavior to be sustained. Drama has always wanted to “peck and move away” instead of hold the behavior. I consulted a friend about this and she told me to move my hand toward Drama as noted above, which did improve the behavior but still wasn’t getting what I wanted. Then when in the UK at the FitPAWS Master Trainer Program, I noticed one of the volunteers had a lovely soft sustained nose touch, so I asked her how she trained it. Bingo – “wait him out“ - the real answer here is to have patients and wait for your dog to offer the touch and then build duration.
Often I get in a hurry and forget critical steps to building solid independent behavior and then later realize that refining a behavior or trick is needed. I feel very fortunate that I have wonderful friends, clients, and trainers available to me to remind me to slow down and offer suggestions to help improve my training.
Not every suggestion will result in what I am looking for but not every training tool works for every dog. These "tools" that are offered are just that, tools to add to your tool box of training methods that will result in being able to help many dogs, not just my own.
Bobbie Lyons, CCFT, KPA CPT