How To Teach Your Dog To Touch

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Dogs love to put things in their mouth: balls, sticks, toys, you name it! Teaching a dog to fetch an object is a fun way to play with your furry friend, but the game is not necessarily innate to a dog-in-trainingBefore a dog can properly fetch and return objects, they need to learn to “touch” or hand target – the act of gently touching a human’s hand with their noses. Follow the instruction below to teach your dog!

  1. Show your hand to your dog. Your hand should be open with your palm facing their face.

  2. Give the command “TOUCH.” 

  3. When your dog touches your hand with their nose, acknowledge with praise. Give your dog a small treat for positive reinforcement. Make sure that your dog actually touches your hand – leaning towards your hand and sniffing is not the same as touching!

  4. As your dog learns to associate an open hand with the ‘touch’ trick, advance their training by moving your hand to different positions.

Once your dog demonstrates comfort and consistency touching your hand, you can teach them to touch other targets. Pet supply stores will sell ‘official’ target sticks, but any object can be used for targeting – sticks, post-it notes, and pencils all work great!
When first teaching your dog to touch other objects besides your palm, keep the target close to you for faster recognition of the trick. As your dog learns what they are supposed to do upon hearing “touch” and seeing the object, progressively distance the object from your body.


Teaching your dog to “touch” is a fun way to mentally stimulate their playful brains during training. As is always possible, this command may not come easily for your canine friend. If they strugglestay patient, and keep trying! Always remember to praise and treat for following instructions as positive reinforcement encourages repetitive good behaviorGood luck!

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions