Nose targeting, or teaching your puppy to tap an object with his nose, can be applied in a variety of situations. It can be used to distract your puppy from unwanted behavior, such as barking at the neighbor's cat, or, it can be the beginning of teaching your puppy a more complex behavior. Service dogs are often taught to target objects in order to signal handlers, or as a basis for manipulating an object to perform a more complicated task. For instance, you may teach your dog to press a doorbell, to ring it for someone who cannot see or manipulate the bell themselves. You might train your dog to trigger an indoor bell to signal you that he needs to go out, or even that it is time for their owner to take medication.
Most dogs think targeting with their nose is a great game, with treats involved, so it is not that difficult to teach a fun-loving, treat-motivated puppy. Although some of the more complex behaviors may have to wait until later, teaching a puppy to tap objects with his nose is a great first step to learning later behaviors, builds communication between you and your young dog, and is a fun activity that builds your puppy's confidence.
Teaching a puppy to targe or tap an object with his nose is the basis for many other behaviors they are too numerous to mention. Whether you are going to train your puppy to do agility tasks that require him to touch a target which his nose, become a service dog that needs to perform simple household tasks, like turn a light switch on or off, pick up keys, bring medication, or ring a bell, or if you want to train your puppy to do some entertaining tricks that require him to touch objects when directed, there are many uses for this behavior. It can also serve to distract your puppy when he is doing something you don't want him to do, without requiring you to punish him. Since most puppies think tapping an object with their nose in exchange for a reward is a fun activity, this is a great, positive way to distract your puppy when you need to.
Many handlers start by training their puppy to touch a hand, toy, or stick with their nose and capturing the behavior with a clicker and treat. Then add a verbal command and eventually a hand signal to direct the puppy towards the object to nose target.
Remember to be patient when teaching your puppy. Puppies have short attention spans and are easily distracted, so keep training sessions short and positive.