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Imagine going somewhere with your beautiful, shy puppy. You missed the early socialization time in his life and you are trying to make up for lost time by introducing him to lots of people in a pleasant way now. A family at the park approaches you wanting to know if their two young daughters can greet your pup. He crouches behind you a bit when the girl's walk toward him. You are not sure, but suddenly you get an idea. You give the girls treats and instruct them to hold out the palms of their hands toward him. You tell him to "Touch" and point to one of the girls' hands. He suddenly looks a bit more confident and relaxed, and he walks forward to obediently touch the hand in order to get the treat. The girl smiles as she feeds him the treat, and then you let the other girl practice the trick with him also. Several minutes and many treats later, your puppy no longer looks shy or uncertain about the girls; instead he seems happy and completely relaxed. He is willingly coming up to the girls, letting them pet him, and taking treats from their hands. You smile as the family walks away, and you think to yourself that this is a wonderful trick, and you will use it to introduce him to new people from now on.
'Touch' is a fantastic trick to use to help puppies and dogs get used to new things. Whether that new thing is a person that your puppy is shy around or an object that seems a bit scary to him. By teaching your puppy to touch things when you tell him to, you can communicate to him those that things are safe, and through the use of rewards for touching, you can teach him to expect touches to be pleasant, which will help to decrease his fear.
'Touch' can also be very helpful during potty training. You can teach your puppy to touch a bell when he needs to go outside. You can also use 'touch' as an alert signal for many different important jobs. You can teach your puppy to touch you when your blood sugar is getting too low if he is a Diabetic Alert Dog, or to touch you when you are about to eat something that you are allergic to if he is an Allergy Alert Dog, or to touch you during times or anxiety or compulsion if he is a Psychiatric or PTSD Alert Dog. There are so many important uses for this trick, even if you only want to teach it because it's cute.
'Touch' is a fairly easy command to teach, especially if your dog is not shy about touching things. You can generally expect this trick to take between four and seven weeks to train, and even less time if you only teach him to touch one thing and not to generalize the trick to other objects or hands also.
To get started you will need lots of small, tasty treats, a calm location, a patient, positive attitude, and a willing pup. If you are using the "Peanut Butter" method, then you will also need Peanut Butter. If you are using the "Peanut Butter" method or the "Treat" method, then you will also need an object about the size of your hand. If you are using the "Toy" method, then you will also need a toy or a similar sized object. With all of the methods you will need a variety of additional objects to practice this trick with, and if you wish to teach your pup to touch other people's hands also, then you will need volunteers to practice this trick with your dog.
The Peanut Butter Method
Grab peanut butter
To begin, grab some treats and peanut butter, and go to a calm location with your pup. Do NOT use peanut butter that contains xylitol, because xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs.
Smear a tiny bit of peanut butter onto your hand. Tell your pup to "Touch", hold your hand in front of him with your palm facing toward him, and point to the peanut butter on your hand with your finger from your other hand. Allow him to lick the peanut butter off of your hand. Praise him the second that he touches your hand.
After Fido licks the peanut butter off, then add another dot of peanut butter and repeat the trick again. Practice this trick at least thirty times over the next couple of weeks.
Remove the peanut butter
After you have practiced 'touch' at least thirty times, then hold your hand in front of your puppy, tell him to "Touch", and point to your hand with your finger, without any peanut butter on your hand. When he touches it, then give him a treat or a bit of peanut butter on your finger as a reward. If he will not touch it, then practice with the peanut butter for longer, and try it again without the peanut butter later.
Practice with your hand
When your buddy will touch your hand without the peanut butter on it, then practice it until he can do it consistently.
When your puppy can consistently touch your hand when told to, then point to an object and tell him to "Touch" it. When he touches that object, then praise him and give him a treat. If he will not touch the object, then hold the palm of your hand next to the object while you point to the object, and practice with your hand there. Do this several times before removing the palm of your hand and trying the trick again with just your command and finger pointing.
Add objects and people
When your buddy will touch something when you point to it and tell him to "Touch", then practice the command with a variety of objects, and with other people's hands to encourage polite greetings and socialization.
The Treat Method
Get strong smelling treats
To begin, grab lots of small, tasty treats that smell really good to your pup. Go to a calm location with him.
Next, get your pup's attention, show him your hand with your palm facing him, and then hold a treat onto the palm of your hand with the finger of your other hand. Tell him to "Touch", and then let him eat the treat in your hand.
Practice this trick at least thirty-five times over the course of the next couple weeks.
Phase out the treat
After you have practiced this trick at least thirty-five times, then show Fido the palm of your hand, point to it, and tell him to "Touch" but do not put a treat in your hand. If he touches it, then give him a treat from behind your back or your pocket.
Practice for longer
If your pup will not touch your hand without the treat, then practice the command with the treat in your hand for longer, and then try it again without the treat in a couple of days. Repeat this until he will touch your hand without a treat in it when you point to it and tell him to "Touch".
Add an object
When your puppy will touch your hand when you tell him to, then practice it until he can do it consistently. When he can do it consistently, then place a palm sized object into you hand, point to it, and tell him to "Touch" it. Reward him when he does.
Put it on the ground
When your puppy can touch the object, then place the object on the ground, point to it, and tell him to "Touch" it there. Praise and reward him when he does. Practice this until he can do it consistently.
Help him generalize it
When your puppy can touch your hand and the object, then practice this trick with other objects and other people's hands, until he can consistently touch whatever you point to when you tell him to.
The Movement Method
Grab a toy and treats
To begin, grab some small, tasty treats and one of your puppy's toys or a similar sized object, then go to a calm location with your pup.
Add a command
Get your puppy's attention, point to the toy and tell him to "Touch", and then gently touch it to his noise.
As soon as you touch the object to Buddy's nose, praise him enthusiastically and remove the object and give him a treat. Try to praise him right when the object touches his nose to help him learn.
Repeat this trick at least thirty times, until he will touch the object on his own when you tell him to "Touch" and point to the toy.
Add a new object
When your buddy will touch the object when you point to it and tell him to "Touch" before you move it toward him, then choose a different object and practice this trick with the new object until he can touch that also.
Generalize the trick
When your pooch has mastered touching the new object also, then practice this trick with a variety of objects, until he can touch whatever you point to when you tell him to "Touch".
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 05/14/2018, edited: 01/08/2021