TAR­GET TRAIN­ING: We go right back to the be­gin­ning...

This sim­ple, re­ward-based train­ing is a proven method for work­ing dogs and can help you see re­sults quickly. Howard Kirby shows how best to in­tro­duce the tech­nique to your puppy

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My view is that when­ever we de­cide to spend time train­ing our dogs, we should be do­ing ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to max­imise the learn­ing that takes place. Con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to some kind of a ses­sion plan – either writ­ten or at the very least care­fully thought through – as well as class­room choice and the re­sources and equip­ment that you might use. Tak­ing the time to think these things through will re­ally im­prove what you de­liver.

For some while now we have been us­ing tar­get train­ing as a means of en­hanc­ing the train­ing we de­liver both to the clients that come to Mul­len­scote and sub­se­quently to their dogs. Let’s talk about tar­get train­ing first.

Tar­get­ing means teach­ing your dog to touch or place a des­ig­nated part of his body to a spe­cific lo­ca­tion. Nose tar­get­ing is most com­monly taught and we can use this to teach a dog to hold and sub­se­quently re­trieve a dummy.

The tar­get can be any­thing we want it to be. As­sis­tance dogs, for ex­am­ple, can be taught to turn on light switches, close or open doors or even to as­sist an owner to put on or re­move cloth­ing – this is in­cred­i­ble and can be life chang­ing for some peo­ple.

Our main fo­cus in this ar­ti­cle is go­ing to be to teach the dog to lo­cate his bot­tom in or on a hoop, mat or place board. These are the three tar­gets that we use and each has its own mer­its. The hoop is light­weight, easy to carry and store and is rel­a­tively ro­bust mean­ing you can leave it out­side with­out in­cur­ring any dam­age. The place board is raised, clearly de­fined and makes it eas­ier for the dog to un­der­stand what he has to do. A door­mat has some of the qual­i­ties of both and it’s likely you al­ready own one. The point is that your tar­get can be al­most any­thing, but you must take prac­ti­cal­i­ties into con­sid­er­a­tion. If we’re go­ing to do this we need to do it prop­erly so get your­self four hoops or place boards.

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing dur­ing these ex­er­cises

The use of a tar­get and well-timed re­wards can help your pup de­velop fo­cus

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