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
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