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Puppy of the Month

Bear is a 6 month-old Labradoodle.

 

Favorite Activity:
Joining the family for rides in the van.

 

Life's Ambition:
To wear all the shoes she has stolen.

 

Favorite Socialization Spot:
The children's bus stop.

 

OS Certified Trainer™:
Patti Hight of WOOFS! Dog Training Center LLC.

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Why We ♥ Targeting

What it is:

Targeting means teaching a puppy to move a part of his body (head, nose, paw) toward an object or person (the target).

Targeting falls into two categories:

1. Visual targeting, i.e. getting your puppy to look at something.
2. Contact targeting, i.e. teaching your puppy to touch something.

Both behaviors are extremely useful when you want to make your puppy comfortable with something he finds scary, introduce him to new people, encourage him to investigate something new, get him to go through/over an obstacle, and much more.

Why we love it:

Introducing your puppy to new things at his own pace so he forms positive associations is key to successful socialization. Targeting breaks the introduction process down into baby steps, making it much easier for your puppy. There’s no better skill to arm your puppy with on his journey to become a friendly, well-adjusted adult.

√ Targeting takes force completely out of the picture. Your puppy learns to interact with people and things at his own pace and of his own free will.

√ Targeting is a hands-off training activity.

√ Targeting is easy to teach, lots of fun, and has tons of real-world applications.

√ Targeting can help your puppy learn to remain calm and respond quickly to you around something exciting or scary.

√ Targeting can help your puppy overcome his fears.

Visual Targeting

How to get your puppy comfortable with something that’s scaring or over-exciting him.

A caveat: If you’re working to modify serious fear or aggression in your puppy, please hire a qualified professional to help you. The below advice is not meant to replace a working relationship with a professional dog trainer.

What you need: A minimum of 30 pieces of yummy treats (pea-sized or smaller), a treat bag you can clip at your waist, a 6-foot leash, a person/dog/object for your puppy to target.

What visual targeting is good for:

  • Creating a positive association with the sight of something your puppy is afraid of.
  • Overcoming a fearful response (when you don’t want to or can’t let your puppy touch something).
  • Teaching your puppy to be calm in the presence of something exciting or alarming.

Preparation: Work in an area free of distractions where your puppy can focus. Put your puppy on leash—we want him to look at the new thing, not touch it. Work with a person that can serve as your visual target. Begin with your target at a distance of 6 feet away or further (how to determine a comfortable distance). Ask your target to walk back and forth or make some quiet sounds that will draw your puppy’s attention.

Step 1. Teach your puppy to look at the visual target.

  1. Get ready to verbally mark the behavior you want the instant you see it with the word "yes", then immediately give your puppy a treat.
  2. Ask your visual target to move or make noise.
  3. As soon as your puppy turns his head toward the target, verbally mark the behavior and reward him. Don’t wait for him to come and get the treat, go and deliver it.
  4. After at least 3 successful responses in a row, when your puppy instantly turns back to you at the sound of the verbal marker, move on to Step 2.

 

Step 2. Teach your puppy to respond quickly to his name when he sees a visual target.

  1. Say your puppy’s name immediately after he sees the visual target.
  2. The moment he turns his head back to you, use your verbal marker and reward him.
  3. When your puppy responds immediately to his name after noticing the target, move on to Step 3.

 

Step 3. Ask for a calm, well-established behavior after your puppy sees something scary.

  1. Say your puppy’s name immediately after he sees the target, then ask for another behavior before you use the verbal marker and reward. The behavior can be anything your dog knows well. For example, if your dog sees someone out the front window of your home, you could ask him to come, mark him coming to you with your verbal marker and then give him a treat. If you’re walking your puppy on leash and you see another dog, you can ask your puppy to sit or heel, followed by your verbal marker and a treat.
  2. When your puppy performs the behavior reliably after noticing the target, move on to Step 4.

 

Step 4. Increase the level of difficulty.

  1. Introduce more challenging visual targets. For example loud kids or birds.
  2. Slowly decrease the distance between your puppy and the target.

Note: When you add a new visual target always determine a comfortable distance before you begin working on decreasing the distance.

Step 5. Transfer what your puppy has learned to other scenarios.
To help your puppy create a positive association and quick response to his name anywhere you go, teach the behavior from scratch (go through steps 1–4) in at least 3 different locations where your training sessions can be successful.

Tips:

Short ‘N Sweet

Keep your training sessions short and end on a success. We recommend two 5–10-minute sessions daily.

Determining A Comfortable Distance

If your puppy is too distracted, aroused or reactive when presented with a visual target you are too close and need to increase the distance. How do you know if your puppy is at a comfortable distance? 1. He isn’t trying to move/run away. 2. He takes food readily. 3. He quickly responds when you call his name.

Contact Targeting

How to introduce your puppy to something new at his own pace.

We’ll focus on teaching your puppy to target with his nose, but you can teach your puppy to target with other parts of his body just as easily.

What you need: A minimum of 30 pieces of yummy treats (pea-sized or smaller), a treat bag you can clip at your waist.

What contact targeting is good for:

  • Creating a positive association with something new or scary that it’s safe for your puppy to make contact with.
  • Encouraging your puppy to investigate something new.
  • Introducing your puppy to new people.
  • Getting your puppy to go through or over something when he doesn’t want to.

Preparation: Work in an area free of distractions where your puppy can focus and where he is safely contained off-leash. Make sure the hand you use as the contact target has no treats in it.

Step 1. Teach your puppy to look at the target.

  1. With your puppy looking at you, present your hand parallel to his nose and no more than 5–6 inches away.
  2. The moment your puppy looks at your hand, use your verbal marker and treat him.
  3. After your puppy has done this three times in a row, move on to Step 2.

 

Step 2. Teach your puppy to move toward your hand.

  1. The moment your puppy begins to move toward your hand, use your verbal marker and treat him.
  2. After your puppy has done this three times in a row, move on to Step 3.

 

Step 3. Teach your puppy to touch his nose to your hand.

  1. The moment your puppy’s nose touches your hand, use your verbal marker and treat him.
  2. After your puppy has done this three times in a row, move on to Step 4.

 

Step 4. Increase the level of difficulty.

  1. Move your target hand farther and farther away from your puppy’s nose.
  2. Move your target hand slightly above your puppy’s nose.
  3. Place your target hand on the ground.
  4. Teach your puppy to follow your target hand while it slowly moves away from him.

 

Step 5. Transfer what your puppy has learned to other scenarios.
To help your puppy understand the meaning of the target hand in new situations, teach the behavior from scratch (go through steps 1–4) in at least 3 different locations where your training sessions can be successful.

Step 6.
Have others practice targeting with your puppy and have fun!

Tips:

Short ‘N Sweet

Keep your training sessions short and end on a success. We recommend two 5–10-minute sessions daily.

Close Your Hand

Puppies that have learned to shake or have learned down by responding to a hand signal will sometimes offer these behaviors instead of targeting your hand. If you run into this problem, simply change the look of your hand by making a fist, then use your verbal marker and reward the puppy for touching the fist with his nose.

Determining A Comfortable Distance

If your puppy is too distracted, aroused or reactive when presented with a visual target you are too close and need to increase the distance. How do you know if your puppy is at a comfortable distance? 1. He isn’t trying to move/run away. 2. He takes food readily. 3. He quickly responds when you call his name.