Teaching your dog to touch an object (targeting) is one way to help keep his mind active and to teach him new "tricks". International dog trainer Victoria Stilwell uses targeting to teach calming behaviors. Targeting is a foundational skill for service and working dogs as well. The bonus is this type of cognitive training benefits both of you. Here are three ways to start:
1. Ring the Bell: To play this game with your dog, hang a bell from the door you use to go outside. Encourage the dog to "touch" the bell. Give high praise and take her out of the door to potty. If she doesn't go potty within a reasonable time, head indoors. Dogs quickly learn ringing the bell means "I've got to go now!"
2. Go to Bed: Tuck her in bed with this targeting game for dogs. Stand a few steps from her bed and ask her to "go to bed" while tossing a treat into the bed. When she steps in to retrieve the treat, ask her to "lie down" and "stay" for a short time. Then release her and reward her with high praise. Increase your distance from the bed and the length of the stay until you reach your dog's comfort level.
3. Wipe your Paws: Hide several treats beneath a large towel and more in your pocket. After a walk, point to the towel and say, "wipe your paws." When your dog digs at the towel for the treats, reward her with the pocket treats and high praise. Hustle her away before she finds the towel treats.
Targeting with LINK AKC