Target training featuring Finn!
I was working with my dog, Finnegan, the other day and taking some pictures during one of his training sessions, so I figured I would take this as an opportunity to explain one of the simplest, but most useful, forms of training you can teach ANY animal!
This is called targeting.
The basic concept behind targeting is that the animal will be trained to place some part of their body on a designated object-that can be your hand, a target pole, a spot on a wall, anything! Target training is normally the basis behind almost all trained behaviors, especially the more complex behaviors. It’s also incredibly useful for safe animal husbandry. I’ve used targeting to look at my dog’s eyes, mouth, and body, all while he’s safe and comfortable.
Target training is so simple, it can be taught to virtually any animal-even fish! (Note above: Target trained sharks)
To teach an animal to target, all one has to do is hold out and/or point to whatever object they choose that will become the target. For my dog, that is my hand, my target pole, or even in some cases, my foot. Once the animal touches said target, you bridge (if you use bridging in training-Bridging is the vocal, visual, or tactile response given to a proper behavior or action being done. An example that many people use with their dogs is a clicker. I personally use a vocal command “Good!” or a visual point bridge-I’ll point at my dog when he’s done the correct behavior) and reward! Simple as that. In no time your animal should grasp the concept, and will soon be eager to target-It’s so simple that to them it’s often a way to get easy treats!
My dog will now happily target for me both in and out of training sessions. It’s incredibly useful when guests are over or I want to get his attention!
In short, if you’re interested in training any of your animals, or just want to have a basic command for them, targeting is the way to go!