Teaching Hand Touch: Variations For Sensitive Dogs

fearful dogs Jul 10, 2023
dog sniffing treat in hand

Have you tried teaching your dog a hand touch (a.k.a. hand target) behavior, but your dog is uncomfortable taking a treat from your palm? Or maybe they seem worried about your hand when you hold it open toward them?  Here are four variations to try if your dog is struggling with hand touch training. 


Hand Touch Variation #1: Treat In Your Open Palm

Often the first step of hand touch is taught with a treat in your palm, held under your thumb. If this isn't to your dog's liking, try just offering the treat in an open hand, with your palm up. I show an example of this in the video below. 


Hand Touch Variation #2: Treat Between Your Fingertips

Your dog might not want to take a treat from the middle of your palm- but perhaps they'll take it from your fingertips. Check out the video below for a photo of this treat-holding technique, and video of my dog Pancake trying it out. 


Hand Touch Variation #3: Only 2 Fingers Extended, Treat Between Your Fingertips

This is actually how I taught Pancake hand touch. He wouldn't touch my hand when I presented my open hand with all fingers extended, but two fingers extended was ok. There's no reason a hand touch has to involve your dog's nose touching your palm. Touching your fingers works just as well for any hand touch application that I've used. 


Hand Touch Variation #4: Treat Residue On Your Hand

If your dog doesn't want to take a treat from your palm, another option is to encourage them to sniff your hand by handling treats so your hand smells like food. Then present your empty hand. When your dog sniffs your hand, you can reward them with a treat from your other hand. 

One downside of this method is that you sometimes end up with a lot of hand licking, which you might not want. But it can be a good option for dogs who will approach and sniff your hand, but don't seem keen on taking a treat from your hand right away. 


 If you found these tips helpful, or if you have other important pointers that have helped you, we'd like to hear from you! You can comment below this blog, shoot us an email ([email protected]), or message us on Facebook or Instagram.