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How to Curb Whining in Dogs

How to Teach Hand Targeting

Try teaching your dog to touch an outstretched palm with her nose during greetings to help her stay calm.

  1. Hold your outstretched palm right in front of your dog’s face, and wait for her to touch it with the tip of her nose. Don’t say anything. Just wait. If she isn’t paying attention at all, you can say her name to get her focused on you, but don’t say anything else and don’t move your hand toward your dog. Your touching your palm to her nose won’t help teach her to move her nose toward your palm. If your dog doesn’t touch your hand at first, you can try removing it and then presenting it again, or moving it side to side in front of her face, or rubbing a treat on your palm to encourage your dog to sniff it. As soon as you feel your dog’s nose touch your palm, say “Yes!” and feed her a small treat from your other hand.
  2. When your dog touches your palm reliably 9 out of 10 times in a row, start to present your hand in different places. Hold it out to the side of your dog’s face, down toward the floor and a few inches away so that your dog has to move toward it to make contact. Finally, hold your palm up above her head so she has to reach up to touch it. Always remember to say “Yes!” as soon as you feel your dog’s nose make contact with your hand, and then feed her a treat.
  3. When your dog touches your hand 9 out of 10 times in a row, regardless of where you’re holding it, then introduce a cue or command for the behavior, such as, “Say hello.” First say the cue then present your hand and wait for your dog to touch it. When she does, say “Yes!” and give her a treat.
  4. Incorporate your dog’s friends and family into the training. Practice her new skill in a variety of places: your home, a friend’s home and on the street during leash walks. Ask friends who your dog knows and likes and who walk along your regular route and stop to greet your dog so she can practice hand targeting with them. Remember to keep rewarding her when she responds correctly.
  5. The next step is to generalize the training to people your dog doesn’t know. In advance, tell a friend who’s never met your dog what to do when meeting her. Then invite the person to your home or arrange to meet while you’re taking a walk with your dog. During the meeting, if the stranger presents his or her hand and your dog seems confused, help her out. Remind her what to do by asking her to touch your hand first a few times. Then ask the stranger to try again.
  6. From this point on, if someone wants to greet your dog, either in your home or out in the world, explain that he or she should simply put out a hand and wait for your dog to approach. You can cue your dog by saying, “Say hello.” After your dog touches the person’s hand with her nose, she’ll turn back to you for her treat. In the event that the person ignores your request and reaches out to pat your dog, she should feel relatively relaxed because she’s expecting the person to extend a hand to be touched!
  7. Be careful not to reward your dog if she performs this new behavior when you haven’t asked her to do so by at least raising your hand to her. Some dogs can get pushy and will approach people to touch their hands, even when the people do not want to interact. Reward your dog for touching only when you’ve given the cue.

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