Teaching tricks is a great way to exercise your dog’s mind. 10 minutes of mental stimulation is more tiring for them than physical exercise, which may be limited due to the Covid-19 lockdown. This is a simple trick to teach your dog, so you can get the kids involved if you wish The nose touch is a great tool to have up your sleeve to get your dog’s attention and distract them when you are back out in the world after lockdown – for example if another dog is passing you on the street, or they get excited when they see a skateboard Dogs of all breeds love to work! Make them do some nose touches to work for their dinner
What You’ll Need
1. Small pieces of high value treats for your dog
This will vary depending on your dog’s motivation for food, some dogs will work for their kibble, while others need something extra yummy like cheese or cooked chicken. Make sure the pieces are small, as you want your dog to be able to eat the treat quickly, and then be ready to earn the next one. This is also important as we don’t want to feed too much of a treat food and upset your dog’s digestive system. 0.5-1cm cubes are ideal, depending on the size of your dog. It can help to start teaching this trick to your dog before he has his dinner, when he is hungry and more eager to work for food.
2. Your dog on a lead.
This is important initially to limit your dog’s access to distractions, while he works out what you are asking of him.
3. A quiet environment, ideally free of distractions (including other dogs).
As your dog gets the hang of this trick you can move it to more distracting environments as a challenge.
Step 1. Have your dog in front of you, it is easiest to begin this sitting on a chair, or on the floor so you are more at your dog’s level. Hold your treats in a closed fist in one hand (have more treats available close by in a pocket or container so you can refill quickly). Hold out your other hand, palm flat, in front of and facing your dog and wait. If your dog tries to get the food out of your fisted hand or sniff your fisted hand ignore him.
Step 2.As soon as your dog looks or touches his nose to your flat hand, reward him verbally with an excited “yes” or “good” (we call this a reward marker – it means the reward is coming), and quickly give him a single treat from your fisted hand (you can use the hand that you were holding out flat to get the treat out of your fisted hand). Make sure you leave no more than 3 seconds between when your dog does what you want and giving the treat. Any longer than this and your dog will not understand what the reward is for. It may take a bit of time to get the mechanics of this right.
Step 3. If your dog does not look at your flat hand or touch his nose to it at all after a minute or so, and he is starting to look distracted, you can wiggle your flat hand slightly to draw his attention to it, then reward him for that as above. If your dog is still not getting it, place a treat wedged between two fingers on your flat hand – as he goes to sniff the treat, say “yes” and give him a treat.
Step 4. Your dog will soon realise that if he looks at or touches his nose to your flat hand, he will get a treat. Sometimes it can take a couple of sessions to get to this point, each dog is different, and it can take a while for the penny to drop. Make sure you spend no more than 5 minutes at a time teaching your dog – lots of small sessions throughout the day is more effective for learning in dogs than one big long session once a day.
Step 5. As your dog gets the idea, if he has just been looking at your flat hand up until now, start to wait him out, until he gets frustrated and noses your hand, or alternatively move your hand closer to his nose when he is looking, and when his nose touches your hand, reward (“yes”, then give treat quickly). As your dog gets the hang of this new game, he will become more enthusiastic and touch his nose harder to your hand.
Step 6. Once you have the basics down, you can extend the challenge to your dog, by moving the trick to a new environment, or by moving your hand to a different height, or lateral to your body, or use the other hand. Remember just to change one thing at a time though. You can add a verbal cue to this trick if you like once the dog is doing it really well, by saying this as the dog does the nose touch, such as “nose” or “touch”. Soon it will be included in your dog’s favourite games, and a “hand-y” one you can take anywhere with you. As you can see by his nose wrinkles, Echo the old Border Collie (below) is very dedicated to his nose touch game! Have fun with teaching your dog this game, remember to have patience as all dogs learn at different speeds.