A TARGET STICK is simply just a stick of some sort with a ball on the end which is used as a target. A TARGET STICK can be a small stick, a dowel, a telescopic stick, a wooden pole - anything really that you want to adapt. On the end of the stick I use a small foam ball but it can be anything as long as its distinguishable to the dog. I make my own TARGET STICK but you can buy them from most pet stores or online. Using a TARGET STICK is just another way to get the dog to touch a target by actually positioning the TARGET STICK where you need the dog to touch, some people find them easy to use and some prefer to use the SPOT TARGET method - personally I use both depending on what I am teaching Bella.
Using a TARGET STICK
- I start by putting the target stick in a position that Bella can easily touch it with her nose
- I have to pay very close attention and its vital that as soon as Bella touches the TARGET STICK with her nose, I reward
- I will accept touches near the ball at first, but ultimately I want Bella to be touching the ball so I shape that by only rewarding those touches that get closer and closer to the ball and eventual touches
- once Bella is touching the TARGET STICK consistently I start to challenge her and increase the distance by moving it further away from me a little at a time, until she’s touching it at full arms length. Some dogs you can get away with increasing distance in big chunks but some dogs will only accept very small (inches) dustances, it does just vary with every dog, so start with small increases to avoid overloading the dog, and work up to larger increases.
- once Bella is happily touching the tip/ball of the stick I add the command - I use the command TOUCH for the target stick aswell as for the HAND TOUCH, I do that because Bella will acknowledge the TOUCH command in the context I am teaching her, so for example if I just say the word TOUCH she will look for what I want her to touch whether its a hand/sticker/target stick
- adding the command TOUCH is very easy as Bella already knows what I want her to do, so simply adding the command at the same time she touches the end of he target, repeating that a few times and she has got it!
- so now I can start using the TARGET STICK to teach Bella tasks by placing the tip of the target stick against a door, wall, or other objects including people and asking her to TOUCH
- I can use a TARGET stick to teach Bella to push button, press light switches, close doors and lots more, I will go into more details on how I do that with Bella in each individual page about push buttons and close doors
- the TARGET STICK is also a good way of teaching 'named objects' and I will go in to more details on that page