How to Teach Your Dog Tricks and Manners with Targeting

Targeting is versatile, fun, and one of the easiest ways to teach your dog tricks and manners.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #31

When a stranger wants to say hi, show them how to present their hand for a nose-bump. Your shy dog can nose-bump and then turn right back to you for a treat. I love this because it’s win-win-win. Your shy dog has a positive experience saying hi. The greeting is brief and she comes back to you, so the situation doesn’t push her too hard. And the friendly stranger got to say hi to the cute dog.

A nose-bump to a person’s hand also makes a good greeting behavior for a dog who’s inclined to rowdiness. Similar advantages apply as for a shy dog: Rowdy gets to practice a polite greeting; the greeting is short and he comes right back to you, which means he has less time to get himself in trouble by jumping up; and the stranger got to interact with your – ahem! – polite dog.

Word of caution – when I say “shy” and “rowdy,” “shy” and “rowdy” is exactly what I mean. If your shy dog sometimes snaps or bites, or if in your heart of hearts you know that your rowdy dog isn’t actually keen on making friends, you’re in Get Good Behavior Help Land, not Quick and Dirty Tips Podcast Country. Okay?

There’s so much to say about targeting that won’t fit in a podcast. For more tricks and useful applications, check out the resources list on the bottom of this page. And talk to me! Call 206-600-5661 or e-mail me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my Facebook page. Your questions and comments may appear in future episodes. I’m touched that you listened. Goodbye!


Mandy Book and Cheryl Smith. Right on Target! Taking Dog Training to a New Level. Dogwise, 2005. Available at www.dogwise.com.

YouTube has many excellent target-training videos. Some use a target stick; all use a clicker where I describe the trainer saying “Yes.” Same principle!

Teaching a dog to turn on a light switch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DWbV5VKZxc

Teaching a stand-on-hind-legs “beg”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lG8YnHYHo3k

Teaching “spin”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJBPPUZSeto&feature=related

Teaching “take a bow”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxiOhddRO_E

The “Childproof Drawer Alternative” video inspired this episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJKq0S3VzS4

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).