Your Pet, Our Passion.
Dog sitting looking at orange toy

What Is Dog Target Training & How Do You Do It?

6 min read

Dog target training may be a less well-known way to train your dog, but it is definitely picking up in popularity among dog owners. No other training technique hones your dog’s concentration skills as effectively as target training, and the process can help your dog develop their cognitive abilities.

Target stick dog training is a great technique to teach your dog, but what exactly is it and how do you begin to train your dog with this method? In this article, we explore all the questions you may have about target training and the benefits.


What is dog target training?

Target training is a method where you teach your dog to identify specific objects and react to those objects in a certain way.

For instance, if you show your dog a mat, your dog’s first reaction will be to use all of their body to respond to that object—in other words, they will lie down on the mat. But what if you could teach your dog to only touch their nose to the mat or only put their front paws on it? This way, your dog will be responding to the mat in a specific way (or with a trained action) by using only one body part.

You can see why dog target training is growing popular: it teaches your dog better motor control and concentration skills. It also allows them to identify objects better, which can be very useful if you want to train them to tidy up their toys or close the refrigerator door!


How do you start target training?

The easiest way to get your dog started on target training is to teach them to identify a specific object with a body part. Begin by using your hand as your dog will probably already be familiar with hand signals and is already comfortable around you.

You will need a clicker, treats and lots of fuss and praise for this, as these reinforce positive behaviour.

  1. Present your hand to your dog, around half an inch away from his nose. If your dog looks at your hand, click and reward your dog.
  2. If they touch their nose to your palm, click and reward them.
  3. Keep repeating this action until they can follow your palm to the left, right and above them, all the while touching their nose to it. Make sure to positively reward your dog with lots of praise and treats—that is how they know what you want them to do!


Once your dog is good at focusing on an object and touching it with their nose, it’s time to progress onto target stick dog training.

Jack Russell Terrier on lead looking up at owner

What is target stick dog training?

A target training stick is a special stick with a clicker on one end and an object on the other. The object is usually a coloured and bulbous ball, which will not hurt your dog and can be easily noticed by them. You can purchase one of these sticks from most pet stores.

You can also make your own target stick if you do not want to buy one. Simply attach a non-sharp object to the end of a stick, such as a tennis ball or a stuffed sock. Make sure the object is firmly attached though and does not fall off! This stick will not have an in-built clicker, but you can hold the clicker while using the target stick.


5 Benefits of dog target training

This kind of dog training can be so beneficial for your pet. Here, we outline five benefits you can expect from target stick dog training.

It teaches your dog to focus on one thing

If you own a dog, you will know how hard it is to get them to concentrate on just one thing. A target stick is an easy way to draw their attention to a single object—and to keep it there. With dog target training, it will be easier to get their attention by using the target stick.


It makes it easier to move your dog from one place to another

If you have to travel with your dog, it can sometimes be hard to lure your dog towards the car. Most people do this with treats to keep their dog’s attention, but target stick dog training is a much more efficient way to get them to follow you.

Simply use the target stick to get their attention and then walk backwards with the stick, all the while making sure that your dog focuses on it. Treats and praise help, of course—reward your dog for a job wonderfully done. The more rewards they get for following and focusing on the target stick, the more effective the dog target training will be.

It can prevent pulling on the leash

It can be very frustrating if your dog pulls on their lead. Not only can it be overwhelming for you, it can also be harmful for your dog as pulling could choke or harm them.

A target stick is a great way to introduce your dog to polite walking. You can use the target stick to hold your dog’s attention and then walk with the stick pressed firmly to your side. As your dog is used to following and focusing on the target stick, they will walk gently beside you.

It improves your dog’s mental cognition

Because dog target training requires your pet to focus on a single object for long periods of time, it improves their focus and mental abilities. It’s a great way to train your dog’s mind as well as their body—and is extremely rewarding for everyone involved.

It helps to teach them new tricks

Target training is a great help when you are trying to keep your dog entertained and teach them tricks. It is a better way to direct your dog than simply pointing or using treats. Target stick dog training is an extremely beneficial technique as you can clearly show your dog what you mean by using the stick.