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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trainer Tackles Pomeranian with Targeting

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Trainer Demonstrates Targeting

I've been getting a good many letters asking for help with training issues. Sometimes I try to assist, but this letter was a bit more challenging. I've asked Judith Joseph, of TOTAL CONTROL DOG OWNER ASSISTANCE, to assist with her suggestions. Following is the reader's question, and Judy's answer:

Dear "Trainer":

My little Pomeranian is hardly the lap dog I envisioned when I got him. He prefers to remain on his own four feet, and backs away when I approach to pick him up, often running away from me. I am generally able to corner him, but I'd like to find a way to train him to allow me to approach, or to come.

"Come" used to be a command he was good at. Since he does not enjoy being picked up, he now avoids coming to me when I call, unless I wave a treat. He is very food motivated; however, I cannot always give him a treat for coming to me. Any suggestions on techniques for working with this issue? My goal is to teach him to come when I call, allow me to touch him, and not require a treat to do this, once he is trained. I need him to allow me to approach him without running away.


Your reader


Dear Reader:

My dog doesn’t come when called…” is a common complaint of dog owners.  Since your Pom has a negative association with the command “Come”, I suggest you stop using it.  And, because he runs away as you approach, don’t chase or corner him.   Instead, try ‘targeting’ as a means of teaching him to come to you.

I use target training to teach recall (a term meaning dog returns to your side) on dogs of all ages, especially those that are shy or fearful.  Using my hand as a target, I condition dogs to touch my palm with their nose and in exchange, receive a treat.  Conditioning dogs to target usually takes one day of consistent repetitions. 

Things to remember before training:
  • Train before meals; never after. 
  • Find a quiet place indoors; just you and the dog.
  • Practice for 3-5 minutes no less than 3 times a day.
  • Use small and soft treats (warmed hot dogs, pieces of cheese).

Training involves me sitting quietly holding a treat in my open palm allowing the dog to come to me of his own will.  I repeatedly offer treats placing them one by one on my open palm which his nose will touch as he takes the treat.  Next, I extend my open palm with no treat and wait for him to touch it (he should touch it as he sniffs for a treat).  I say the word “hand” with every touch and offer him a treat from my other hand.  I repeat this about 15 times.  To end training I get up and walk away.  I repeat the training every 3 - 4 hours, no less than 3 times a day for about 3 minutes.  By the end of the second day most dogs understand that the word “hand” means touching my palm gets them a treat.  I never reach for, or try to pick up the dog.  I just want him to come to my hand.

After a several days of successful targeting, I attach a 6 foot lead and begin practicing outdoors in a quiet area with few distractions.  I call him to “hand” when he reaches the end of his lead, treating and praising him when he touches my hand.  As outdoor recalls become more reliable, I lengthen the lead to about 16 feet, and slowly add distractions.

After a couple weeks target training with no attempts to pick up or corner your Pom, he should begin to come to you whenever you command “hand”.  Alternate treats with generous praise.

If your dog is really shy and won’t come to you on his own, toss a few treats close to him, then closer to you to lure him in.  Your first goal is to get him to pick up treats dropped at your feet.  Proceed slowly and be patient.

For more information on target training shy, fearful or aggressive dogs, visit the TCDOA website at: 

by Judith Joseph, D.O.I.
Professional Dog Trainer
Total Control Dog Owner Assistance (TCDOA)

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