What are the best ways to use a target stick?

Target stick training is a positive reinforcement training method for dogs that teaches them to acquire desired behaviors by making them focus on a particular object. It should always be fun and upbeat. The dog owner absolutely must employ the use of a marker, such as a clicker or positive word (such as “yes!”). Successful completion of a command should always be followed with a reward.

Here are the basics as to how to conduct a training stick session:
• Rub a little peanut butter on the end of the target stick and hold it in front of your dog ´s nose. Once your dog focuses even the least bit of attention on the stick, reward her with a treat (but no click).
• Move the stick slightly in all directions. Only reward your dog if she follows the stick with actual head movements.
• Hold the target stick close to her nose and persuade her to touch the stick with the nose. As soon as she makes contact, click or say “yes” and then reward her with a treat.
• As she masters that one, gradually add more actions to the targeting process. Hold the stick further away from the dog ´s nose and move it in different directions. Also, try this when the dog adopts different postures, such as sitting, lying down or standing. The purpose of this is to teach the dog that the target stick should always be the object of focus, no matter what.
• Create an association in your dog ´s mind between a short command word and touching the target stick. For instance, if you want her to learn to turn a light on or off, say “light,” show her the stick and when the ultimately touches the light switch, click or use the verbal marker, and reward her with a treat.
Timing is everything with this kind of training. For the best success, also ask a dog trainer to walk you through it.

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