A great way to start to introduce your dog to nose
tapping a target for contact training is to split the behaviour
into smaller responses. Try to flip your hand out to your side
and reward your dog for looking at/walking towards/sniffing or
touching your outstretched hand. Your
goal is to shape your dog to give you well placed nose taps into
your palm. Do not try to get your dog to nose tap a target until
you have worked through this shaping session first.
Once you have succeeded you can add the next 'slice'
of training. Introduce your dog to his plexi glass "target"
by holding it in the palm of your hand off to your side and click
& reward your dog for walking towards it. Raise your criteria
until your dog sniffs or even touches the target before you click.
At no time should you place food on the target for your dog to
steal. Your goal is to shape the dog to touch the target with
his nose, not his open mouth or paw.
Gradually lower your target until it is on the floor
and your dog is offering nose touches (watch that he isn't stepping
on the target with his paw at the same time as the nose touch).
Once you are certain your dog is confidently tapping his nose
to the plastic target on the floor without moving his paws or
biting at at you can test this understanding by withholding one
click. That is: as you get very definite nose taps do not click
the first touch and wait until your dog offers two touches before
you click. Be careful during this stage that the dog's
response does not change. Many dogs may think you are waiting
for a different response (like in a shaping session) and will
slightly alter the nose tapping (something you don't want to happen!).
Once your dog is confidently offering you the same nose tap response
with your target on the floor and you have trained in many new
environments you can now add your "target" cue. Do this
by quitely saying "target" once and only once as your
dog lowers his nose to the target. The last step is to put your
cue under stimulus control - you can accomplish this by not reinforcing
the dog for touching the target unless you have given him his
"target" command first. Be consistent with this and
your dog will learn very fast.
Remember, when shaping behaviours, you must be
the model of patience. If you wait, chances are your dog will
offer you the last behaviour that earned him reinforcement. If
your dog shuts down, you may have progressed too quickly - start
back at the beginning so you are reinforcing what the dog feels