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Training the Versatile Nose Touch



Before you start with this behavior, your pet “Spot” must know what a clicker is and what its meaning is. So I suggest you go to the featured article on this site entitled “What Is Operant Conditioning a/k/a Clicker Training.” Read it, study it, and then train it. Then when Spot is onboard with the clicker, come back to this article and teach a fun and very useful trick.


This little behavior has so many practical applications, that I put it in other sections on my site.  Want your dog to go ring a bell to go outside and potty? Teach the nose touch. Want your dog to flick on a light switch with his nose? Teach the nose touch. Want your dog to stay next to you on a walk? Teach the nose touch. Want your dog to keep focus on you, instead of that other wonderful thing that has him distracted? Teach the nose touch. I could go on (I have more) but I think you get the idea. There is lots of stuff you can you can do with nose touch.

First we need something for Spot’s nose to touch. The “go-to” item for this is usually the flat top off of a container such as one from butter, or yogurt, or frozen topping container. It’s just a plastic white (or whatever color) lid, off of some container. If you can’t find a lid, make one out of a piece of wood or fiberboard or heavy cardboard (you’ll need to replace the last two often).

Okay, first we have some high value treats in one hand and in the other hand, we have our disk. Put the treat in the palm of the hand holding the disk with the disk covering the treat. Now Spot knows the treat is there. (He smells it, plus he saw you put it there.)

Of course,  you know the that the moment you hold that disk out and present it to Spot, with good old Spot being as predictable as he is, he will immediately try to get that treat. Now, be ready, because the moment his nose touches that disc, BANG. That was the sound of your clicker, and the clue for you to adjust your hand so Spot can get past the disk (that was covering the treat) and get that treat.  You had better put your best effort into being observant, because you don’t want to develop any bad habits. Work on your hand eye coordination, so that the moment the nose touched the disk, the click and treat and praise occurs.

Continue repeating this until Spot connects the nose bump at the disk with a payoff, when he starts to jump at the chance to bump his nose on that disk. Now, knowing Spot, this could feel to you like it took no time at all, or it could take a few practice sessions. Doesn’t matter either way. It takes as long as it takes for Spot to get it. Some dogs pick up the most complicated things quickly, and the rudimentary stuff takes some time. We all have talents for different things. It works the same way with dogs.

Once Spotty becomes a master nose bumper, it’s time to take it up a notch. Start moving that hand with the disk around for Spot to bump, put it to your right, pause, he bumps. Click treat and praise. Then to your left, pause, click treat and praise. Up high, click treat etc., down low, click treat, etc. Make him almost do a spin to get it, (you know by now, click treat praise). Make chasing it fast and fun, clicking and treating for every successful hit.

If you got phase two going well, good for you and Spot too, two talented individuals. It’s time to mix it up once again. This time when Spot bumps the disk, and you click, there is no treat under the disk. But like magic, he is presented with a treat from the other hand. I promise Spot does not give a ____, where the treat comes from just as long as he gets paid with a treat for the nose touch.

This will not take long at all for him to get the idea to bump the disk and start going for the new hand that holds the tasty morsel.  When you see that Spot is now regularly bumping the disk and going to the other hand for the treat, guess what? Time to mix it up again.

This time we are just going to lay the disk on the floor in front of Spot. Now Spot has hit this disk enough times that the new location without your hand involved should make no difference, so he bumps it, gets his click, treat and praise, and we move on to do it again.

But sometimes Spot gets a little confused with things being a bit out of the ordinary, being that there is now no hand holding the disc. Okay, no problem. Hold the disk in your hand a bit above the floor. Then slowly move it down so the back of your hand is on the floor. Then slowly, in baby steps, fade your hand away and out of the picture.

Isn’t this a fun behavior to teach? Now it’s finally time to put this bad boy behavior on cue. Lay the disk on the floor and say whatever word you want as a cue. For now, let’s just use “touch” (no points for originality). Try to give the command just before he moves in for the touch. With all of the work you have done so far, this on cue thing will be a piece of cake.

Okay, last move. Time to just gently toss the disk out onto the floor and say, “Spot, Touch.” When Spot touches, you click and he gratefully returns to you for his goodie.

You now have in your possession a tool that should enable you to train Spot to do most anything your imagination can create.

Have fun with it.


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