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What is a Target Stick and Why Should I Own One?(Part One of Two)


The target stick is the greatest thing since sliced bread. With this training tool, you can get your dog to do almost anything. Ever wonder how they get those dogs on TV or in movies to close a door, or push a lid of a chest closed? How about close a drawer, or turn lights off and on? How about moving an object about with their nose, even retrieve an object by name, or move their body in any direction indicated?


And the best part is, it isn’t even hard to train.


What you use for a target stick is totally up to you, be it a broom handle, a tree branch, an old dowel stick. You can use anything as long as it is in the shape of a stick. Some people don’t use a stick, just touching your hand works for some behaviors, or pieces of paper, even the dot from a laser pointer (really useful for long distance behaviors, like in Agility).  But for our purposes, for right now, let’s just concentrate on using the stick.


If your training budget approves of a small investment, you can purchase any number of different types and models of target sticks. There are some neat folds up types. My favorite is the kind that telecopies into itself. When you are done with it, you just close it up and put it back in your pocket. (Like the kind my teachers used in school to point to objects on the blackboard. Sorry but you have to be a certain age to relate to this blackboard metaphor.) This telescoping type is really useful when you need to start eliminating the visual cue of the stick to finish a behavior (the pros call it fading).


Eventually, to make the highest and best use of this magical instrument of a training tool (and depending on what behavior you are going for) you will need to teach your talented best friend to touch the end of the stick with his nose, and then teach him to touch it with his paw. Each type of touch is controlled with the verbal cues, “nose” or “paw.” (Actually, you can use any words you like. I promise your dog will never correct you for misuse of a word .)


It has even more practical applications for use in basic training. You can use the target stick to get your dog to get in his crate or in the car, or jump up on the veterinarian’s table, any place you want him to go. Anything is possible with a target stick.


Hopefully, with this brief introduction, I have convinced you that the benefits of using a target stick is well worth the minimal amount of time you need to invest to get all sorts of amazing tricks, not to mention the added benefit of owning one. It really is a lot of fun to train.


In the next  article, you will learn the technique’s for training the target stick, or as it is called, targeting.


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