You will need a snack pack of treats for this exercise. Each step will consist of 10 repetitions. Count out 10 treats beforehand so you can keep track of your success. Be sure to keep your training sessions short and fun to keep your dog interested in the game of training.
1. Nose-Touch a target:
Stand in front of your dog and make a gun shape with one of your hands. Place your two fingers of the gun right in front of your dog’s nose, close but not quite touching, with the back of your fingers facing toward your dog. As your dog reaches out to sniff say, “yes” in a very cheerful voice and give a yummy treat from your snack pack. Repeat this 10 times.
2. Repeat step 1 but add some distance between you and your dog.
That means your dog will have to move to touch the target to earn their reward. Be creative and fun with this step. Make it a game so your dog is enthusiastic about learning. Once your dog can take several steps or jump up to touch the target, you can move on to step 3.
3. Kneel down so you are at the same level with your dog.
If you have a really small dog, you could place them up on your lap or a table to give them a little boost. Using the same target hand in the shape of a gun that you used in steps 1 & 2, place the target hand on your cheek or lips to start to transfer the learning targeting behaviour into a nice kiss. Repeat this 10 times. Troubleshooting: If your dog struggles with this step, do a couple of additional repetitions with them targeting close to your cheek or lips, but not actually touching. Slowly work back to directing the target to actually touching your face.
4. Add a verbal cue:
Once your dog is offering a behaviour like a target consistently, you can add a fun verbal cue. Make sure the cue is something that is easy for you to remember and is easily perceived by your dog. Sit in a neutral position with your target hand in your lap. Before you raise your target hand, say your verbal cue, “Give Kisses” and then bring your target hand up to your cheek or lips. If your dog targets successfully say, “yes” the moment they make contact and then give a yummy treat. Repeat this 10 times.
5. Transfer the behaviour to just a verbal cue with no hand target:
Repeat step 4 but this time instead of using your target hand to direct the kiss, see if your dog will offer the behaviour without it. I like to show my cheek or pucker up my lips to give something to the dog to target instead of my hand. If your dog gives a sweet kiss say, “yes” the moment they make contact and then give a yummy treat. Repeat this 10 times. If you are not having success at least 6 out of 10 tries, go back to step 4 and repeat that before adding step 5 again.
Soon enough your sweet dog will be giving soft, tongue-free kisses anytime you ask. Have fun and give your dog a kiss for me too!
by Niki Perry, CPDT-KA, KPACTP, CEMT, Release the Hounds Board Member
Niki’s website: The Beloved Beast
Continue reading: How to teach your dog to close the door behind you.