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Techniques Conditioning > Targeting

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



Targeting is the process getting a subject to touch something on cue, for example the trainer's hand or a knob on the end of a long pole.

Targeting can also involve you touching something, such as slapping your thigh (when calling to heel) or patting a spot where you want the subject to sit.

Touching is typically done by animals with the nose, but can be other parts of the body, such as a paw. Targeting is usually a one-off move to touch the target followed by a slight backing off.

The benefit of using targeting is that you can lead the subject though a desired path while conditioning them to this with further cues and rewards. If the subject falls behind, they can be asked to 'touch' again.


A dog trainer teaches the subject to move to touch a soft toy she holds. She uses this in calling the dog to come in and also to walk to heel.

A grandmother pats the chair beside her when inviting her grandchild to sit calmly while she reads them a story.


Animals are often quite kinaesthetic in the way that touch is an important sense for them, including in communication. This can be seen in the way they greet one another with nose-to-nose touching, for example.

Targeting can be used to train a dog by placing a target stick in the ground where you want them to go. This can be used to get them to come or to go to a designated place. Targeting can also be used to teach a dog to walk to heel without needing to use a leash.

Torches and laser pointers can also be used as targets. This allows the trainer simply to 'point' to get the subject to go to the desired place. This can also be used as a simple means of exercising pets.

Moving towards a target can have a wide range of uses in human activities, from 'rallying to the flag' on the battlefield to soccer players kicking a ball towards the opposing goal.

It is possible to also have an 'aversive target' where the subject learns to move away from it. This, for example, can be used in teaching safety and avoiding harmful places or objects.

See also



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