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Nose Target for 2on2off Contacts

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

One of the things that I think is missing from a lot of dog's 2on2off contact behavior is a nose target.

Why do we want it?

A nose target helps the dog keep forward focus and learn to drive down to the end of the board quickly. This is achieved by shaping him to engage with a target plate at the end of the contact, then rewarding him for that engagement. I do not leave treats on the target. Dogs are smart, they know when the treat isn't there. You will never get as good of a drive to the end of the contact if you always lure them with food on the plate, as soon as the food isn't there as a lure, the behavior is gone.

See the video of Chip doing 2 dogwalks below. From his foundation nose target training, he knows to drive quickly to the end of the DW and stop straight off the end of the plank. When I re-cue his "target" cue, he looks toward then end of the board and engages with the ground even though there is not a plate there.

You can also see me place him off to the side of the contact to simulate a dog exiting sideways, giving him a "target" cue he knows to straighten up and engage with the ground at the end of the board.

How do we get it?

1. Train a hand touch. If you present an open palm to your dog, can they touch their nose to it? Can they touch their nose to your palm multiple times before you reward them? Can they touch your hand if they know you have treats in your other hand? This is a great learn to earn game - "Yes I have food in my hand, but you need to offer a behavior before I will reward you".

2. Transfer your hand touch to a target plate. I use a big plate (any color works at this stage), that I can easily hold in my palm. We want to get solid nose touches (no licking or biting), and then build the behavior to multiple nose touches.

3. Work the plate in your hand, closer to the ground, until it is on the ground. I still sit close to the ground, or bend over so I can help by being near the plate.

4. Put the dog into a 2on2off position, and ask for nose targets with the plate in your hand. Work the plate closer to the ground until it's on the ground. I will usually use a wider plank at this point, so they don't have to work too hard to stay in 2on2off position. Then with success, move to a more narrow plank to simulate DW width.

5. Stand up and work various positions. Move in front of them, off to the side and behind. Build Distance and Duration with success.

Foundation Nose Target Video Example -

You'll see in the video examples below with Chip - I like to see "engagement" with the plate. Once it is on the ground, Chip doesn't do a perfect nose touch to the plate anymore, and he like to include a foot on the plate. I am okay with his feet on the plate as long as his head/nose stays involved. I want him to know he has to interact with the plate in order to earn a reward. Each dog may have a slightly different style and that's okay, as long as they are interacting with the plate.

This video is an example of Chip going through these steps and more advanced steps.

This video shows the beginning steps with dogs who aren't as familiar with the skills as Chip, give an example of how to work through some of these skills from the beginning.

I will get more videos of the next steps, but there is a gradual process of weaning out the target plate. The first step is to get really good engagement WITH the plate!

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