Go Touch! Teaching Your Dog a Target Send Behavior

April 27, 2024

Mastering a target send behavior is required for some obedience and rally training. In the upper levels of rally, your dog will need to know how to send to a cone, whereas higher level obedience exercises involve sending the dog straight across the ring, away from you, usually towards a gate or wall.


Initiating Target Touch


The initial phase involves teaching your dog to touch a target placed in various positions. Most dogs are familiar with nose-touch behaviors, so the goal is to transition that familiarity onto a target. Begin by holding the target, such as a plastic lid, and rewarding your dog for touching it. As your dog grasps the concept, gradually move the target around to generalize the behavior.


In this video I have chosen to use a post it note as my target, so that I can easily transfer it to the cone later.  You can see that Excel catches on pretty quickly to touching the post-it note. PS: A post-it note does not hold up well to wet noses, so I recommend using a plastic lid.



Transitioning to a Target Send on the Cone


Once your dog is proficient in touching the target, it’s time to affix the target onto a cone and gradually increase the distance. I prefer to reward my dog by marking and delivering treats progressively farther away, prompting the dog to cover more ground to reach the target. Through this process, you’ll notice your dog starting to respond to the cue without requiring your immediate presence next to the cone.



Adjusting Distance and Goals


The distance of the send command varies depending on the specific sport you’re engaged in. For rally, a send of approximately six feet suffices, whereas higher levels of obedience demand longer sends. Training for longer distances than initially anticipated is advisable, ensuring readiness for any scenario.


Want to Learn More?


On May 5th, I’m running a week-long online workshop called Go! Sending to Jumps and Cones. This workshop will cover all the steps to teach a target send behavior. We’ll also extensively cover how to teach your dog to jump, add value, and send to jumps. Find out more information and sign up here!


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  1. Virginia H

    thanks for the ideas. My problem with putting a target on the cone is my understanding if cones are touched, knocked or moved during the run, it is at least an IP for that exercise.
    So, if I’m using a target to teach out to the cone, I will put it beside the cone. I like that your idea associates the “out” with the cone though. Note: My dog wound up loving this and would take off going “out to the cone” on any cone in the ring!
    Have you alternatively used a skill to have dogs go around the cone? Heard of many doing that and that they do not report getting IP’s for their dog doing that as long as the sit is by the cone either side.

    • Nicole Wiebusch

      Regardless of how you teach the go, whether it’s to a target or to circle the cone, the dog needs to learn the sit out of motion. If your dog is touching the cone, it’s a sit problem. Work on your sit out of motion and it will clear that up for you.

  2. Brenda Vincent

    Do you teach ….send to box….in obedience??

    • Nicole Wiebusch

      Do you mean send to a sit platform? You sure could if you wanted. My dogs know how to send to a sit platform but I usually don’t use it in the go to cone or go out exercises. I find teaching the sit out of motion is much easier if there isn’t a sit box out there prompting the sit for the dog. It’s absolutely fine as an intermediate step though!

      • Jessie

        Do you train this such that the dog remains standing when they reach the target? (Right now we’re just working on the send) My girl like to run to it and sit, and I worry that reinforcing that will at some point lead to her anticipating the sit in the obedience go out. On the other hand, I don’t want to skip rewarding otherwise beautiful sends and frustrate her if it ultimately won’t matter when I progress to cuing a sit.

      • Nicole Wiebusch

        You could try marking sooner, before she sits. That may prevent the sitting. I train send to the target, so my criteria is the dog touches the target with his nose. That’s what I mark, regardless of position. However, it wouldn’t be comfortable to sit and touch the target, so he just stands. I hope that helps!

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