The usefulness of hand targets isn't obvious to most people. We'd be lying if we said we saw hand targets and immediately thought "We have to include that in Harper!"

It took observing obedience competitors and agility competitors for us to finally realize this skill was useful to everyone and every dog, even family pets.

To make the case for hand targets, here's a handful of ways you can use them:

As a lure that doesn't require a treat

Is your dog getting out ahead of you on a walk? Lure him back to your side by presenting a hand target.

As a way to get attention

Is your pup eye stalking the dog across the street and you need to get his attention because you need him to get in the car? Flash a hand target.

As an easy thing to reward

Was today's training just too difficult and your pup didn't earn as many rewards as he normally does? Let him give you a good touch on the hand target to end the session on a high note.

As indoor (or outdoor) exercise

Once your pup can target from a distance, you can show him a hand target and give him an excuse to enthusiastically race towards you and punch your hand with his nose.

Increase arousal

If you want to practice some recalls but your dog is in a lazy mental state because he's been sleeping all day, you can use elevated hand targets to transition from sleepy mode to energized mode.

As a clear end position for recall

When teaching recall, some dogs struggle with where they should stop in their return journey to you. Some might stop a couple feet in front of you because that's where the treats usually are although that's less than ideal. You can fix this by calling your dog to you and showing him a hand target that way he ends his recall every time right next to your side.

As a distraction

Are you on a walk and about to pass some tasty garbage on the ground? Don't even let your dog see it by giving him an overhead hand target to keep his eyes up and off the inappropriate food.

As a way to teach the names of things

You can teach your pup the name of your spouse, your children, or anyone just by saying the name and having the person show a hand target. Add a post-it note to the equation and you can teach your pup the name of anything!

Those are just the uses for hand targets that were top of mind. There are lots more, and we bet if you start using hand targets you'll discover some for yourself.

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