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Let’s Chat Paw Targets

Updated: Jun 10, 2022

Hey all! Today we’re going to be chatting about paw targets! When I say paw targets throughout this talk, I’m referring to the behaviour of dogs understanding paw targeting, being able to place their paw on an object. I’m sure you can all appreciate that it’s a useful skill in canine conditioning, but let’s dive a little deeper into the subject.

Border collie dog target training on paw pods from FitPAWS

First off, what is the behaviour of targeting?

Targeting usually refers to the behaviour of a dog placing a specific body part or all of their body on an object. Examples of this are sending your dog to a bed or a place board, those to hand touch, give paw to your hand etc. All of these skills require a dog to place part of their body onto a specific object or in a certain area.

Does your dog have a cue for different “body areas”?

Let’s break this one down, when I say this, what I mean is do they have separate cues for all of the following:

  • All 4 paws on an object

  • Both front paws on an object

  • Both back paws on an object

  • Right front paw on an object

  • Left front paw on an object

  • Right back paw on an object

  • Left back paw on an object

This is something we recommend all of our clients to teach their dogs, to some it might seem pointless teaching each individual paw, which leads me into my next question…

What is the benefit of paw targeting?

The big benefit of paw targeting is just how much it can improve your dogs proprioception. Proprioception is a constant feedback loop within your dog’s nervous system, telling the brain what position they are in and what forces are acting upon the body at any given point in time. This is also known as body awareness. Being more aware of each paw helps our dogs to navigate the world in a much safer manner. It has a number of other benefits linked in, but this is a major point for us, the other is how much it can help improve a dogs from, which we’ll talk about next.

Application in Groundwork

Paw targeting can be such a useful tool when you are doing groundwork. Most dogs working on groundwork, are doing so because they need to improve their form, and often that form is improved with the correct placement of paws. In the beginning we usually find ourselves manually placing a dog's paws in the correct position, so then they can start building muscle memory with correct form. However, once we have taught them paw targeting, we can use those targets to give our dogs something to aim for. If they are free stacking they will often build muscle memory faster than through manual placement.

Application on Equipment

Targets then lead to making our lives so much easier as we start using different pieces of equipment when we start moving on from groundwork. Targets, such as the FitPAWS Targets, can be placed on equipment to show a dog exactly where you want them to place their paws, again improving that form we talked about earlier. A keynote here is making sure the targets do not slip on equipment, which the FitPAWS targets do not.

How do I teach my dog how to paw target?

We have a mini-course on our app which teaches you the basics of paw targeting! You don’t need any fancy equipment to start teaching the paw targets, so Don’t worry about that, you can literally use a coaster or any small, flat non-slip object from around your home to begin with! You can find the course by clicking here and scrolling down to the targeting course.

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