Written by Catherine Zinsky
So far in this series you have taught your dog to 'look', to 'catch', to side-step left and right using his back end, and to tuck into a sit when coming into that front. You are no longer using your hands or a clear stick to guide or adjust him. You can finally say with confidence that your dog understands the concept of what a front is! Now you need to incorporate maintaining that knowledge and precision into your regular training!
Working fronts can become tedious--for both trainer and dog alike. But they needn't be. There are approaches to keeping fronts fine tuned that are not only effective, but enjoyable. Here are two:
Have the dog 'pass' through your legs, and once he is through, step back and ask him to 'Front'. It really doesn't matter whether your dog goes through your legs from the front or comes in from behind: if he passes through your legs from in front of you, after he has gone between your legs quickly turn around, stand still and say 'front'. If he passes between your legs from behind, take a small step backwards after he is all the way through and say 'front'.
2. ANGLED FRONTS
With your dog in a sit, tell him to 'stay' and step back 2-4 strides (depending upon the size of your dog--shorter distance for small dog, larger for large breed), then take a large step parallel to either the right or left. (You're going to work both sides, so which direction you do first is your choice.) I like to rev my dog up a bit, so at this point I will incorporate my 1,2,3 game ("Play" Chapter in my book: see ad) or do a 'Ready, steady' taunt to get him a tad amped. I will then say 'front'--and expect one!
Work one side 2-3 times, then play a bit. Repeat the entire process going to the other side. I find the repetition on one side before switching and working the other ultimately has better results than continually alternating left and right directions.
Hint: Your eyes are extremely powerful. Do NOT turn your head and guide him with your eyes as he will no doubt sit 'wherever' the moment he reaches you. Rather, look at the spot where you want his rump to land.
3. QUICK CHECKS
It's important that my dog not learn to slow down as he is coming in for that front, so there are two games I like to randomly slip into my training regimen to offset a potential slowdown:
a. On occasion I will whip out an hidden toy at the last moment and toss it between my legs, allowing my dog to run through my legs rather than have to sit. It's important that the dog never know if he's going to pass through or have to front until that last moment. Timing is everything!
b. As my dog is approaching me on any type of recall and gets to about 5 feet away, I will start backing up while reminding him to look. Once he reaches me (and he is going faster than I am, so it's going to happen!), I will take one short step toward him and remind him to front. This forward step results in a quick, sharp sit---which is precisely what I want!
Naturally I won't treat every front, but I certainly will praise. Praise is my dog's PRIMARY REWARD! After doing a few 'fronts', I will absolutely bring out a toy and interact.
Fronts can be made enjoyable! It's all in the approach...
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