Written by Catherine Zinsky
Once my dog understands how to maneuver his back end and has heard me say 'front' in conjunction with this movement a kajillion times, then I begin the process of removing my hands from in front and dropping them to my sides---the ultimate picture my dog will have whenever he comes to front in the ring. (The Obed. Regs are quite clear on this: hands must be hanging naturally at sides when a dog comes to front.) I do this initially by using an arm extender: a clear stick.
The clear stick is simply that: a thin clear length of plastic (a wand, if you will) that I will use as an extension of my arm to tap and so indicate to my dog what he has to move. Remember: the clear stick is used to INDICATE to the dog what to move. We tap (touch) the area that needs to move to help our dog learn and understand how to succeed! These sticks can be purchased at any store that has venetion blinds. ( It's the plastic wand that opens and closes these blinds. ) Too, for those who have small dogs, most drapery and blind stores can have these wands custom made to suit any length you may need.
The first thing I recommend doing is introducing your dog to the clear stick. Let him sniff it, pet him with it, even let him carry it around if he wants. We don't want him to worry over it.
Once the dog is familiar with the clear stick, the transition is relatively easy:
1. Have the treat still centered in front of you, but only in one hand. Hold the clear stick in the other. The dog is still in a stand perpendicular to you.
2. Take one large parallel step in the direction of the hand that holds the treat. (If treat is in left hand, take a large step to the left; if treat is in right hand, take a large step to the right.)
3. The dog's head will undoubtedly follow the cookie. (If you lose your dog's attention, abort and start over. DO NOT TRY TO TEACH A FRONT IF YOUR DOG IS NOT PAYING ATTENTION!) As you say 'front', TAP your dog's rear foot with the clear stick. TAP ONLY. Do not push. Your goal is to indicate to your dog what needs to move, not force the issue. Let your dog do the work!
4. Once the dog is standing in 'front', praise him! You can repeat this process 3-5 times, then praise again, reward, and play with your dog.
5. Reverse direction and repeat the above process.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!