Are you frustrated with your fronts? You’re not alone! Fronts can be tough to teach because they require a lot of practice. However, you can teach fun fronts without that boring drilling! Incorporate fun games into your practice and you’ll have happier fronts in no time!
You can play these games with or without props, depending on what stage your dog is at. Play with several different props to increase generalization skills. Pick and choose which ones you like, or play them all, just have fun!
Do you want to see what I use for fronts? Check out my blog, Props for Fronts!
Treat Tosses for Fun Fronts!
Chasing a tossed treat is something most dogs enjoy! Start with easy angles, straight out from you. Take a look at the graphic below. The handler is in the middle of the “clock.” Tossing the treat toward 6:00 will result in the easiest angle for the dog coming into front. If you toss it more toward 3:00 or 9:00, the angle to find front is more difficult for the dog. Anytime the dog comes from behind you, that is the most difficult.
You can play this game with various props or no props at all. Here are a few examples of treat tosses using a couple different kinds of props.
Sending Around Cones
If you want, you can use cones instead of treat tosses to set up your fronts. Here’s an example of that. To increase/decrease the difficulty, you can move the cone around or even send the opposite way around the cone. Refer to the clock graphic above to determine how to place the cone according to the difficulty that you’d like to achieve. Keep in mind that the game can be made much more challenging by sending the opposite way around the cone.
Alternative Ideas for Sends
Here are a few additional alternative ideas to keep your fronts fun! Try sending your dog over jumps or through tunnels, if your dog enjoys those. You can release your dog from a kennel or station to front position, varying the angles. You can send to a target then call back to front.
This game will definitely add fun to your fronts! Reset the dog by asking for a spin followed by finding front. Excel loves this game!
Playing the game I call “through” is really fun! This game is intended to help encourage speed as the dog runs toward you. Toss a treat out for your dog to chase. Once your dog starts heading back to you, cue front. This will help pair your cue with the fun and enthusiasm! Just before your dog gets to you, say through and toss the treat between your legs. Until you toss the treat through your legs, your body language should remain fairly formal, standing straight with your hands at your sides and your legs close to each other. Once you say through, you can spread your legs so your dog can fit through.
If your dog can’t fit through your legs, you can just turn and toss the treat past you. Stand up in formal front position, then as your dog gets close say “get it” and toss the treat past you again. Be careful that you’re tossing the treat on both sides of you or your dog will start to want to come to the side that you always throw past.
You can do this game without any formal fronts, or you can add a formal front after a few tosses. I always try to end the session with some fun tosses and no front.
Fun Fronts With 2 Dishes
For this game you will need 2 dishes. Preload each with a treat and leave your dog in a stay in front of the first bowl. Of course, ensure that your dog won’t just break the stay and help himself to the treat!
Go stand so the second bowl is behind you when you turn to face your dog. Call your dog and send through to the dish behind you, then send to the first dish. After the dog gets that treat, cue front. You can either do a formal front or you can break it off. If you’re really fast, you can toss another treat in the dish behind you and send the dog through your legs again. Turn to face the dog and cue front, or just break off the exercise. The possibilities are endless!!
Get creative with your front games! For best results, keep in mind the following tips.
- Don’t always set your dog up in a sit stay to practice fronts – this gets boring very quickly!
- Keep the sessions short and fun!
- Keep a high rate of reinforcement! I usually reward in position, then toss a second treat (depending on what game we are doing).
Now go have fun with fronts! If you want to learn about more games to play, including for finishes, check out my online class at FDSA, Finding the FUN in Fronts and Finishes!