Get a Close Front with Your Small Dog

March 11, 2023

It’s unfortunate but it’s true – teaching a nice close front requires a bit more creativity for a small dog!  Often the littles are a bit more pressure-sensitive (and we are a lot bigger to them!) and aren’t comfortable coming into your space.  It’s a bit more difficult to reward the small dogs too, as bending over can further add pressure.  As a result, little dogs often tend to sit a bit farther away.


Chin Rest for Small Dog Fronts


For big dogs, I teach a chin rest to get a nice close front.  Little dogs can learn this too, but it looks a little different.  This blog will lay out the steps for teaching your little dog the foundation for an awesome front!


First you need a chin rest behavior!  There are a lot of resources out there if your dog doesn’t have a chin rest yet.  Once you have a chin rest to you hand, you can proceed!


With shorter dogs, feel free to sit down on a chair or put the dog on a low table so you don’t have to bend over.  Work on teaching the chin rest and training the dog to maintain the chin rest through a sit.  If you are needing to back up you may have bend over to make that work.  Keep in mind that some dogs are very sensitive to pressure, so coming into you when you’re bent over might be difficult for them.



Transfer to Target


Once your dog understands how to maintain the chin rest through the sit, without you moving your hand at all, you can transfer it to a target.  Again, feel free to sit or place the dog on a surface.  Hold the target in your hand and go through the steps to teach a sit while maintaining contact.


The next step is to get the target on your body.  Here are a series of videos showing how you can do that with a smaller dog.


First, start with the target on your hand.



Once you have that, you can start by putting a longer piece of tape across both of your legs.



Here’s a video of fading the target to one leg only.  You can either swap which leg you put the target on, or you can teach the dog to target with the side of his/her face, which will put the dog in between your legs.



And finally, here’s the front you’ll have once you go through these steps!



If you need some help with all of this, check out my online Fronts and Finishes class starting April 1st at FDSA!  Big or small, there are lectures for all dogs!  Teach enthusiastic fronts using fun games!


Training little dogs isn’t harder, it’s just different!  With some creative tweaks, little dogs can learn nice close fronts just like their bigger counterparts!

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1 Comment

  1. Reta Bray

    Very clear and helpful! I have my first small dog (out of 14 over the years), and in the process of learning techniques to train the little ones 🙂


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