What’s the Secret to Getting a Close Front?

My answer — chin rests! Incorporating chin rests into your fronts causes the dog to shift his weight to his front end and encourages a very tight tuck sit. This process can take a little work at the beginning, but will pay off in the long run!

How to Teach a Chin Rest 

First, your dog needs to know how to do a chin rest. If you have a nose touch, you can start to change the angle of your hand until the dog is using her chin to touch your hand. Here's an example:

Adding Duration

Once you've got the chin rest, it's time to add duration! Increase the duration very slowly and be sure to use your clicker or verbal marker without moving anything else, including your hand. Once you've clicked or said your marker, it's fine if the dog lifts his head.

Adding Movement

Once you've got some duration, it's time to add movement! This can be a hard step for some dogs. My goal is that the dog maintain the chin rest as I slowly move backwards. I start with very small movements, like an inch at a time. When I first start to move, the dog usually comes off. I just wait for her to offer again and then I reward. With time and patience, your dog will soon understand how to hold the chin rest while you are moving backward.

Chin Rest with Sit 

The next step is to ask for a sit while the dog is doing a chin rest. Don't worry — it's normal for this to blow your dog's mind! When the dog comes off your hand, just encourage him to come back. You can even start with some backward movement to get her used to pushing into your hand, then cue a sit.

Transfer to a Target

When you have a really nice tuck sit on your hand, transfer it to a target. I recommend tape instead of the post-it note I used for the following video!! Put the target in your hand and go through all the previous steps with the target.

I want to teach the dog to come into me with his head up and ready to tuck, so I do some tossing treats while holding the target high, then clicking as soon as the dog lifts his head to put his chin on the target. Be sure to get that target really vertical! The key to success is that the dog can really get his head up there, otherwise she'll hit you with her nose and that doesn't work well for any purposes!

Video Examples: Using a Chin Rest for Close Fronts

Here's a video showing some of these steps:

Finally, put the target on your body. Yes, you are encouraging your dog to do a nose touch on your stomach or your legs. No, your dog won't do it this way forever! Yes, the dog maintains that lovely tuck sit even without the target!

Go through all the previous steps with the target on your body: walking backwards, cuing sits, and clicking as the dog raises his head to put his chin on the target.

Fade the Target (And Keep the Close Front!)

Once your dog is doing nice fluent tuck sits in front, you can fade the target. I usually just take it away and the dog figures it out pretty quickly. As your lovely tuck sit becomes natural, you can stop encouraging the dog to touch your body. The behavior of the actual chin rest on your body tends to go away without too much trouble as you stop rewarding that part. You will then be left with an awesome close front with a gorgeous tuck sit - the dream of every dog sport competitor!

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