Finally we are training the front position with Riemu. I started by teaching her hand targeting first. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult for her, I’m anticipating challenges in teaching duration for the touch. Once hand targeting was fluent, I brought my hand close to my body to a height where Riemu’s nose should be when she is sitting in front of me. Because Riemu is extremely greedy, I realized that fading out the hand target might be difficult, because unlike the target stick, my hand is too closely connected to the primary reinforcement, after all it is the hand that always delivers the food.
Therefore, I switched the hand target into a target stick. I took a couple of movies from our training sessions, the movies always look better than what the training actually feels like. Because the movies were shot from the side, I couldn’t tell whether the dog is straight in front of me or not. Clearly in the first 5 trials in the training sessions (we did 10 repetition sessions) Riemu was calm and sat straight in front of me. Then she gathered more speed and the position became less accurate. On the other hand, I managed to reinforce really nice straight fronts a couple of times.
At first I held the target stick rather low so that it was easy for Riemu to hit it with her nose. Then I started lifting the target higher so that she was aiming at the target with her nose without actually touching it. On one hand, this is good for the front position since I can reinforce her touching me, this will make fading the target away easier at a later stage. On the other hand, the criterion is less accurate because the nose position is not as clear for the dog. Nevertheless, my criterion now is straightness because with my older dog Vinha her hind end awareness is not optimal and getting straight fronts requires a lot of concentration from the handler!
At the end of our training Riemu also got to carry the 2 kg dumbbell around, as it happened to be lying around after Vinha’s training session. She had no trouble lifting and carrying it :-)!