In AKC obedience, every exercise that includes a front will also include a formal finish. In the higher level classes you’ll be seeing a lot of finishes, so to get a nice score it makes sense to put some time them. You’ll also want to consider how your decisions about your finish might affect the straightness of your fronts.
Brito is learning three finishes as shown in the following video; Thru, Left and Right (place)
1) Thru ( 3 second mark) – between my legs and to the left. The movement of my left leg is his cue to go thru and to the left. I will not use this in the ring but it is the finish I use most often in training because it reinforces a straight front. Dogs naturally prepare their bodies to move in whatever direction they anticipate will be next. If “next” is straight ahead then your fronts will almost always improve with no other intervention. My big dogs also do this finish the majority of the time to reinforce straight fronts.
2) Left finish (11 second mark) – moves to the left and rotates 180 degrees to end up in a (hopefully) straight sit. This is the finish I will probably use with Brito in the ring, because he is small and usually lines up nicely under my hand at heel position. I don’t normally use this with my bigger dogs in competition.
3) Right finish (25 second mark) – moves to the right and ends up in a straight sit on the left. As you see in the video, this finish is still in progress. Right now I’m only working on the tight wrap and sit – I lure him around the right leg and have him land between my legs in “place” position. With practice, he will develop the habit of both a close wrap and a straight/tight sit, so I put some time into this. Eventually I’ll teach him to go all the way around if my legs are together.
at 32 seconds, I’m teaching him to go from “place” to heel position (my cue is “in”). If you do enough of that most dogs find the left finish easy by comparison (what’s more 180 degree finish than 180 degrees? 360 degrees).
Note that the place to heel behavior wasn’t very good – he was slow and uninspired. I withheld the cookie, and worked on his speed from 37 to 41. By doing some fast inside about turns in place, he can “remember” the body memory of a fast inside turn. I didn’t reward these because I wanted him motivated for his next attempt.
His next attempt at a left finish at 47 seconds is improved, which suggests that my choice of correction was appropriate. Watching the video he may have been slightly crooked. Oh well. When I realized it, I did a couple of pulls to the right to remind him of his butt.
Until now I have used a lot of body, hand and verbal cues to get a finish. Now I’m in the process of formalizing these finishes, so now I’ll offer less and less assistance as he shows the capacity to manage on his own.