I woke up wondering how “Forward Focus” might be useful beyond traditional Start Line Stays and Freestyle, so this morning I set up a couple of simple sequences that allowed me to ask my dogs the following questions:
1) Can you look where I’m looking…and pointing with my body language vs. look at the obstacle I’m standing closest to, or behind, even if that obstacle is a tunnel?
2) Can you perform 180 turns away from me and a tunnel, and run through a sequence of hoops behind you, with me standing next to or behind the tunnel?
Lil and Jake answered YES to all the challenges I presented them with. I think Australian Terriers are exceptionally smart but I also think dogs naturally look where we are looking (and where we are pointing towards with body language) so it’s just a matter of rewarding their natural response to look where we are looking enough times to be able to then use Forward Focus to enhance the performance of what many would call “challenging” behaviors.
An added benefit of practicing Forward Focus with choices might be for dogs who like to decide for themselves what the opening sequence is vs. waiting for their handlers to show them the correct opener. I suppose another benefit could be for dogs who self-release as soon as they focus on what they think is the first obstacle. Regardless of those benefits, I see this game as another fun way to reinforce solid Start Line Stays while upping the ante in new and unexpected ways.