It has recently become obvious to me that Risa has horrible handler focus. Honestly, I can’t figure out why I never noticed it before. Well, maybe that’s unfair. When I got her, I knew she had no focus at all. I might as well not have existed if we were outside. So I knew then she had no focus. Four and a half years later, I am realizing she hasn’t come that far.
I’ve done some thinking on it and I know the main reason why she is unfocused. It’s because I haven’t spend nearly enough time working with her on maintaining eye contact on me. Did you think I was going to blame it on her? 😉 Sure she’s very distractable and independent. Besides being fearful about the world around her she also tends to be curious and enjoys checking things out. While those tendencies certainly make it more difficult to keep her attention, the onus is still on me. I spend more time rehabilitating her and letting her watch things to see that they’re nothing to worry about. I don’t spend enough time working on her focus.
This epiphany (brought about by demoing Michele Pouliot’s online freestyle course) has answered my question regarding rally and whether or not Risa enjoys it. I am not sure the issue is enjoyment. Perhaps it’s just too distracting for her.
So I started working with Risa on focus over the last few days hoping maybe things weren’t as bad as I originally thought. I wish. Even in the very uninteresting family room, I found it hard to keep her attention. I could count on between 3 and 10 seconds depending on how lucky I was. She spent a lot of time focusing and then immediately looking away. Not even looking at anything in particular. Just not looking at me. Especially after getting a click/treat. Once she got her treat, her eyes began to wander. She also ran to the stairway when she heard someone moving up there and spent a good amount of time sniffing the floor hunting for dropped treats. (I’ll take fault for the sniffing as I have, in the past, been really awful about delivering treats in a way that she wouldn’t miss them.)
Since I’m hoping to continue trialing and competing with Risa in canine freestyle as well as rally, I am upping the amount of time I spend on focus training. Shouldn’t be too hard as I haven’t spent much time on it at all in the last several years. 🙁 I also think that an increase in her focus will help her with her dog reactivity and fears. Wish us luck!