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So, Misty and I completed her beginner obedience class this Monday. She only has one problem--and that's to focus around other dogs. She would focus very well the second half of the class, but most of the time, before that, she would busy herself with watching the other dogs and trying to convince me to let her play. Here's the kicker. She would sit, down, etc, when told when staring at another dog. She WOULD NOT look at me, but she'd obey my commands. She stayed marvelously and came without veering off to another dog. I could drop the leash, walk across the room/outside area, and she'd stay until released and the come to me. She waited excellently at all doors.

I don't get it. She'll obey just about everything.. It's just trying to get her FOCUS that became a chore.

We did an exercise in which we each lined up and one at a time weaved our dogs in and out of each other's. She constantly tried to get at the other dogs, no matter how much correction/encouragement/praise for walking correctly she got. Whenever a dog would walk past, nothing I could do (treats, toys, acting like a playful madwoman) could get her attention. Only for one dog going past did she focus on me. I suppose that's progress..

Anyway, with obedience over, I'm wondering what I could do in the near future to encourage her to focus on me. I've always wanted do agility, so I asked the trainer if she thought Misty was a good candidate. She said absolutely, saying that Misty DOES focus on me, she just does so with her peripheral vision. I'd just have to wait a few more months and have her examined by a vet.

Now, onto my question after my rambling tale.. ;p

In your experience/opinion, does agility help improve a dog's focus?
 

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I think what you're really asking about is distraction training. Whether you do Agility, Obedience or any other dog sport, you have to have that skill under control. And, your instructor is right...the dog doesn't have to look you in the eye....lots of dogs work peripherally but, the trick is to get them to ignore the distraction after a quick glance and get right back to work without missing a beat.
Distraction training is usually part of advanced obedience with lots of proofing around strange sights, smells, noises. Typical distractors are fans with flag tape flapping, balloons, noise makers inside a lunch cooler, battery operated toys, containers of food, and yes, other dogs....we play the honor game (one dog working..another holding a sit or a stay), etc. Basically, teaching that a quick look is OK but, keep working...teaching them to ignore it. It just takes time and practice...with rewards, of course, for ignoring.
 

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It can, in some ways - as dogs get better at it, it typically becomes more reinforcing so that the dog becomes more focus as they enjoy the work more.

THAT SAID, if your dog is still having trouble focusing around other dogs, you won't get nearly as much out of agility classes as you will when she's ready and able to work reliably off leash around other dogs. I would recommend continuing with obedience, especially if someone offers a focus first or offleash foundation skills class near you.
 

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Having the same issue with my dog I found Agility class did not help. I took a step back and I have been working on focus to the exclusion of all else.

IOW"s you need focus to do agility, not doing agility to get focus.
 

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Something that really helped focus with Marley, my 8 mo old lab mix, was following the exercises in the book Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt. The exercises in the book seem to be aimed towards dogs that do agility and other dog sports but still applicable without. A lot of the exercises worked on focusing your dogs attention on you and calming your dog down. I highly recommend it. Using the book I taught Marley things like "Watch Me", "Leave It", and "Touch".
 
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