The first goal is to hone in on our ability to “see” things we are not looking at. I refer to this with students as “watch nothing, see everything”.
Why do we need this skill? So that when you are running forward ahead of your dog, you feel comfortable looking back at your dog without fear of running into equipment.
Exercise 1: Eyes Fixed on Target, Arms Moving
I have two jump wings positioned about 4-5 feet apart. There is a target in the middle of the jump wings, for my focus to be on throughout this exercise. I have a dog bowl that I am moving back and forth between the wings.
The goal is that you are able to find the wing and either touch it or place a dog bowl or cup onto the wing without looking away from the target.
This is developing your peripheral vision skills, simulating looking back at your dog and knowing where you are on course by what your brain sees out of the side of your eyes.
You may use any two items that are tall enough that you can reach out and touch without bending over. You may also start with just touching the wing/item, and then progress to placing a dog bowl/cup onto the stanchion. Get the behavior first, then add precision second!
If you notice your head turning to find the wings or objects, move your wings closer together. Take a moment to watch your target and try to see the obstacles around you. Your brain WILL remember where they are!
Exercise 2: Eyes Fixed on Target, Walking
When exercise 1 is feeling easy, and natural, increase the distance between the two wings to about 10-12 feet, and you will walk back and forth between the two wings, delivering the bowl to the stanchion. The criteria is the same as Exercise 1: maintain your focus on the target in the middle of the wings and use your peripheral vision to find the wings to place the bowl on the upright.
Exercise 3: Eyes Fixed on Target, Jogging/Running
You guessed it! We are ready to increase the difficulty to a faster speed of motion, so you’ll need to increase the distance of your wings again. The criteria is the same for your eyes, so pay close attention to your head/neck – are you moving your head to find the wings or are you able to find the wings with your “side eyes”?
Building New Habits
Habits we are changing/hoping to avoid with these exercises:
- Bobble-head: this is when we move our heads back and forth really quickly from obstacle to target (target = dog), so that we can be sure to see where we are going.
- Shifty-eyes: this is when we move our eyes rapidly back and forth in our heads in an attempt to be sure to see where we are going.