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Live by the Blind

Bud Houston shares an exercise and examines handling options.

I work very hard to teach my students a blind cross (a front cross in which the handler effects the change of sides by rotating away from the dog, thereby momentarily taking his eyes off the dog, rather than rotating toward the dog). The sequence upon which it is taught might be the serpentine (as shown here). 

It's useful to understand that the blind cross is essentially a weak signal. In the short sequence illustrated here, the pipe tunnels that book-end the serpentine constitute "options," meaning that the pipe tunnel is more compelling to the dog than the turn to the last jump in the serpentine. If the handler pulls this last turn as a blind cross, the chances of a wrong course go up to a 20% to 30% likelihood, if not higher. 

One of the questions a handler has to ask is why do we do a blind cross? Well, it's a racing movement. The handler races forward of the dog because he has an interest in maintaining a position forward of the dog. But if you look at the sequence, the interest in staying forward of the dog pretty much evaporates after jump #3 at the start and after jump #7 coming from the opposite direction. It would be much keener handling to use a front cross (a maneuver where the handler changes sides in front of the dogs direction of motion while facing the dog) after either of these jumps because the counter-rotation of the handlers body is so compelling to the dog that it will convince the dog into the turn to the jump rather than forging on to the pipe tunnel. The front cross is a strong signal. 

The handler might also build a natural speed change into the sequence. This surely requires a bit of an explanation. Either a front cross or a blind cross is slow-dog handling, which means the handler is putting his movement forward of the dog and pulling. A back cross (also known as a rear cross - a movement in which the handler changes sides behind the dog) would be fast-dog handling, which means the handler is putting his movement behind the dog, and pushing.
In this sequence the handler could step to the landing side of jump #2 for a front cross, drawing the dog around on post turn (where the dog and handler rotate together) for jump #3 and then flip the dog into the turn with a back cross or a tandem turn (a type of back cross). The post turn is a speed neutral movement represents the change of speeds. The back cross might actually be more reliable because its attribute is to create a tightened turn on the landing side, which should help the dog make the turn to the last jump in the serpentine. An attribute of a tandem is to create acceleration and separation which might push the dog off course into the pipe tunnel rather than convincing the dog into the turn. 

Bud Houston is an agility coach and seminar leader with a talent for refining agility handling and distance training skills for any dog and handler team. Bud blogs at: can be reached with a click at his website:


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