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From the Ground Up: Agility Foundation Training for Puppies and Beginner Dogs - Part 4

The fourth of a multi-part series featuring a chapter from the book, "From the Ground Up: Agility Foundation Training for Puppies and Beginner Dogs."


Footwork for Crosses

Footwork has always been a big part of our competitive obedience training and when working with Wendy Pape, I realized we really need to pay more attention to what our feet tell our dogs in agility as well. I teach my dogs to cue off my feet for all of the work I do around or leading up to a jump. Sometimes I am amazed at how far away my dogs can read my feet!

Crosses are handling maneuvers you do on the course to help the dog to read which way they are going next. Our dogs are running through the course very quickly and we will never be faster than the dog (we hope!). So we need to have some effective communication with the dog that helps them know where we are going next. There are four basic types of crosses.

1. Front Crosses: This is when the handler crosses in front of the dog on the course while the dog is performing the previous piece of equipment. The handler never takes his eyes off his dog as he is rotating towards the dog. This cross relies on the handler's ability to send the dog away to perform a piece of equipment on his own, which allows the handler time to get into position. Front crosses can speed up the course by allowing the handler to take shortcuts and tell the dog ahead of time where he is going next. The front cross is done on a curve and will result in the dog changing sides. If the dog starts on your right hand side, after the cross he should be on your left hand. Front crosses generally help the dog focus on the handler and shorten his stride. It tightens up a fast dog's turns. Front crosses allow slower, less confident dogs to keep up their speed because they know what is coming next.

2. Rear Crosses: These are when the handler crosses behind the dog while the dog is executing or approaching the next piece of equipment. Rear crosses are probably the most difficult of the crosses to do well. They require the handler to be able to send the dog ahead in order to cross behind. It is similar to waiting while you let someone else go through a door ahead of you. Again, the dog will start on your right and end on your left. Many people with fast dogs rely on rear crosses. The ability to do a great rear cross comes in handy but some courses are designed in such a way that a rear cross is just not going to allow the handler enough control of the dog in the next part of the course.

3. Blind Crosses: These are when the handler crosses in front of the dog with his back to the dog. This is a risky cross on jumps if the dog is very fast. However, if you have a knee problem it is easier on your knees than the front cross. Sometimes if you mix up blind and front crosses on the jump sequences the dog becomes confused about which arm to come to. I have seen this a lot when judging; you can see the indecision on the dogs' face when he is looking at his handlers' back. I prefer my students pick one or the other and be consistent. I do use blind crosses when the dog is in the tunnel and cannot see me as long as I can get to the new position before the dog comes out of the tunnel.

4. Static Crosses: These occur when the handler changes side while the dog is not moving, such as on the table or while the dog is holding a contact.

Stay tuned for part five coming on our next Training Thursday, February 25th!

To read additional parts in this series go to:

This chapter is reprinted with kind permission of Dogwise Publications. Dogwise has provided a discount code for USDAA! Use code USDAA for 10% of this book and others.

Kim Collins has lived with dogs all her life and has been training dogs professionally since 1992. After starting with competitive obedience, Kim quickly discovered the growing sport of agility in 1995. Kim went on to win the 2000 USDAA National Agility Championship with her Shetland Sheepdog, Piper, and three Canadian National Agility Championships, two with Piper and one with her Border Collie, Feyd. Kim has also won seven Regional Agility Championships with three different dogs. Kim and her two Border Collies, Bryn and Feyd, were members of the Agility Association of Canada's 2004 IFCS Canadian World Team and traveled to Valencia, Spain to compete.

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