We worked rear crosses at my Masters handling workshop today near Vancouver, BC. Many people will fall back on rear crosses with their agility dog as they see front crosses as more complicated with more things to think about. The truth is, rear cross execution can be equally or more complex than a front cross. Here is a portion of one of the sequences I set out for the group.

When the handlers ran this sequence they rear crossed the number 3 tunnel and then rear crossed 4-5 to create a turn over the bar at 4 to set up the dog entering the tunnel. Yes they could have lead out to 3, but lets pretend this sequence was in the middle of an agility course.

Ideally the dog will drive through this entire sequence in an extended stride. The only collection of stride the dog would require would be as she hit the entry of the tunnel and for most dogs it would be a negligible collection, only enough to get her body into the tunnel. It should have been a pretty easy, straight forward portion of the course I laid out. However, that was not the case.

When we ran the sequence many of the dogs had the bar down at the number 4 jump. The reason was obvious and when the handler corrected  their small technical mishap the bar stayed up.

Here was the issue; because of the close proximity of the entry of first tunnel to the number 4 jump many of the handlers finished their first rear cross and scamped over to the wing of the number 4 jump waiting at the “x” when their dog exited tunnel 3.

As the dog approached jump 4 the handler’s lack of movement and the positional cue at the right wing of the jump misled the dog to believe that a right turn was upcoming. Some dogs collected their stride, but almost all prepared their body to turn right. As the dog was about to jump 4, the previously motionless handlers suddenly starting to cut in behind trying to execute a rear cross. It was obvious this move in behind the dog’s line was a complete surprise to these unsuspecting dogs. Some of the dogs turned right over 4 and had a spin on landing while others tried to correct their trajectory in mid-air– resulting in body parts moving inappropriately– bringing down the bar.

When we fixed the handler’s path, the dogs had no problems.

You need to know how your speed as a handler stacks up against your dog’s speed. Some handlers would need to cut further across the tunnel on their first rear cross so that as their dog exited the tunnel both the dog and the handler were at top speed driving towards jump 4. Handling the sequence this way would allow for the dog to read the handler driving towards jump 4 with a line that gradually putting pressure on the dog’s line cuing the approaching rear cross at 4.

Just because you can get to an obstacle ahead of your dog in agility doesn’t mean you should always try to be there. Rear crosses are as much (or more) about patience and timing as they are execution.

It has been a super keen group here in Vancouver. It is l lot of fun teaching when all are eager to hear what you have to share.

Today I am grateful for the company of good friends while I work.