Studying the Back Cross #2 of n

Rule #1 of Back Crossing: The dog must be forward of the handler. If the handler’s habit is to always drag the dog through performance then the Back Cross becomes problematic. So when practicing the Back Cross there comes a time when the handler must tell the dog… You! Go jump!

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We introduce the basic skill using a single wing of a jump as a visual reference for the dog. The handler has dog on his right side; and initially may have to lure the dog around the wing. The handler does not step through the plane of the wing and will switch the dog to the opposite side while showing the dog through his path.

Much like the work-on-the-flat exercises I discussed yesterday, the handler will draw the dog to the jump across his body, turning him (or luring him) away into the turn at the wing itself. As the light-bulb comes on for the dog, the handler can send the dog to the wing from a progressively greater distance, always taking care to change sides as the dog makes the turn around the wing.

The verbal cue while working will be “Right” or “Turn” depending upon whether the handler’s command to turn is absolute or relative.

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The next step is to put the opposing wing on the jump and add a jump bar so that now we can condition the dog to jump and make the turn.

The verbal cue becomes “Jump Right” or “Jump Turn”. Please note that we have been working on a right-turning Back Cross in this exercise. Equal weight needs to be given to the left-turning Back Cross.

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Taking a page out of the “Exploding Pinwheel” exercise we’ll incorporate a second jump set in close proximity to the first in a turning radius of about 90º. Because the second jump is set so closely to the first the bars should be set very low for all dogs.

The objective of adding the second jump is to encourage the dog to “look for work” after having made the turn. This is to establish early in Back Cross training that the Back Cross shouldn’t always mean to curl back tightly to the handler.

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In the spirit of the exploding pinwheel, the second or object jump is moved gradually further away and the dog is rewarded for his keen focus on the work by a well timed marker and a reward for the performance.

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When teaching a dog a new skill the dog’s trainer is obligated to generalize the skill. To the dog’s point of view the Turn Right training was on a red wooden wing on the north side of the building, facing west. The dog mightn’t completely understand that it’s the same skill when it’s applied to a white PVC jump in the south side of the building, facing east. And so we begin the process of shifting the context until the dog can refine his understanding of the skill omitting the clutter of irrelevant details.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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