The Alchemist

I’ve been struggling with the implications of the running Back Pass and a variety of applications that have the handler folding through the rotation to give the dog an early dismount. The more you think about this, the more the whole thing resembles a Blind Cross. Rather than engaging in a mind-numbing attempt to differentiate and dignify the two movements as separate, I’m inclined now to accept that they were related all along and have been held apart only by context.

The Back Pass is a skill taught to the dog; The Blind Cross is a handler movement. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to the Back Pass as a movement. Just be mindful of the difference.

I accept the alchemy of the two concepts bonded not only as relations; but as intrinsically related. The discussion could get exciting on this small point. While I’m a considerable advocate of the blind cross as a handling tool, I have long believed that in the presence of a wrong course option, the blind cross is too weak a signal.


This illustration might be both drastic and obvious. Often enough it’s the not-so-obvious wrong course options that catch up the Blind Cross handler. But the illustration serves (and clearly, there’s a lot of Stevie Wonder in the Blind Cross).


Let’s suppose then that the handler uses his clockwise Back Pass command in the moment before committing to the Cross. The ostensible Blind Cross is set upon a verbal cue and not the dog’s pure response to movement.

Mind that this is a complete swag with an incomplete statistical sampling. Though, don’t you know, in my own house are more dogs that know a Back Pass than I could otherwise name out in the rest of the world. So I’ll test and refine with my own dogs; and call the sampling good enough.

A Note to the Future Agility Guru

The most interesting attribute of the Back Pass as a handling movement is that the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus and into handler focus for a tightly controlled movement around the handler’s body.

On the face of it, one would think that the “tightly controlled movement” is the most important/interesting attribute of the movement. But the clever fellow (Guru in training) will recognize that “drops completely out of obstacle focus” is the amazing and important attribute of the movement.

In the age of “Something Wicked This Way Comes” the Back Pass becomes the canny handler’s solution to pull/push through, backside approach, threadle and other impending demons.

There’s about a dozen of us in the whole world studying the Back Pass. I reckon that in ten years it will be required study by serious students of the game.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


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One Response to “The Alchemist”

  1. Beverly Thorsteinson Says:

    I think this is a wonderful tool, need film to understand it for this old bat though

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