The Back-Pass


The first back-pass I ever saw in the context of dog agility was probably about 10 or 12 years ago. Stuart Mah was running a nice little Corgi dog, and on the exit of the weave poles he cued the dog to come around him clockwise. All the movement really did for him at the moment is resolve a change of sides at a jump following the poles. He wasn’t forced into rear-crossing the dog at the upcoming jump.

I’ve studied the movement now for several years and have pretty much integrated a back-pass into my work in agility. While it only takes about 20 minutes to teach to a dog; the skill is foreign in our collective conscious and understanding of the game of agility. This is lonely work without the benefit of collaborative study of my erstwhile peers. Nobody really understands it yet.

The National Dog Agility League course for September featured a back-side jump performance early in the course. The back-pass is ideally suited for a number of international-style­ challenges, including the pull-through and the back-side jump; and any moment begging for a vee-set. Here’s my league run, if you care to live through it:

The key attribute of the back-pass that I find most appealing is that the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus to curl tightly around the handler’s position.

This was my original league analysis: I didn’t actually use the handling that I had originally contemplated.

Notes on the Back Pass

The back-pass is not a “movement”. It is a skill taught to the dog

The counter-side foot establishes the direction of the dog’s movement on the finish. And so, it should point in the direction you want the dog to move. The handler should measure the distance to the next obstacle to ensure that the dog has adequate room for that approach.

The movement doesn’t have to be a literal 180 turn. The back-pass could be used to indicate the barest turning radius. With that in mind, the handler may rotate as the dog circles around; or the handler may begin the rotation as the dog moves to the handler’s position.

The back-pass has none of the “rock-on-a-string” qualities of the Front Cross; and generally will deliver a quicker and neater turn.

While the back-pass seems to blend in spirit with the Blind Cross, it is not so “fuzzy” a movement as the Blind Cross; but also does not deliver the quality of acceleration that makes the Blind Cross bold and aggressive.

“The key attribute of the back-pass that I find most appealing is that the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus to curl tightly around the handler’s position.” When I say this to people out in the world I look for a light to switch on behind their eyes. I’m disappointed when I don’t see the light. Where there is no light, there is only darkness.

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One Response to “The Back-Pass”

  1. Says:

    The name of Mah’s Pembroke was Alley Cat.

    Jim Porterfield Pittsburgh, Pa.

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