Training International Agility Skills; Part 4

This is a continuing discussion of “International” agility skills in training and competition.

The Back Pass

Today I’m going to make a case for the Back Pass. This is a skill taught to the dog in which we ask the dog to tightly circle around the handler. In obedience some handlers have taught this to the dog to bring the dog around to heel side. In agility we want to teach our dogs to work ambidextrously, able to work both on left and right. So the agility handler will teach the dog to circle around both clockwise and counter-clockwise, presumably on different verbal cues.

Usage ~ Pros & Cons

Think of the Back Pass as an alternative to the Front Cross. Indeed, in some respects it resembles a Blind Cross. The chief difference is that the Handler isn’t passing the dog behind his back by rolling away from the dog… instead, the handler is specifically asking the dog to pass behind him. This is an ideal skill for a handler with limited mobility who has a hard time with the grinding rotation of a Front Cross.

The dog drops completely out of obstacle focus in a Back Pass. And so it becomes a well suited tool for solving difficult “Pull Through” and “Backside” challenges.

The Back Pass is an ideal tool for creating a “Sling Shot” start on a course.

There’s no such thing as one size fits all in agility. There is a type of dog that will do the Back Pass without enthusiasm. And so, it becomes a tool of dubious value.

A handler Out of Position (OoP) might incur a disqualifying penalty by causing a refusal.


The handler’s body constitutes the corner of approach to the course.

The counter-side foot, on the side of the release will constitute the direction of the dismount from the Back Pass. The handler should incorporate an accelerating step into the release to focus the direction of the release.

Training the Dog

A dog can typically be taught a Back Pass in only a few days. At first it’s a matter of luring the dog behind your back. And gradually the physical cues can be extinguished until the cue is verbal only. I’ll share some video, below:

CedarComeByIntro ~

CedarComeByContinued ~


I wanted to set up a simple exercise that would show the Back Pass as a tool for solving a Backside approach to a jump, both as a Pull-Through and as a Threadle. The sequence drawn below is run as a “Minuet” which means you can run it over and over again without stopping.


Here’s a video I shot this very morning, Kory Proofing the Back Pass:

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3 Responses to “Training International Agility Skills; Part 4”

  1. Reezam Says:

    Bud you use a switch not a comeby cue as he comes towards you from 2? Cannot hear another comeby as well..or is it just not loud?
    Very nice and useful piece, thank you. Maree

    • budhouston Says:

      Good eye. I used “Switch” (dog circles anti-clockwise) from #2 to #3. I used a “Come By” (way of the clock) from #3 to #4.

      • Maree Livermore Says:

        Which supports my experience yesterday trying to train “come by” in both directions….didn’t work v well anti-clockwise. I will add a “switch” equivalent. Thanks.

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