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Dog Agility Crosses | Learn Them All (Front, Rear & Blind)

Dog agility is a fun sport, but it’s also very technical. A lot of training and practice is required to have any chance of winning a title in official events. However, it’s essential to understand what you need to do before improving your handling skills on the course.

For today, let’s keep our focus on dog agility crosses. They are fundamental techniques for guiding your four-legged companion through more advanced obstacle courses. So anyone serious about this sport must learn and master them all.

Dog Agility Jump

An Introduction To Dog Agility Handling Techniques & Footwork!

Dog agility is a team sport, so you also have an essential role on the course. The handler will have to lead the dog on each obstacle in the right direction and sequence. Learning all the handling techniques and improving your footwork is a long process.

While running on the course, you generally want to stay in the center of the obstacle line. In this position, it’s easier to guide your dog and keep up. That’s where dog agility crosses come into play.

Dog Agility Crosses

A cross is when the handler switches sides with the dog on the agility course. If your dog is faster than you, which is often the case, your line should be shorter than his. Depending on the setup, it will generally require you to perform crosses.

There are 3 main ways to change sides with your dog on the agility course. You have the front, rear, and blind cross. It’s essential to differentiate them because each one can be more appropriate in certain situations. Now let’s take a closer look at every dog agility cross.

Dog Agility Front Cross

The most simple form of crosses in agility is the front one. It allows you not to lose sight of your dog, but it’s not always the most efficient way to change your position. Despite that, I still highly recommend starting with the front cross because it’s the easiest to learn.

What Is A Front Cross In Agility?

A front cross is a maneuver that consists of switching sides in front of your dog while facing him. It’s a technique often used on a sharp turn when you have to cross the obstacle line. The main benefit of the front cross is that you always keep eye contact with your dog, which is convenient in agility.

Here’s a video to see what a front cross looks like in action!

How Do You Do A Front Cross In Dog Agility?

First, you start by leading your dog through the first obstacle. Then, you can initiate the front cross before he takes off on the second obstacle while facing him.

So you will have to run in front of him, turn around, and maybe do a few steps backward to cross the course line in front of him and keep eye contact.

After this maneuver, your dog will now be on the other side without ever losing sight of him. Now I have found two instances in which you should apply this handling technique while running on the agility course.

Front Cross (Example 1)

In the first scenario, there’s a section with weaves poles followed by two jumps between which you have to perform a front cross. So you must start by sending your dog through the weave poles. Then, you can do the front cross.

As soon as your dog exits the first obstacle, you can run in between the two jumps while leading him through the first one and keeping an eye on him. Then, you will do a 360° turn face to face with your dog to cross the course line while he’s jumping.

So after the front cross maneuver, you can still guide your dog through the rest of the course. Just don’t forget to switch the hand with which you set his line when changing sides.

Front Cross (Example 2)

Another place you often see professionals use the front cross is on a section of the course where the dog has to perform a 180°. For example, let’s say your dog has to leap over a bar jump and pass through another given obstacle in the opposite direction.

In this case, you will have to perform a more simple front cross. First of all, you should lead your dog to make him jump over the hurdle near the side you want him to turn afterward. Then, you will need to start running in the opposite direction as your dog turns around.

With this technique, you can switch sides easily because all you have to do is pivot. Your dog will perform a 180°, which is how the position change happens. Once again, don’t forget to use the closest arm for handling signals.

Dog Agility Rear Cross

On the contrary to the front cross, you also have the rear cross. It’s another method to change sides with your dog on the agility course without blocking his way. Therefore, let’s see what it consists of and how to perform it.

What Is A Rear Cross In Agility?

A rear cross is a maneuver in which you pass behind your dog to switch handling sides. This technique consists of crossing the dog’s line just after him. It’s often done before an obstacle when your dog has already taken off and knows where to go next. You won’t have to go backward and will keep him at sight.

Here’s a video to see what a rear cross looks like in action!

How Do You Do A Rear Cross In Dog Agility?

The first step is to send your dog through an obstacle in front of you so you can pass behind him. You can then cross the obstacle line as fast as possible in the back of your dog. As you’re now on the other side, you can keep leading your dog through the rest of the agility course.

With this technique, the main problem is that most agility dogs are used to following the handler. That’s why passing in front of you to perform the rear cross might not be easy for them. Starting by making the dog comfortable with you crossing behind him can be helpful.

Rear Cross (Example)

Now let’s take an example to make sure everyone understands the rear cross. The course in question has 2 consecutive jumps, and this maneuver could help you shorten your line. Thus, here’s what you should do.

First, you have to set the line for your dog so he will jump the first obstacle in front of you. As soon as he starts taking off on this jump, you can pass behind him to perform the rear cross. Then, you will change sides and be all set to continue on the agility course.

Dog Agility Blind Cross

The blind cross is another handling technique used to switch positions with your dog. As its name suggests, it’s the only method in which you will lose sight of him for a brief moment. So let’s take a look at what it consists of in more detail.

What Is A Blind Cross In Agility?

A blind cross is a mix between the front and rear cross. It’s a maneuver in which the handler passes in front of the dog, turning his back on him. The concept is the same as the front cross, but you don’t perform a rotation or back steps to keep eye contact with your dog. So it’s faster and more efficient.

Here’s a video to see what a blind cross looks like in action!

How Do You Do A Blind Cross In Dog Agility?

Just as for the front cross, you will first have to lead your dog into a first obstacle. At the same time he starts taking off, you run forward in front of him to change handling sides. Then, your head will switch from looking over one shoulder to the other.

It means you won’t see your dog for a second during the blind cross. However, this handling technique allows you to move faster on the agility course and switch sides more efficiently. So it can help you improve your speed and overall performance on the course.

Blind Cross. (Example)

Let’s say you have 3 consecutive jumps forming an “S” line for your dog and that you want to perform a blind cross between the second and third obstacle. Well, here’s what you should do.

First, you need to send your dog on the first jump. As he’s landing, you directly head in the direction of the next obstacle and cross slightly past the second hurdle before your dog jumps over it. You can then guide him with your other hand because you’re now on the other side. 

The 3 Dog Agility Crosses | Video

If you’re more of a visual person or you would like to see what it looks like in action, here’s a video for you. After watching it, you will have less difficulty understanding and differentiating the front, rear, and blind cross.

Dog Agility Crosses Training & Drills

There are many ways to learn new dog agility handling skills. But I highly recommend making it as easy and effective as possible. So here’s an excellent process to follow for teaching your dog the different crosses in agility.

1. Understand The Cross.

Before performing a handling technique, you need to know what it is and how you should perform it. With all the information above, this part is probably not a problem anymore. However, don’t hesitate to do some more research and watch other videos about the dog agility cross you want to learn.

2. Start Without Your Dog. (Footwork & Handwork)

In the beginning, you should only work on your footwork. Breaking down the movement into a couple of steps can be an excellent idea. Then, you can start learning and practicing each of them without a dog to disturb you.

Once you know what you exactly have to do, it’s time to add your arms into the mix. As the handler, you need to guide your dog through the obstacle and using the closest hand. So it’s essential to keep pointing the direction your teammate should take while switching sides.

Even though you don’t have a dog on your side yet, you can still imagine it. A virtual partner will help you improve your skills and make the next step much less challenging. You should do it just as you would if your buddy was on the agility course with you.

3. Try The Cross With Your Dog.

After some practice on your own, you should be ready to do it with your dog. Before managing your teammate while performing this handling technique, you need to master each movement of the cross.

It’s also essential to start at a slow pace with as few distractions as possible. For extra motivation, you might have to use a high-value treat or toy. Then, you can slowly do the cross, lead your dog with your hand, and reward him for good work.

4. Add The Obstacles.

After some practice, you should try to do the cross technique on an easy agility course setup. Before that stage, I wouldn’t recommend using obstacles. Learning new handling skills is challenging enough, so don’t increase the level of difficulty unless you’re ready for it.

Then, you can begin with a few obstacles your dog is familiar with, such as jumps. When you get better, it’s time to do it in a complete course, add more challenging sections, and try the different agility crosses.

5. Practice, Practice & Practice Again!

You can’t become a good dog agility handler without a lot of consistent work and commitment. There’s no secret; practice and preparation are the keys to success. So you can’t expect to perform a specific dog agility cross in competition without repeating it many times before.

How To Decide Which Cross To Use In Agility?

The best agility cross to do will mainly depend on the handler, dog, and course setup. Your handling skills, running speed, and preference can influence your decision. All those factors will help you determine which maneuver to switch sides with your dog should be used in a specific instance.

For example, beginners usually prefer the front cross because it’s easier, and they don’t lose sight of their dog. On the other hand, professional teams are more likely to do a blind cross because it’s faster and more efficient.

Apart from what you want or have the skills to do, it’s also essential to consider your teammate’s conditions. How fast he is might have an impact on the cross technique you should perform. Your dog’s personality can help you decide which one is better too.

Regardless of you and your buddy, sometimes the agility course won’t leave you any options. The setup and following obstacles will highly influence what’s the best way to change sides. So it’s essential to consider this factor when you plan your and your dog’s line.

Front Cross VS Blind Cross

When you have to choose between a front and blind cross, you should look at the degree of turn. If your dog has to do a sharp turn, a front cross will most likely be the best way to switch handling sides. For softer turns, blind crosses are often more appropriate and efficient.

Rear Cross

The rear cross is a little bit different than a front or blind cross. With this technique, you will pass behind your dog. So it’s generally used when you’re falling behind him. It means you might not have any other choice than to do a rear cross for shortening your line without cutting your dog’s path.

Last Thoughts About Dog Agility Crosses!

Finally, there are several ways to change sides with your dog on an agility course. In this article, we have seen the front, rear, and blind cross. Which one you should choose will depend on the obstacle course’s setup and your team’s conditions.

Dog Agility Contact Obstacle

I hope my article has helped you understand everything you wanted to know about dog agility crosses. Now it’s time to go outside and start improving your handling skills. With enough practice, you will shortly be able to do a front, rear, and blind cross in a single run.

Have Fun Training Your Dog For Agility!