Dog Agility Front and Rear Crosses
Crosses in dog agility can be the most challenging and frustrating aspects of dog agility. In fact, many beginners rather not do them and avoid them at all costs. However, they do make runs smoother and at some point you just may need those precious seconds they can save to earn a Q.
The front cross is considered a “safer” cross for the beginner dog as they never lose sight of the handler, however, they are more tricky for the handler to learn the timing and be out of the dog’s way during the cross. The rear cross is much easier for the handler but takes confidence, trust and drive from the dog as they lose sight of the handler for that brief time during the side change.
As with all training both you and your dog need to start out slow. Many trainers will suggest getting your dog use to side changes with your dog in a sit stay. This allows your dog to acclimate to the change without getting tangled up with you. Teaching left, right, and get out can help keep forward momentum up once you start adding movement.
You, as the handler, must be confident in your crosses as hesitation and doubt can lead to crashes or off courses by your dog. Put both crosses into your shadow handling with no equipment if you are having trouble with timing. Once you commit to the change, follow through with confidence. If it doesn’t turn out just right, keep practicing at that level or take a step back in training for a little longer.
Watch videos of these crosses and pay attention in class if you are taking them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and stop telling yourself you are taking too long. You give your dog the time he needs so give yourself the time you need. Time well spent outside the competition ring practicing and asking questions will save you much, maybe not all, embarrassment in the competition ring. Actually doing the crosses, no matter how bad you think it looks, is important to getting you and your dog comfortable with them. No amount of book work is going to make them perfect so get out there and give them a try.