Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Blind Cross - Part II

I see the Blind Cross more and more often at agility trials and I've come to like it a lot myself, yet the controversy still rages. So here's my 2 cents.

The Blind Cross violates two cardinal rules of agility: 
  1. Never take your eyes off your dog.
  2. Never let your dog cut around behind you.
I will never forget my first Blind Cross.  It was a complete accident.  I was running considerably ahead of Maxie across a 25' space between obstacles (in class), realized I needed to be on the other side, had no time for a front cross, so I cut across Maxie's projected path to the other side, switched arms and tried to find him in vain.  He had tried to follow my feet and gotten totally confused when I switched arms.  I had to jumpstart him to complete the sequence.  We both felt weird and disoriented afterwards.    I could have tripped over him, hurt him, fallen myself. I almost cried. The instructor wasted no time pointing out to me that this is why the Blind Cross is taboo.  For the next year, I agreed.

But there are times on course when the Blind Cross is the easiest way to handle.  It saves time, wear and tear on knees and ankles, and once your team is used to it, it's fun to do. I wrote an earlier post on The Blind Cross, which now that I do it regularly, and teach it, I can see how much I've learned since I wrote that. 

So here are examples of when I think the Blind Cross is perfectly acceptable.
When D is in the tunnel, you can't see your dog anyway.  And your dog can't see you. So, so long as you have crossed their projected path and have turned so you can see them by the time they exit, all is well. Some handlers, however, fear their dog will collide with them on exit, and this could be a real concern if your dog is lightning fast, or you are slow and  can't get across the path in time. (This can also be said of the Front Cross, though, and I have seen some crazy antics with H and D stumbling around to avoid each other, despite their being able to see each other the whole time.)

Slower dogs may also take awhile to scramble up the A-frame or See-Saw, giving the handler time to blind cross in front of the down side.  Distance handlers can cut more caty-corner to the A-frame on their send (green),  and have time to BC before even faster dogs gets to the down contact.

Dogs on the dog walk can hardly choose to veer off path, so H can afford to run ahead and turn their back for a second before D reaches the down contact.  At least in theory.  I've never tried this.

The hardest part of the Blind Cross is mastering it.  It feels weird, disorienting, perhaps at first sinful, to turn your back on your dog.  It's like a broken connection.  But you soon master the art of quickly turning your head and shoulders towards the dog's projected path.  You are only disconnected for a second.  It feels much like a ballet move -- the pirouette!  Turn your head, your body follows.  Here's a diagram of the blind cross.

The blind cross isn't for very many situations, and may not be for some handlers.  But I'm seeing more and more advanced handlers doing it routinely, and it looks elegant when well executed.

Training the Blind Cross:
Start with Flatwork. 
  1. Whenever you take your dog for a walk, on leash, and they happen to fall behind you, cross over in front of them without turning to face them.  Pass the leash behind your back to your other hand.  This naturally desensitizes both you and the dog to the maneuver.
  2. Put them in a sit/stay or stand/stay.  Cross over in front of them with your back to the dog.  If they stay put, click/treat out of the hand nearest the dog.  Vary it up by walking circles around the dog, clockwise, then counterclockwise, always facing forward such that sometimes you'll be walking backwards.

So the Blind Cross is coming back into favor.  Dont' be shy.  Give it a try!  If nothing else, it's great practice being out of your comfort zone, and "thinking out of the box".

Upwards and onward!


Brett Rodgers said...

Thanks for the helpfulness of this blog. We have been training our dogs for a while now and were now using agility training equipment. It helps out a ton and they love it. I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Like the Blind Cross! Great instuctions!!