If you want to play piano, you learn the scales. If you want to do martial arts, you practice form.
If you want to play golf, learn stance and how to hold the club. There are rudiments involved in the learning of any new skill and Dog Agility is no different. We need to start at the basics, and one of the rudiments is the Front Cross.
Once mastered, we can move on to some of the tougher, more advanced moves like the Blind Cross or the Half Cross, but as the saying goes: “you need to walk before you can run”. So let’s start walking through the Front Cross (did you notice the blend there)?
But first things first:
- What is a front cross, and
- What does it do?
A Front Cross is when a handler crosses in front of his dog on the course to switch sides, and it allows a handler to show his dog where he is going next.
Simply put, it’s all about that footwork… but just like learning a dance step to avoid stepping on your partner’s toes or having a dangerous collision, it’s okay and often safest to leave your partner home while you practice on your own. So for now, let’s leave the other half of our team/partner out of this until we work all the kinks out of our footing.
If you have ever done any country line-dancing, you should recognize this step. It’s an easy three step, but with doggie treats.
1) For starters, imagine you had lured your dog to your left in heel position (I know he is never going to be heeling in agility, but work with me on this) and you have just taken a step forward with your left leg, as soon as that foot hits the ground, start to pivot to the left on that same left foot (in towards your dog).
2) If you don’t move that right leg you are going to fall, so bring it up past your pivot foot, so that you are now in almost a sort of “T” formation with your dog (your dog is the horizontal line of the “T” and you are vertical). Raise your pivot foot and continue turning your body to the left.
3) Simply continue your 180 degree turn. You and your imaginary dog are now both walking in the same direction. Now reinforce your ghost dog with the treat which is in your hand and which is now next to your dog.
Here is a mistake you often see made by beginners: with all the footwork and watching your dog, it is sometimes too much to concentrate on so all of a sudden you become dyslexic. You might need a cue for yourself to make sure you are pointing in the correct direction – it’s not Fido’s fault if you miss, it’s yours.
Using treats is good for this but make it a high value treat, you need something major to have him focus on while doing the turn. This will also ensure he doesn’t get ahead of you before the turn.
Once you have both practiced the footwork to perfection, it’s time to reverse the whole footwork thing and make some front crosses to the right.
In time you should be able to put some obstacles out and work right and left front crosses in a line, or you can try doing a square.