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Rear Crosses

The first half of this post will cover foundation training for rear crosses. At the bottom will be an advanced drill for dogs who already know rear crosses.

A rear cross is when we want to cue a turn and a side change from behind our dog. A rear cross cues the dog to "turn upon landing". Rear crosses need to be dog trained, dogs don't naturally read them as they do a front or blind cross. Rears are hard because they require a lot of patience and organization. You cannot be too far ahead of your dog to cue it, but you also can't be too far behind them.

When cueing a rear cross, first you need to tell the dog to take the jump. The hand closest to the dog pushes forward towards the center of the bar. This should signal the dog to move ahead of you towards the jump. As the dog is moving forward, the handler needs to converge behind the dog, in the direction you want them to turn. This convergence is what cues the dog to change leads and turn. You will see dogs land on the wrong lead and spin if they didn't get this convergence cue soon enough.

Step 1 - Flat Work

The handler should walk a straight line, I find it helpful to actually draw yourself a line or use a seam/crack. The dog stays on one side of the line the whole time.

Have treats in both hands. Start with dog on your right hand, walk forward. With a treat in your right hand, lure the dog slightly forward and away from you so they start to make a right turn. Pivot on the line so when you complete the turn you should be facing your starting spot. When the dog gets to your left side, switch to your left hand and reward. Now walk the other direction on the line and do the same thing on your left side, cueing a left turn.

Head turn flat work drill - This teaches the dog how to look over their shoulder when you converge behind them. Some dogs don't know how to do this and think the only way they can continue to see you is to turn towards you.

In order to do this the dog needs to be able to sit and stay while you move behind them. (If they can't, now is the perfect time to teach that! Sitting on a platform might be helpful).

Sit the dog in heel position. Take a step backwards, reward them for the stay. Keep building up to 3 steps. Make a deliberate step behind the dog and slightly forward to come up on their other side, reward when they turn their head and look over their new shoulder. Repeat the same thing on the other side, and reward the sit stay lots!


Step 2 - One Jump Training

The initial steps of training a rear cross will use a target plate. Here is how I like to think about it ---

  • If the plate is behind the LEFT wing, the dog will be on my LEFT side and we will be cueing a LEFT turn.

  • If the plate is behind the RIGHT wing, the dog will be on my RIGHT side and we will be cueing a RIGHT turn.

This is easiest if you start the dog on a slice angle, so they can see the target plate.

Start them in a sit stay about 12-15ft away from the jump. Use no bar, or keep the bar on the ground. We don't want any height right now, that complicates it when they have to think about lead changing and jumping.

Lead out one step ahead of them. Make the sit stay your priority...don't let them break!

Give your release cue, push the hand closest to the dog forward towards the center of the bar, as they go forward walk towards the jump wing that has the target plate behind it.

It is important to keep moving! Watch the video example, as I release him and cue the rear my feet are always moving. Take small steps if you need to, but don't stop when you cue it.

Move around the clock to show the dog different approach angles. You want to end up straight on the jump, like a 12:00 angle.

I think it is important to switch sides often, so they don't get patterned to going one direction. Just remember to move the target plate to support the direction you want them to turn.

If they get "stuck" going one direction, show them the plate again and go back to the slice angle approach.

Once they are doing it fluently both directions, it's time to get rid of the plate. Then start to toss the reward near where the plate was. Then eventually toss it on the take off side of the jump to support the dog coming around the wing.

If you get a failure - either they don't take the jump or they take the jump but turn the wrong direction (it is important NOT to rewards spins in the wrong direction after the jump), try the same thing again. If you still get a failure, make it easier - show them the plate or make the approach angle more of a slice.

The next step is to add a low jump bar. Work up to full height as the dog is successful.

The last step is to add a previous obstacle before. You could have them wrap a jump wing or take another jump, or come out of a tunnel.


Advanced Drill - Decel Rears and Accel Rears

For experienced dogs who are familiar with rear crosses, you can explore the difference between accelerated rear crosses (when we want our dogs to turn when they land but keep accelerating forward to the next obstacle) vs decelerated rear crosses (when we want them to turn upon landing but do so while taking a tight turn towards the next obstacle). Below is an example of each.

Knowing your dog and what they do naturally is important. Chip is a dog with a huge stride who favors acceleration. Accelerated rear crosses are easy for him. I spend a lot more time training the decel rears. Leaving a reward right behind the wing of the rear cross jump is helpful for creating tighter turns.

Some dogs naturally turn tight and have more handler focus. For those dogs, the decel rear will be easier and you need to spend more time practicing the accel rear. You might add a "go" cue as you see your dog turning towards the next jump after the rear. You might also leave a target plate out after the jump you're going to after the rear cross.

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