Dogs, our ever faithful and loving companions, are capable of some awe-inspiring tricks and stunts, which they can achieve through proper training and discipline.
You might recognize the dog agility course from television and film, an intensive track of small obstacles that a dog must clear to prove their agility and discipline.
There are many techniques that dogs, and their owners, use in order to maximize performance in these events, such as the false turn, which helps to keep the owner in control, to direct a dog around a course efficiently.
However, one of the absolute most important techniques that dog handlers love to make use of is the rear cross. This technique takes some getting used to and may require a lot of training, but the results are well worth every second of it.
Do you have a dog that loves to test its mettle on agility courses? Do you want to learn how to utilize the rear cross to have your dog move even quicker than they ever have before?
If this is the case, then you’re in just the right place. Follow our handy guide for a step-by-step process in teaching your dog to really impress at your next agility course!
Step 1: Teach Your Dog To Track Your Movements
The rear cross requires that your dog is able to keep a track of your movements. Dogs love attention, and will always seek to be close to their owners at every moment. As a result, you may notice, even at home, that your dog will often follow you about, and watch you as you move.
However, dogs can also be rather gullible. For example, if you were to pretend to throw a treat off into the distance your dog may chase this imaginary treat or try to follow it with its eyes.
Dogs can be trained to better discern what is actually worth keeping their attention on. You can train your dog to keep its eyes fixed squarely on you no matter where you move.
This is the all-important first step in training your dog for the rear cross. Start by having your dog sit still, and try their best to focus attention on you. Move behind the dog, from side to side, and check to make sure that it keeps a good monitor on your position at all times.
Every time you change sides, give the dog a treat. You might also want to click your fingers each time you change sides, to draw its attention. This is positive reinforcement, your dog will learn that each time it follows you correctly it will be rewarded.
This fosters positive behavior that will be continued regardless of whether they are rewarded for it later on.
You can take it a step further by introducing false steps. Between every few moments you change sides, take a false step. This is done by taking a step towards the other side of the dog, but then withdrawing your foot and returning back to your starting position.
If your dog continues to turn their head assuming that you will change sides, then simply click to draw its attention back. Do this a few times throughout the training process, to teach the dog to always be keeping track of your position, and to not become complacent.
Step 2: Teach Your Dog To Drive The Agility Ahead Of You
In order to use the rear cross in an intensive and competitive context, you will need to make sure that your dog is driving the motion ahead of you. This is so that you can stay behind your dog at all times to guide its direction without affecting its speed.
You might notice that your dog, or other dogs, often tend to walk close to their owners and move at a similar speed. Dogs often need to be trained to pull on a lead and to guide their owner during a walk.
Set up a small section of your garden, or your preferred training spot where your dog can run. Start by getting your dog to follow you at a brisk pace, back and forth so that it is matching your speed.
From here, you can start to encourage your dog to move ahead of you by throwing a treat or a chunk of food ahead of you both, so that your dog picks up a burst of speed. Keep doing this to positively reinforce the behavior of moving ahead of you.
This will ensure that your dog will try their best to lead you on the track, with the hope of finding a treat.
Step 3: Teach Your Dog To Monitor Your Movements While In Motion
Now you can start to make the training a little bit more complicated for your dog. Have your dog continue to drive the action ahead of you, but start to move from side to side with each run.
Say you start from the left side of your dog, when it begins to drive the action ahead of you, run behind it, and slowly move towards the right side of the dog. It may take some time for your dog to get used to it, but eventually, they should begin tracking your motions while on the move.
Be sure to reward your dog every time they correctly track your movements while in motion.
You should notice that your dog is getting the hang of it if they turn themselves to keep moving in your direction.
If you move from left to right while behind the dog, your dog should eventually change their direction to move the same way as you are once enough distance has been created between the two of you.
Keep training your dog to do this, and they will be able to accurately change their directions at the slightest hint.
Step 4: Putting It All Together
Now you will want to begin putting all of these steps together to create a fully-realized rear cross that can be used in dog agility courses. At this point in the process, you may want to set up a small agility course or head to a local track, to improve their use of the technique in context.
Have your dog jump over small obstacles while performing the rear cross behind them. Check to make sure that they are able to keep track of your movement and change direction quickly.
Introducing these hurdles will train your dog to use its intuition, to trust that you will be changing sides behind them while they focus on safely jumping over a hurdle. It depends on the trust that you and your dog share for one another.
Make sure to keep rewarding your dog for correct uses of a rear cross amongst obstacles, to promote proper behavior.
What Can You Use To Train Your Dog In The Rear Cross?
You can use any number of things to reward your dog and to test their agility. Take along your dog’s favorite treats to reward them for proper behavior and each successful rear cross.
You might even want to bring along their favorite toy, to throw ahead of you to entice your dog to drive ahead of you.
You can use your own agility equipment, such as your own hurdles, create your own hurdles, or head to a local training center.
If you want your dog to truly impress at agility courses, then you can’t go wrong with mastering and implementing the rear cross into your routine.
The rear cross allows you to stay in full control of your dog’s path through the course, while also encouraging them to press ahead and be brave enough to take on obstacles by themselves.
The rear cross has other benefits too, such as improving your dog’s mental acuity and reaction times, and it can greatly strengthen the bond between the two of you!
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Teach A Dog Weave In Agility?
You can make great use of the rear cross in teaching the dog weave. To start with, slowly take your dog through the weave obstacle, and be sure to change which side of the dog you are on between every weave pole.
This encourages the dog to change sides on each pole. Reward them for each successful run, and increase the speed little by little for each run. This will slowly teach the dog the right path.
What Age Should You Start Agility Training?
You can start teaching your dog new tricks and behaviors at any age. However, it is definitely a good idea to teach your dog at an early age to take on the agility training course. At an early age, a dog is more malleable and able to adapt.
As well as this, teaching them at an early age means that the correct path through each obstacle is fully ingrained into the dog’s mind throughout their life, which can make them more competent in the long run.
Make sure you don’t start agility training when the dog is too young, as the course can be very intensive! Aim to start once your dog is a year old. You can still train your dog in smaller agility tasks from as young as 8 weeks, just be sure not to push them too far.
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