Friday, September 07, 2007

Agility geekiness: More fun with blind crosses

A while back I wrote about playing with blind crosses and discovering their potential to get Lucy to turn on the afterburners. I mentioned that I couldn't imagine them working well anywhere but after a tunnel, but then at the trial last weekend I saw several people successfully execute them after a jump. That made me want to try it in practice sometime, and I got the chance during Lucy's class Wednesday night.

Val had set up a very NADAC-y arc of 5 jumps leading into a tunnel, with a line of jumps coming out of the tunnel. The object of the exercise was that we were to run it once staying ahead of the dog and then again staying behind the dog to see which way was faster (Val timed us, and in every case having the handler ahead was faster, which didn't surprise me). Then were to run it again ahead of the dog using every trick we could think of to beat our fastest time. I added my own wrinkle to the exercise, however: the path looked like it might be a good place to to try the blind cross after a jump, so I decided to give it a go. I knew very well that, if successful, it would really make Lucy go faster. I just didn't know if I could pull it off.

I tried it at two different places. In the first run, I did a lead-out to just beside the third obstacle (a triple), where I could make eye contact with her over the first two jumps. If it were a different dog (Mr. Gomez, for example), I might not have tried blind-crossing after a triple because of bar-knocking danger, but Lucy rarely knocks bars and can often slice triples at amazing angles, so I figured I'd take the risk:*

The important thing was to make sure I got moving (and quickly--she really does get speedy if I'm in front of her!) as soon as she committed to the first jump so that I was well out of her path as she attempted the triple, and to remember to look back and make eye contact with her as soon as I had completed the cross. It worked like a charm, except that in my haste to make the cross I went to wide and ended up pulling her away from the tunnel entrance rather than driving her toward it. I got to re-run so we got an accurate time, and I fixed that problem but paying closer attention to my path.

I decided to try leading out further the second time and trying the cross between jumps 4 and 5:

I don't usually take such long lead-outs with Lucy, not because she doesn't have a good start-line stay, but just out of a superstition that I shouldn't tempt fate if I don't have to. But this run worked better--I had a little more time to makethe blind cross and pay attention to my path coming out of it. The scary thing about a blind cross is that you have to turn your back of the dog, and you definitely want to have enough time to make sure your paths aren't on a collision course before you do.

I may or may not get an opportunity to try a blind cross at the trial this weekend--it's likely I won't because they really only work under a small set of circumstances. One must be ahead of one's dog--even farther ahead than a normal front cross. The intended path must also be very clear to the dog--you are turning your back on the dog, after all--so a blind cross may be called for when you want to keep the dog in obstacle focus. If a sharp change of direction is needed, a front cross, rear cross or counter-hand turn would be more appropriate.

*This post represents my first attempt at using the Clean Run Course Designer software. I decided to take advantage of their 30-day trial to see if it was a toy worth paying for. I must say it's quite fun! I may have to bite the bullet and give them some money.

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