Backyard Agility Exercise #1

To add some more dimension to this blog, I have decided to post about some of our backyard agility exercises.  Hopefully this will be of interest to at least some of you and at the same time will help me keep track of our training progress.

6/11/11: Focus on obstacle discriminations and crosses.

Diagram Key:

  • Pink = Jumps
  • Yellow = Hoops (Start line and Finish line)
  • Blue = Tunnel
  • Green = Bushes in my yard (lol)
  • Orange = Crosses (my handling path)

In this exercise, the jump to the right of the tunnel and the jump to the left of jump #6 were decoy jumps or “traps”, intended to test the dog/handler working relationship.


Two of the trickiest things that I have found in agility courses are obstacle discriminations and when/where to execute handling maneuvers known as crosses.

Obstacle discriminations are when two obstacles, typically a tunnel and a contact obstacle (dog walk or A-frame), are placed directly next to each other, often touching.  There is typically at least one obstacle discrimination in every regular agility course so it is important to spend time practicing them.  Because the dog will naturally be drawn to either the obstacle that he favors or the obstacle that first appears in his line of sight, obstacle discriminations require intense focus and keen listening skills from the dog and direct, accurate handling directions from the handler.

Crosses are handling maneuvers in which the handler changes from one side of the dog to the other all while the dog continues his forward motion.  The most common agility crosses are front crosses, blind crosses, and rear crosses.


Because Diesel and I have built up a good amount of handling distance (the distance the he can work away from me), a front cross works perfectly to get me from Diesel’s right side (entrance to the tunnel) to his left side (take-off for jump #6).  Aptly called, a front cross is when the handler changes sides in front of the dog’s angle of motion.


Evee will always choose the other obstacle over a tunnel in an obstacle discrimination, no matter what handling cues I give her.  So when it comes to Evee and tunnels, I have to keep close to her and wait until she fully commits to the tunnel before I move on to the next obstacle.  In Evee’s case, a blind cross works great in this exercise.  A blind cross is when the handler crosses in front of the dog’s path, all while keeping her back to the dog.  I find blind crosses to be useful in cases where the dog is in a tunnel or on a contact obstacle.

Unfortunately severe thunderstorms started shortly after Evee and I finished running this exercise so Bailey and Kylie did not get to practice today.  They will run the same exercise tomorrow and I suspect that a front cross will be the most effective cross with both Bailey and Kylie.  Phew!  So, what do you all think of this post/subject matter?  Is this something that you would like continued on this blog?

About Kas

An occupational therapy graduate student, Virginia Tech alumna, positive-reinforcement trainer, and proud mum of 5 crazy canines.

Posted on June 11, 2011, in Agility and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Oh no about the thunderstorms! You know looking at this makes me laugh that we’re so thrilled our dogs sit still for their daily brushings.:)

  2. This is very interesting. I have watched a ton of agility, but know very little about the actual mechanics and would love to learn more. The drawings are very impressive and helpful. It is great that you have equipment that you can use to train in your yard.

    • Thank you! I got the idea of the drawings from you, actually. Your drawings really help clarify your training and tests, as I know very little about them. And I actually made all of our agility equipment (other than the tunnel) myself. I am very lucky to have a nice yard to train the pups in!

  3. Great exercise!! Rain and I will need to try this one sometime. Did you design this yourself or did you find it somewhere?

    • Thank you! I designed this myself. Most of the time, I just throw equipment out in the yard and see if the course makes sense (I walk the course myself before I bring the dogs out to try running it).

  4. I think this is interesting, Kas. I must admit that it’s harder to follow the written scenarios as I learn more from someone showing me, but I do like seeing the different set-ups and learning how you approach it. As I learn more about agility, I get a stronger awareness of how many nuances there are to successful handling. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it, I guess!

    • I too find it much easier to watch and learn from someone more experienced than me. I just redid the drawing and added a video to show the crosses … hopefully it’s now easier to follow!

  5. I had trouble following the diagram too, but I would like to hear more about agility and agility training.

    • I just re-did the drawing and added a video to demonstrate the crosses — please let me know if it’s any easier to follow! I appreciate your input.

  6. I think the drawing are great! The video helps, but for me, I need to see the drawings too to see the “big picture” of what the course actually is. The second set of drawings where you clarify between intended path and dogs natural inclination was helpful. Nice job!

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