How to Teach A Dog Crossovers for Agility
In canine agility, the crossover is a contact obstacle made up of a flat platform and four ramps. To correctly perform the obstacle, your pooch must run up the ramp indicated by the judge, cross the platform and exit the obstacle on the course-designated ramp. Additionally, at least one part of one foot must hit the contact zone on the way up and on the way down the ramps. With time, practice, a sense of humor, and lot of treats, your pup will learn to perform the crossover with confidence, speed and precision.
Step #1 - Lower the crossover until it's laying flat on the ground. Introduce your pup to the obstacle by using treats to lure her along the ramps and across the platform. Make every encounter your dog has with the crossover a positive experience by keeping training sessions short, using lots of reinforcement and maintaining an upbeat attitude.
Step #2 - Build precision and accuracy from the very beginning. Always make sure your dog enters the ramp in the contact zone, proceeds along the up ramp onto the flat platform and exits the obstacle through the contact zone on the down ramp. Take as much time as your pooch needs to become comfortable and familiar with every ramp and with entering and exiting the obstacle in all four directions.
Step #3 - Practice entering and exiting the obstacle until your dog runs along the ramps with confidence. It will take time for your dog to be sure-footed on the narrow ramps and to learn to change directions on the platform to exit the appropriate ramp.
Step #4 - Place the harness on your pup and raise the crossover to its lowest setting. Use the handle as necessary to help your dog maintain balance and be safe while learning to work at a height. Work at this height until your pup enters, crosses and exits the obstacle without difficulty. As training progresses, ask your dog to use more speed while navigating the obstacle, but always ensure your pup is comfortable before progressing.
Step #5 - Increase the height of the crossover gradually. As long as your pooch performs correctly and accurately, continue to raise the obstacle until your dog works at a competition standard height. If your dog falters, seems hesitant or balks, lower the height for awhile.
Step #6 - Continue preparing for competition by sending your dog to the obstacle from a distance, running to the obstacle, entering and exiting the crossover at a variety of angles and building familiarity with each ramp and direction.
By Kea Grace
About the Author
Since 2001, Kea Grace has published in "Dog Fancy," "Clean Run," "Front and Finish" and an international Czechoslovakian agility enthusiast magazine. Grace is the head trainer for Gimme Grace Dog Training and holds her CPDT-KA and CTDI certifications. She is a member of the APDT and is a recognized CLASS instructor. She's seeking German certification from the Goethe Institut.