Posted by: allstaragility | June 21, 2012

Running with Blinds or blindly running?

We have truly witnessed the re-emergence of blind crosses in the last few years.  Not only are they now more “acceptable”, they considered quite trendy as many competitors clamor for places to show off their hip, new moves on course!   

 Be advised: these new-fangled blind crosses are a very distant cousin to what many of us know or have used in the past.  The traditional use of blind crosses in the US are with slower dogs that we needed to show more forward motion cues simply to keep them running.  These are often executed in lieu of a traditional front cross for dogs who easily lose motivation if the handler pivots into them on course.   They serve their purpose and shouldn’t be devalued in certain circumstances.  That said, they also should not be confused or even compared to the current applications of blind cross- what I like to think of as more European-style blinds.

 When I had the opportunity in 2010 to work with Silas Boogk from Germany, it became very clear that these blinds are an entirely different beast.  They require a very solid set of foundation skills to make them successful as well as some bravery and a lot of determination!  The primary goal of them is not necessarily to speed up the dog (they are used mainly with dogs who don’t need encouragement to go any faster), but to keep the handling proactive and ahead of the dog, cuing extension, straightening lines, and tightening up wraps. 

Timing, placement and execution are vital ingredients and where I think a lot of instructors and competitors fall short in teaching and applying these skills.  Just as blind crosses are being used more frequently, I believe they are just as often being used inappropriately or executed incorrectly.    It is my goal with this very basic tutorial to help point out the common mistakes so that we can all utilize them successfully. 

 

To start off, I wanted to show one of the most common errors of blind cross application.  This is probably where many people get confused with the more traditional uses of blind crosses.    In Figure 1.  We see a very basic sequence that requires a side change towards the end (oh, you could keep the dog on your right the entire sequence, but that is beside the point!).  This could be done with a front, blind or rear cross.  Traditionally, a handler would do a blind cross between 3 and 4 instead of a regular front to continue showing motion.  This would work perfectly fine with a slower dog where the handler could get the cross done well before the dog takes number 3.  Where this breaks down with faster dogs is in the fact that the handler is showing forward motion cues contradicting the direction change the dog needs to make.  This cues the dog to extend over 3 (which usually occurs right as the handler is in the midst of executing the blind) and results in a) the dog running behind the person and not coming into the handler’s left side or b) the dog have quite a wide turn between 3 and 4, resulting in the dog extending then over 4 and being wide to #5.


In contrast, take a look at Figure 2.  Here, the handler is making a direct line to the last jump while cuing the dog to take the line from 2-4.    If the dog truly understands to take a jump if it is between him and the handler, then there should be no issue with him coming over number 4 behind and automatically landing on the handler’s left, making a very nice line to the last jump.  This is a fairly natural serpentine cue.  It will not be successful if the dog has not been taught the responsibility to take the jump on his own (i.e. the handler has to babysit and give extra cues for the dog to take the jump, thus not being allowed to continue moving forward).

 


Now look at the exercise in Figure 3.  Again, we traditionally feel safer doing blind crosses out of tunnels, and with a slower dog this wouldn’t be a bad option.  In this scenario with a fast dog, it is quite possible for the dog to see incorrect motion cues by the handler, causing a change in the running path.  Because the handler has to now run around the wing of #2, it becomes a push to get the dog to #3, putting the handler behind the dog and possibly causing him to not extend out to #4.

 

By executing the blind cross as shown in Figure 4, the handler can get well ahead of the dog as
he is in the tunnel, thus showing a straight line from the tunnel to #4.  The handler completes the blind cross before the dog takes #3 and continues to cue extension from #3 out to jump #5. 

 

In Figure 5, I show a few examples of the Ketschker turn (aka swishy, ass pass, reverse post turn, etc).  Note that these are used ONLY to cue collection-
typically when you want the dog to wrap a jump very tightly.   It is also important to point out the handler’s path-straight into it and straight out of it.  This helps cue the tighter turn.  I showed these with the handler’s cuing hand forward since I like to think the hand connects to the dog’s head and sends him backwards towards the jump (underhand- same as cuing a forward send just in reverse).   Please do not confuse these with what some people refer to as the Mitchell-flip.  Nobody is pirouetting as they are running forward here!

 

Figure 6A shows another application of the wrap cue as I have seen used quite a bit in Europe.  This is to help with a very tight turn going into obstacle discriminations (2 to 3 with the off-course jump in the way).  This would be handled similarly, but with the handler in a position to just pick the dog up on the right to the tunnel without a lot of forward/backward motion.

 

Lastly, the common error I see with the Ketschker turn is in situations where the dog is not
supposed to wrap a jump, such as a 180-degree turn (Figure 6B).  Doing this only decreases the value of the cue and eventually teaches the dog to simply ignore the cue.   I like to think of using it when I need to cue a wrap, but don’t want to change sides or do a basic post turn as shown in Figure 6C.

 

I know there are applications of blind crosses that I did not address, but these are the most common and I hope that this helps you determine when to use them and how to execute them correctly (always make sure you reconnect with your dog after a blind cross!).    And one last word of advice:  While I always look for ways to apply these skills on a “typical” AKC course, we just don’t get as many opportunities like they do on the more demanding European courses.  Resist doing a blind cross just for the sake of it!  I often see people try a blind cross in places where a traditional front cross is a much better handling choice for the situation or the dog’s skill level.  Embrace the blinds, have fun teaching and learning them, but only use them when it is the best option or it isn’t going to contradict the flow of the course.  Enjoy!

 

 


Responses

  1. Lori – excellent article! Thanks for putting together such a concise and balanced analysis of uses of blind crosses.

  2. Thanks for writing this, love it!

  3. Thank you for writing this! Love it!

  4. […] Här: Running with blinds or blindly running […]

  5. Loved this post. Thanks for the application to AKC courses.. I usually have a hard time using my international skills on AKC courses.


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