The Whiskey Cross – Bad Dog Agility Academy

The Whiskey Cross

Jun 2020

The Whiskey Cross is the name of a very useful OneMind Dogs handling technique. It is a rear cross on a jump when the dog’s approach is very sharp and the dog cannot actually see the bar. This can be a backside presentation or from a very slice approach. This maneuver is harder for the dog because when the dog can’t see the actual bar or the obstacle, they don’t commit quickly or easily to it. Furthermore, with the popularity of teaching and working on wraps, many dogs will “auto-wrap” on these jumps even when the handler wants them to slice. This is one of the OneMind Dogs handling techniques that requires some training.

There are several factors that will make the execution of the Whiskey Cross successful. First, the dog must learn to commit forward past the handler to the jump even when he can’t quite see the bar. Second- the dog must hold that commitment as the handler passes behind him. Third, the more the handler keeps his motion “forward” as much as possible, the easier it will be for the dog to slice. If the handler slows down too much, the dog tends to read that deceleration as a stronger turning cue and curl towards the handler instead of slicing.

Though a Whiskey Cross can be executed without a verbal, the addition of a verbal cue that tells the dog to “jump with the intention of turning away/changing leads” can be very helpful. I train a verbal cue “SWITCH” that means exactly this, “take the jump and plan to turn away from the handler”. So on a Whiskey Cross, I could move towards the jump, cue the jump and the turn with the verbal, and as the dog passes in front of me, I cross his line. A common mistake with verbals on Whiskey Crosses is for the dog to “flip in front of the jump” instead of jumping and turning. Usually this shows that the dog is missing the understanding of either committing to the bar that is difficult to find or that he doesn’t know how to hold commitment to the bar once he registers that a turn/lead change is required.

On a backside presentation of a Whiskey Cross, there are limits to the handler’s position and distance away from the jump for the Whiskey Cross to be handled. If the handler is too far “behind/on the landing side of the jump,” they can no longer cross behind the dog’s path before take off and the dog will not turn away from the handler. The handler must be moving towards the takeoff side of the jump and not the landing side. This line of motion makes it harder for the dog, however, as the handler might be blocking the dog’s view of the obstacle and so commitment is even harder. When they can’t see the obstacle in question, a common response is to pick another obstacle (an off-course) or get stuck on the handler (a refusal).

If the handler is truly on the landing side of the bar when the dog takes off, it will no longer be a Whiskey Cross and will have to be handled as a Backlap (a different OneMind Dog technique). Advanced verbal skills training can come in to play as it is possible to cue the dog to go to the back and turn way with the handler on the landing side or at a distance, but then it all becomes trained tricks- no longer handling. For this I would cue “BACK” (my backside verbal) and once the dog has committed to the back and is on the way, I would cue “SWITCH” which tells the dog to take the jump with the intention of turning away from the handler.

Experience has shown me that individual dog’s tendencies can also play into how easily or not they execute Whiskey Crosses. Some dogs prefer to slice and find wrapping, decelerating, and bending more difficult. These types of dogs will find the Whiskey Cross less challenging and are more likely to slice the jump. However, they are also the ones who will “accidentally rear cross” instead of wrapping, especially on Whiskey Cross type approaches to jumps. Dog who easily wrap, of course learn the slice, but if the handlers has obsessed on teaching wraps, they will need to work to teach the slice as well.

Fun Fact- Why is it called a Whiskey Cross? The answer is… a bet! Back in the day, the wager was a bottle of Whiskey if this “weird handing technique” would work. It did, and the name stuck!

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