Tunnel Tips

Fear of Tunnels. In the beginning dogs are afraid of tunnels. If your dog already loves  tunnels, then you may wish to skip this section and see the right column.

 "I didn't like tunnels at first and the instructor had to give me a gentle push before I would go in,," my Magic Momo Superdog revealed to me recently. 

If you dogr is reluctant to a tackle a tunnel, don't worry. In time he/she will be addicted to tunnels!  Below is a cute video of Rex learning to go through a Tunnel. This is one approach to consider.

Rex Learns the Tunnel. In this video a cute young Australian Shepherd is being introduced to the tunnel obstacle. If I were doing this, I would use a much larger and shorter tunnel to make the tunnel easier.. Remember our motto: Gradus ad Parnasum, which means in effect "Small steps to perfection."

Patience. Notice how patient the trainer is. She holds the treat at the other end of the tunnel and waits. When Rex starts to go through she "clicks" to signal to the dog that he is doing the right thing. Then when he emerges from the tunnel he gets his reinforcer (a reward that strengthens behavior).

Other Techniques for Teaching the Tunnel.

Here are some other things to try:

Hungry. Make sure your dog is hungry before you go out to train. Get an inexpensive collapsible tunnel. [See Agility Equip.] Scrunch it up so it is very short. Put a high powered treat your dog loves in a bowl. Position the bowl a few feet from the tunnel exit. Show your dog the treat bowl, but don't let her grab the treat just yet.

That's easy to do if you have used the Ian Dunbar training method. For Momo, I just say, "Off, don't take it yet," and she respects my wishes. Momo will even run past a treat bowl in the middle of a course if she knows it is not time to get her treat. 

Bring your dog to the other side of the tunnel, which should be straight and very, very short. (Remember: "Small Steps to Perfection." ) Your dog should be able to see the treat bowl through the tunnel. 

Give your dog a cue to run through the tunnel to get his/her high powered treat. I like to say "Steady, Ready, Action, Camera!" If you dog doesn't sprint through the tunnel for the treat it is probably because 1) The tunnel is too long, or 2)Your dog is not hungry, or 3) The treat is not something your dog really loves. 

If you dog loves toys, you could try placing a toy on the other side of the tunnel, or throwing the toy through the tunnel. 

Tunnel Love. Now Momo loves tunnels -- she loves 'em so much she will run into them on her own -- if NOT told otherwise what to do. Most experienced agility dogs are tunnel focused -- tunnels seem to have a automatic suction button that is always on.  
TIPS for More Experienced Handlers

Tunnels Traps.
After your dog has mastered the tunnel, they will be come great fun for your dog. The tunnel may seem to suck your dog into it, even when the tunnel is an off-course obstacle!

Course designers sometimes place off-course tunnels directly after jumps to test your ability to steer your dog away from them.

There are several techniques you can use to help your dog know not to enter an off-course tunnel. These are discussed  in detail a premium tutorial that is available for purchase. But in short you can
help your dog steer clear from off-course tunnels using:
  • Verbal cues
  • A "threadle" arm
  • Tapping your hip or clapping
  • The Flip Technique
  • Advance Body Positioning
Correct Tunnel Entry 

Tunnels are often curved and there is a correct and incorrect entry in this situation. You can use the same techniques just mentioned  in sending your dog to the correct tunnel entry. Again, details about these are available in our premium tutorials, which are available for a small fee.

Exiting a Tunnel.

Most handlers lose connection with their dogs when the dog enters the tunnel. After all, the dog cannot see the handler. So these handlers have to be fairly close to the tunnel to tell the dog what to do, if the dog must turn after exiting the tunnel. Expert handlers have ways of keeping the connection with their dog while the dog is in the tunnel; this lets them run ahead to the next obstacle while the dog is in the tunnel. . 

Did I whet your appetite to learn more? Good, you can learn more by purchasing the premium article coming soon. Call me if you have questions. Phil Seyer. Phone: 925-8.8.8-4392


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