Dog Agility Training: How to Use the Tunnel
Dogs love agility!
Whether you are interested in introducing your dog to the exciting sport of agility, or if you simply want to build up your dog's confidence, there are a variety of agility obstacles to meet your goals. Among the most fun pieces, one of the dog's favorites is the tunnel. There are basically two types of tunnels: the regular stretched out ones where the dog is able to see the other end, and the collapsed ones (also know as chute or cloth tunnel) where the cloth lies closed to the ground until the dog runs into the open end and works his way through it.
Introducing Your Dog to the Tunnel
If this is the first time your dog is introduced to the tunnel, expect some reluctance at first. This is natural, since most dogs are afraid of the unknown. Dogs would rather sniff the tunnel and go around it, rather than going through it. This is fine. You need to give the dog some time and if you use positive rewards, soon your dog will love going through it and may even go on its own!
Of course, if you must introduce your dog to the tunnel for the very first time, you should use the regular stretched out tunnel at first. It takes a higher level of confidence to go through the collapsed one since the dog cannot see the other end. The regular tunnel instead looks much less intimidating since the dog can clearly see the way out. Of course, with time you can make the regular tunnel more challenging by stretching it out and then adding some curves.
To get started, arm yourself with lots of treats and take your dog's leash off. Make the tunnel very short at first. Let your dog inspect the tunnel and sniff around it. Some dogs may be bold enough to even go through it, but most will avoid that. Hold your dog by the collar and place yourself beside the tunnel and toss a few treats in it. Your dog should get in it to eat the treats. Right away, run to the other end and peek into the other end and call your dog to you. The dog should come out from the other end. Praise a lot and give more treats.
Not all dogs though will come out the other end. Some may eat the treats and as the owner calls the dog from the other end, the dog does a fast about face and goes around the tunnel to meet their owner. These smart little fellows may require some time and patience. If your dog has high prey drive and loves to chase a ball, it may help to toss the ball through the tunnel instead of tossing the treats. Once the dog gets a hang of it, many owners encounter the opposite problem: their dog cannot have enough of it and will go in and out on their own.
After successfully going through the tunnel a few times, owners may introduce a voice command. ''Tunnel'' is a common command. The tunnel may be made slightly longer at this point. No more treats or toys will be tossed to entice the dog inside but the owner will simply say ''tunnel'' and run to the other end enticing the dog to come out. Once out, owners may praise and give treats or toss a ball.
Once the dog enjoys the tunnel it can be made more challenging by making it longer and adding curves. Dogs may then try be introduced to the collapsed ones. It is important to consider that if a dog refuses to enter the tunnel he may need to go back one step and try later when he is better prepared.
Tunnels can be fun for both dogs and owners. If you are considering enrolling your dog in agility classes, always give the treats as the dog comes out facing forward as if there other obstacles to go through. This will give you a head start and prepare your dog for future competition.