Tunnel Trouble

tunneltroubleQ. My Brittany Spaniel cross hates the collapsible tunnel. Beanie always pops out. I get all excited because he goes in and I rush to the other end to greet him only to find he’s come out and is running up the side. Most dogs love the tunnel. Why doesn’t Beanie?

A. Beanie loves you more than he loves the tunnel! When a dog goes into any kind of tunnel he loses sight of his beloved handler. He figures that the quickest way out is to exist the way he went in. there are a number of things you can do to make sure you meet Beanie at the right exit…





Go back to basics! Ask your instructor to hold Beanie at one end of the tunnel entrance while you go to the other end and hold up the chute. Bend down and when you have eye contact with Beanie, recall him through the tunnel. He needs to see your face at the other end, not your ankles. Praise and reward his efforts. Beanie gets treats and your reassurance at the tunnel exit – he’ll want more of the same, so do it a few more times. Gradually allow the chute to lie flat. Beanie will no longer be able to see you and he will have to push through to get to you. It is worse for small dogs as it’s such a long, dark way to go, but if you progress slowly, Beanie will surprise you with his bravery.

Quick Exit. As above, but if Beanie likes to chase a ball, throw one as he comes out of the end of the chute. This will increase his speed and acceleration out of the tunnel. You don’t want him to sit at the end of the tunnel anticipating a treat, but to drive on to the next obstacle.

Go it alone. You won’t always have your instructor handy to hold Beanie at the tunnel entrance. It’s time to try running alongside the tunnel. Beanie will be eager to go through. Continue to throw a toy or treat at the end or send him over a fence. Practice running on the left and the right. If you make a bit of noise – clapping and cheering – Beanie will know that you are right outside, traveling the length of the tunnel with him.

Body Language. Make sure that when you send Beanie into the tunnel that you are pointing into it, not above it. You don’t want him to jump it! But don’t point with a treat in your hand or Beanie will stick with you rather than abandon his titbit. Your arm is not long enough to stretch from one end of the tunnel to the other.

Don’t rush. If Beanie thinks he can’t catch you up, he will take a short cut around the tunnel rather than going through it. Make sure he is committed before you run by.

Tunnel entries. When Beanie is happy going straight in and through the tunnel, practice some angled entries. When you approach the tunnel from the side, it will look different to Beanie. He won’t be able to see the entrance and balk. Give him the opportunity to discover that the large dark entry hole is round the corner.

Tunnels are fun! Enjoy them and you’ll have trouble keeping Beanie out of them, especially if it’s dry inside and raining outside !

Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
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2 Comments on “Tunnel Trouble

  1. Good suggestion, thank you. I have found that competition tunnels scrunch up and stay put pretty well to do this. But practice tunnels seem to pop back open to full length. A brace might help. If you don’t have a brace, another idea is to use large binder clips (available at an office supply store). The wire coils can be brought together and clipped. But, it is important to get the largest binder clips available, and use enough of them, because it could be dangerous if they are too small and don’t secure well, and then pop off.

    We’ve also folded our practice tunnel inside itself (tucking the outer rim inside) to shorten, and with the binder clips as well, this seemed to be the best way of keeping the tunnel from popping back open.

  2. Also when first getting a dog to go through the tunnel, scrunch it up so it is not fully extended. This makes a shorter distance that you will be out of sight and makes it less challenging for the dog. After the dog is eagerly going through the scrunched tunnel start extending it little by little. Work only with a straight tunnel to begin with. Shorten the tunnel up again when starting to gently curve it. Increase the curve and the length as the dog progresses.