Contact Obstacles and Chutes

Marlene Remington asked My Muffin started competing in April and is doing fairly well (we even complete our AKC JWW Novice title). We are having problems with contact obstacles that are different from the obstacles we practice on at our club field. Our chute has a blue barrel with a blue chute — the venue where we are having trouble has a closed chute where the barrel is nearly clear and the chute is yellow. She absolutely will not go into it — when have been in four events with this chute and can’t seem to get past it. I am tempted to pick her up and push her through it (I know I will get disqualified) just to stop this fear. Help!

That is a problem.  It’s a sticky situation, too, because practicing on the trial equipment is not allowed. However, maybe you can get in contact with someone at the venue and rent their ring/equipment at a later date, take a few hours, and work on shaping your dog to complete the obstacle. Treat it like Muffin doesn’t know how to do a chute at all. Sometimes an obstacle can look so different in design and in a new place that a dog isn’t sure what to do with it.  Don’t shove her through, even though that is tempting!  You don’t want her to associate being pushed with an obstacle, especially one she sees often in competitions.

For the contacts on the club field, ask if you can move them around with other members.  That way your dog is learning the obstacle not the position of the obstacle.  Also keep in mind that if your obstacles are sand-treated and the competition obstacles are rubber coated or vice versa, it can lead to some variation in performance of the obstacle. If you have both kinds of obstacles in your area, you may want to train your dog to perform on both surfaces equally.

Lastly, is it possible that your dog may not be quite ready to compete? I know she’s doing fine, but from the sounds of things there may be one or two obstacles she’s just not ready for or doesn’t fully understand.  It may be worthwhile to take a step back in training and review the chute and contacts, with massive rewards and partying.

I hope this helps!  Good luck to you and Muffin (cute name, by the way! 😀 ) and happy hurdling!

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4 Comments on “Contact Obstacles and Chutes

  1. Here’s an update: We went to one day of a two-day trial today. The first run was Open Fast. We need more practice on distance, so we didn’t Q today, but that’s okay. We got our last leg in Open Jumpers and got our title ribbon. And best of all, we got our first leg in Novice Standard. Muffin finally went through the chute!!! We made arrangements to go through the trial chute at an officer’s home. Muffin went through it quickly and for a few more times, then lost interest. I guess it wasn’t a challenge any more. At the trial she didn’t hesitate at all. The only points we lost were 5 when she barked at the judge, then forgot what she was doing and stopped in front of a jump. That earned her a refusal. Oh well, a Q is a Q. Hopefully she will continue to earn more now. She really has gone quite a ways in her 8 months of competing!

  2. Just a little note, I counted wrong on my Novice Fast Qs. This week I recieved a certificate for earning my Novice Fast title. What a Surprise! I thought I had one more Q to go, but checked back and realized it was a memory lapse on my part.
    Most of my memory lapses don’t turn out so well!

  3. Just a little update. We practiced the chute to the point she was barreling through it. I felt good about the trial we went to earlier this month, but we still had some trouble. She Q’d in FAST, making it her second in Novice. She also earned 2 Qs in Open JWW. She was a little bit slow going through the weaves because she was too busy sniffing (our first trial on dirt). But then the problem with the Standard courses. The first day she jumped off the Dog Walk, but made it through the chute on the third try. The second day I corrected my error on the Dog Walk, but she refused to go through the chute, even after the third try. I think I will try your suggestion to contact some other clubs and see if I can practice with them.

    • It sounds like you’ve made great progress, though! I’m rooting for you. 🙂 I hope it helps, and that you guys blow through them chutes like wildfire! thanks for the update, it’s really encouraging to hear back from people, you know? 🙂