Shoot, Those Darn Dog Agility Chutes
Getting tangled up in the chute of the collapsible tunnel is no fun for any dog anywhere. If it happens more than once you dog’s confidence can be systematically eroded until they no longer want to perform the obstacle. Outside the obvious twist or wrinkle in the fabric when your dog enters, there is little but solid training that will help avoid your dog getting caught up in the chute.
There are a few different ways to teach the chute, but all ways require that your dog have a solid open tunnel entry/performance or at the very least, a solid performance of the barrel end of the collapsible tunnel with the chute removed. Your dog needs strong drive, a straight entry and straight execution of the chute to ensure a safe performance. You can accomplish this by using a target (treat or toy) for the dog to drive through to. You can also do restrained recalls or have a helper toss a toy when the dog enters the barrel as long as they keep the dog on a straight path.
Once you have this accomplished you have some options on how to teach your dog the collapsed tunnel portion of the obstacle. We are going to focus on one method that we really like that can be done alone, a definite plus. You will need the collapsible tunnel with removable chute and a hoop or contact zoner. You can use a “one piece” collapsible tunnel, you will just have to skip the first part of the lesson and simply condition your dog to the feel of the chute without driving over it.
With the hoop at the end of the tunnel, you will disconnect the chute and first teach your dog to run across the chute a short distance (about a 1/4 the distance of the chute) and through the hoop by placing your target just past the exit of the chute. As your dog is comfortable, increase the distance until you can start your dog behind the barrel and have him drive all the way over the chute and through the hoop.
Next you will connect the chute to the barrel on one end and to the hoop with clamps on the other end. This leaves both ends open so the dog can see clearly to the other end of the chute. Make sure your clamps ends are not facing into the opening of the chute where they can hit your dog. Also, make sure there are no gaps at the bottom where the dog could get stuck between the chute and the hoop. Again, place your target a ways past the exit of the open tunnel so your dog will drive all the way through the chute or be ready to toss a toy as they are about to exit.
When your dog is confidently driving through the chute you will lower the chute slightly by moving the top of the hoop toward the barrel. You want the dog to be able to see through, but have to slightly push through the chute. Stay at this point until your dog is driving full speed through the chute. If they balk, raise the chute a little and try again. Work the chute down until it is touching the ground at the middle only.
Next you will take your clamps off the top of the hoop closing the opening down to about your dog’s elbow. Practice until the dog is driving full speed. If the dog balks, raise the opening until the dog will go through. This also teaches your dog to lower their head on the exit instead of raising it and getting caught on the fabric. Make sure the top edge of the chute exit isn’t so tight your dog will be unable to pass through. You want it low so they keep their head low, but it needs to be loose enough to easily let them pass through or they will stop driving.
Finally, you will remove the hoop and have your dog perform the complete obstacle. By now they should be confident and driving through with no issues. Be sure you toss their toy straight ahead of them as they start to exit. And when you run with your dog, be sure to stay next to them without talking so they will exit with their nose forward. Many bad chute exits are caused when the dog turns to follow the handlers voice while still in the chute.