December 23, 2020

Episode 272: All About the Tunnel – Part 2

In this episode (19:32)

In this podcast, Sarah, Jennifer, and Esteban show why the tunnel may be a far more complex obstacle than most competitors realize. (Click here for Part 1)

You Will Learn

  • The handling impact of curving or straightening a tunnel.
  • How tunnels interact with different dog heights.
  • Whether you should train on light or dark-colored tunnels.
  • How to properly bag and anchor your tunnel.
  • What length tunnel you should train on.
  • If “tunnel suckers” actually exist.
  • Why handlers shouldn’t get too close to the tunnel.
  • How to cue tight turns after the tunnel.
  • When to time your verbal cues for the next obstacle after a tunnel.
  • How to handle common tunnel traps.


- You're listening to Bad Dog Agility. Bringing you training tips, interviews, and news about the great sport of dog agility. (upbeat music) - I'm Jennifer - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah, and this is episode 272. Today's podcast is brought to you by and the new Teach-it, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your Teeter so you can introduce motion to your

dog in a gradual way. Just in time for winter training, order one now to receive a free feeding tray. You can also get $25 off a hit it board and $50 off the move it. Go to to get the holiday 2020 promo codes. That's Today we're gonna continue our discussion of tunnels. Last week, we talked all about the tunnel itself. I think we were surprised at

how much we could talk about the obstacle itself, the bags, the color, and all things about the obstacle. And now we're gonna continue and talk about the handling of the obstacle. - Some of this is a little bit hard to explain or talk about. So I kind of wanna hit the things that are a little easier where you know, it wouldn't be better served by say a demonstration

video, for example. So I wanna start with straight versus curved. What are the handling implications here that we're thinking about? Sarah, what do you think? - Well, I think, you know, a straight tunnel it is really hard to keep up with the dog. Like you're you essentially-- - That's why Jen's been torturing her students. - That's right. It is essentially a foot race at that point. There's nothing

about that obstacle unless you have a very large dog which we've already covered. There's nothing about that obstacle that's gonna slow your dog down. Not only does it not slow them down, I think for a lot of dogs it speeds them up because there's an expectation of by them, they know that they can run hard, they can see the exit, they don't have to be ready to turn.

And so they just accelerate towards that tunnel in, in a way that maybe they don't accelerate towards the next jump, for instance. So really, it creates a lot of speed for the dog. The tunnels give the handler a chance almost always to catch up and that the straight tunnels do the opposite. They are going to really exasperate any like differential between speed of the handler and the dog.

- I also think with curved and straight tunnels when you start talking about dog mechanics there's so much more variability on what you can do as a handler and what the dog can do physically on a straight tunnel. So on a curve tunnel, the lead the dog is in is forced based on the curve. So if it's a curve to the right they're on the right lead, if

there's a curve to the left they're on their left lead. There that's it, it's done and over with. It's not until they exit that they can then respond to a handling cue or, you know, turn a particular direction. But a straight tunnel is you have the flexibility through handling to cue anything you want. You can get the dog on the left or the right lane, right? You can

use your handling, you can use your location. So, you know, virtually everything that you can do at a single jump you can almost do at a straight tunnel, where a curve tunnel is a little more limiting. If the tunnel curves one particular direction and you're on the backside of the curve, you know with, again without getting into a demo and a whole lot of understanding of the handling

but being on the backside of a curve and being on the inside of a curve are two totally different dynamics with regard to tunnel entries and tunnel exit. So, that straight tunnel just gives so much versatility for handling. And as you said, I call the straight tunnel particle accelerator. They, they come out faster than they go in. So of course I love to, you know, make my students

run, Esteban. Don't you wanna sign up for a class and come experience it yourself? - Yes, yes I do. I will definitely do that. - And as Jen mentioned earlier, it is relatively recent that the rule was changed to allow a third tunnel but it has to be straight. It is meant to take the place of the shoot. And so the theory is and I remember Jen mentioning

this somewhere probably just when we were talking about stuff between the two of us, talking about agility, mentioning a theory that we might start seeing a lot more straight tunnels because it's a new addition to the rules, right? So if you are not comfortable with straight tunnels, if you haven't done a lot of handling with them it is probably, here in the United States, probably wise to start

getting that experience. - And I think it's obvious, just like any other piece of equipment you wanna practice all your crosses on tunnels both before and after, fronts, blinds, rear crosses I think are especially tough one but especially for handlers that have a big difference between your speed and the dog's speed, right? That dog's much faster than you. I think you're gonna have to learn how to rear

cross in a variety of situations especially as it relates to the straight tunnel. You're one of Jen's students, you're not that mobile, your dog is very fast, It's a big difference between your speeds. Yeah. You're, you're, you're gonna have to learn to rear cross because there are gonna be some times that you just can't do what everybody else is doing. I will put it like that. So, verbal

cues, Jen, you've talked about in recent podcasts wanting to be a more verbal in your handling. You know, that's something that I'm, I'm looking to as well. If I'm a beginner to agility and I'm, I'm putting my dog into a tunnel, when should I start cuing the next obstacle? When, when should the dog be hearing that cue? Should I be saying it before the dog even comes out?

Can the dog even hear me when they're in the tunnel? Do I wait till they exit? Isn't that too late? Do I need to say before they go into the tunnel? Do I give them two cues? Like, what's the deal here? - I think if we answered the question that you asked which is, "I'm a beginner to agility." I will answer it and say that I would cue

the tunnel with just having a single tunnel verbal. And once the dog is, and once you know the dog is physically committed to the tunnel use a verbal to help indicate where they're going. Now that answers the question, but we can bring up a couple other things with regard to, well, what about the motion? Making sure that the motion is consistent. If I wanna turn, I'm gonna to

decel or move lateral in addition to the verbal. And if you were to phrase it as, you know, maybe I'm more seasoned, I'm more experienced, I'm on my second or third dog and I wanna up my game a little bit. I do think we can look at the possibility of different tunnel verbals or verbals given prior to entry to help indicate a change in direction for the dog.

So, you know, we're, we're seeing more collection cues at jumps. We are now seeing people that will use a collection cue going into the tunnel. You know, we know that not anything super recent but we are seeing a specific discrimination verbals for a tunnel. So a beginner, I would always recommend have a tunnel cue and then a tunnel threadle cue. But we are now seeing cues for tight

turns. Some handlers will still cue the tunnel but then use a verbal once the dog is in for soft turns at different, than a, you know, check, check, check, actually as a way to cue the tunnel to mean come out and turn tight. So, we're seeing a lot of different theory. You know, for me personally I'll just give personal firsthand experience. I, I only have two tunnel verbals

and it's tunnel. And then my discrimination verbal, which is here. Everything else I'm using a combination of motion as they go in and a verbal once they're in. So do I use a verbal? Yes. I'm not gonna wait till they come out because by then it's too late. They should be changing how they exit the tunnel based on where they're going. But it is something that I get

them committed and then I cue it, you know. If I were to holler for my dogs right before they enter, they would turn right off of the tunnel. So I'm going to let them get in and then I'm going to holler a cue to help indicate to them what direction I want them to go. So, kinda different skill sets depending on dog's speed, handlers experience, but absolutely working

turns out of tunnels versus going straight out of the tunnel. I mean, on a straight tunnel, Sarah said it before. I mean, it's easy place to fall behind. I think for a lot of handlers on a straight tunnel cuing the dog to go straight is the skill that's weaker. Out of a straight tunnel People can get the turns. It's queuing the dogs to go straight. And then a

curve tunnel, I kinda see the opposite. On a curve tunnel that's where people need to work tighter turns out of the tunnel. Raising my hand right here and elimination at the world championships because I did not get a tight enough turn out of a tunnel and my dog went right off course. He went straight, extended out. And I knew at that point I was gonna do my next

dogs differently and which I have. And it was gonna have to be something that I worked on for sure. - Yeah. And, and one thing that I, that I recommend when you have tight turns out of curve tunnels is to, to give your dog some verbal to help find you. So sometimes it's the dog's name. Like if the dog is gonna come out of the curve tunnel and

then they have to turn sharply after, I think that's a pattern that we see a lot in agility. They go in one side, they come out the other and when they come out, they have to turn sharply. And maybe there's an off-course jump sitting where if they just came out of the tunnel and kept going straight they'd go over that tunnel. And we have an entire podcast on

connection but I'll give you the one minute version, which is people don't, don't really think about their dog's point of view in the tunnel and recognize how extreme the dog's disconnection is when they go into tunnels. They disconnect from the handler. They cannot see you. They disconnect from the course, they, when they come out of their tunnel, I mean, imagine just going from dark to light and then

running at full speed, right? Like running at full speed, going from darkness to light. And then the entire course is suddenly in front of you again and you're trying to figure out what the next thing is, right? They have lost their perception of where all of the obstacles are in relation to each other. Your dog pays attention to that stuff on course. And when they come out they

have to do that very, very quickly. They have to figure out which of the humans out there is their handler. Like we definitely see dogs coming out of tunnels and occasionally accidentally running over to the judge. - Yeah, they turn toward the judge if the judge is on the opposite side. - Right. - They catch him out of the corner of their eye - And then they realize,

right? So, you need to recognize that you need to work hard to make that connection. You need to recognize that verbal helps because while they can see nothing in the tunnel, they can hear. And we have done this. We had an argument in our training group about how useful it was to, to give our dogs any verbal while they were in the tunnel. And I crawled into a

tunnel and, and had training partners walking at different points. And I would point to where they were when they just called my name. And I could pinpoint them accurately, right? I could tell where the person was while I was inside the tunnel. So that's something that is really helpful to your dog. So, if I have a tight turn out of the tunnel and my dog is inside the

tunnel-- - Probably, - Probably, okay, fine - I'm gonna say probably because your ears are located in different positions from your dog's. - Okay. - Dog's have hearing ranges very different and all that stuff. - Okay, okay, but on this working theory I am going to advise people to, you know, if you have a tight turn out of the tunnel, while they're in the tunnel, you can call,

you can be calling their name and then as soon as they come out and they orient to you then you can give them the, the cue for the next obstacle. - Yeah. I only dimly recall that demonstration. I'm just gonna assume whatever I said was the right thing. So, you know, we'll just, we'll just, move on from there. Getting back a little bit to what Jennifer was saying.

You know, there's a predictability that needs to happen on the part of the handler, not the dog, right. We blame the dog a lot for turning this way, that way. I'm telling you, if you send, submit a video to me for analysis and your dog turns the wrong way out of the tunnel, and you're on the other side and you're like, why does the dog keep doing this?

Well, it's because the dog expected you to be there. Okay. So, based on your motion and position if you take a handler, like Jennifer's, it's going to be very consistent. You know, if she does this right before you go into the tunnel and this is the last picture, snapshot that the dog takes and sees, it's very predictable to her dog that she's going to be most likely in

a certain couple of spots and not very sure, not a couple of other spots, right? Just based on what the dogs know about all this history of running with Jennifer, right? And so that's where we need to be very consistent with the dogs and really, really handle these tunnels like the obstacles that they are and not really just take them for granted and assume that they're gonna do

this, that, or the other. All right, the last main handling point that I wanted to make that I think we can talk about is that, people often talk about their dogs being tunnel suckers, right? But in my experience, as, as courses become more complex and we run into issues and we are looking to save yardage for the handler. We're looking to send a little bit more, right? We

want the dog to do all the running. We wanna run a little bit less and start moving in the new direction. We are getting tunnel refusals now, right? So, we're kind of shifting a little bit the other way. We're shifting away from these off courses. So what's really going on here? I think two things. So number one is, dogs aren't committed, as committed to tunnels as a lot

of people assume, right? And so you can definitely be pulling your dog off tunnels. And two, the off courses often are not because your dog loves tunnels, is just 'cause you're handling is a little poorly timed, right? It's a little reactive and not proactive. Jennifer, what are your thoughts on tunnel, tunnel commitment, and how courses look today? - I think tunnels are gonna be one of the spots

that you can most utilize as an opportunity to get ahead, at least here in the United States. I think the use of tunnels here in the United States I find to be very different than the use of tunnels overseas. That could, that could be a whole nother podcast in and of itself. But if we're talking here what we're commonly seeing, what many of our listeners are saying. You're

going to see tunnels as a tremendous opportunity to get ahead of your dog, to get down the stream, to make it for that front or blind cross. If you have that tunnel send in that tunnel commitment. And we often see them in the corners and why run all the way to the corner when you can send your dog to the tunnel, let them go out. I mean, that's

potentially 15 or 20 feet and that's just the length of the tunnel that you don't have to travel. You know at least they have that long to travel, let alone the distance going out to that tunnel and then returning from the tunnel to the next obstacle. So, having an incredible tunnel send and having incredible tunnel commitment is something that I work a lot on both with my own

dogs and with my student's dogs. I think the fear is that if I add a dead stand still can send my dog 30 feet to a tunnel, that, that is going to create tunnel sucking, as you said. But it's always cued, right? What I'm not gonna do is, is, you know, decelerate and then holler tunnel. As much as I can do it, I would say tunnel first and

then decel, right? - Then, and then you do whatever you want - It's the order of events. I think a lot of people decel, holler tunnel. If they do this enough, as you mentioned about the consistency, then the dog learns. Okay, Handler decels, I go to that tunnel in front of me. Handler decels, I go to that tunnel in front of me. Next thing you know you're deceling

to try to cue the dog to turn off of the tunnel and the dog goes, "Wait a minute, I got this. Last time she deceled, she then hollered tunnel. So I bet she's gonna do the same thing here." So, you know, making sure to say tunnel early and maintaining that commitment. And also making sure to do plenty of exercises where they're not to assume just because it's there,

that they're going. It's as with everything, it's a balancing act. You know, but I absolutely think that tunnel is probably one of the single best places may, maybe we full independence, or a handler can utilize to get ahead and get downstream. - Yeah, I think, I don't think we can give that up, right? I think that it is, it is such an opportunity for the handler that it's

not something that we want to give up, that ability to send to the tunnel. And like you said, weave poles is a great opportunity to get some space from your dog. A lot harder, right? A dog can not come out of the middle of a tunnel. Let's just put it that way, right? You're not gonna come out of the middle of the tunnel. They can come out of

the middle of the weave. So a (indistinct) tunnel is by its very nature an easier thing to teach the dog. So, definitely I would, I would, spend some time getting that commitment to the tunnel and getting that speed and drive. And like we said before, the vast, the vast majority of dogs seem to enjoy the tunnel, right? - Right. - I don't know that I would say the

vast majority of dogs enjoy weaving. I think it's something that they do. - Oh, yeah, definitely. - You know they do it but I'm not sure that it's like, okay let's put it another way. When we let our dogs run around the yard free, sometimes they take tunnels. I have never once seen them take weaves, okay. So I, I think I'm, I'm. I'm on pretty good solid logical

ground here, right? And so when you take an obstacle that your dog loves that once they're in it, they're forced to finish it, right? That is a fantastic obstacle for you even if you have nothing else in your skill set that involves sending your dog far away from you, that is someplace you can probably do it. - Right, right, all right. - That's my pep talk. - That's

a great pep talk. - All right, and to finish up with this, the discussion of handling and these tunnels. Tunnel discriminations where you have a curve tunnel at the end of a long line of jumps, you know, one, two, three jumps and then maybe it's pointed, that line is pointed at the wrong end and you need to take the other end. And sometimes it's pointed at the right

end. and, and you just need to know. I think that you basically have three things that you need to be able to do with your dog when they're, when you're presented with that sequence, with that setup, with that challenge. Your dog has gotta be able to take one end, it's gotta be able to take the other end, right. And those two cues should probably look and sound different

from each other. And there needs to be the third option which is, the dog's not supposed to take the tunnel at all. And there's maybe a 90 degree turn to another obstacle like a jump or a teeter or something like that, where the tunnel is in fact a trap. And the judge is trying to get you into either in of those, of that tunnel to get you off

course. So you wanna keep that in mind for you're handling. Now for that, I suggest you go to Type it into search engine, tunnel, tunnel discrimination That'll probably get you there. Maybe tunnel chorus and that'll pull you up some sequences demonstration videos-- - I'll put some in the show notes too because we definitely have some examples of that. - Probably good too. - Yeah. - So if

you've got dogs that are, you're struggling with the discrimination there, they're going in the wrong end, especially after these long lines definitely go and check that out. I think that's much better explained with video and demonstration. - And I'm pretty sure we have an entire Facebook live on blind tunnel entries as well, which we didn't, we touched on a little bit with the extreme angles but basically when

the dog is trying to go into a tunnel and they can't see the entrance that's not something that we really get here in the United States, but it is something that we-- - Right, so you'll put that in the show notes page for everyone, right? - Show notes, yeap. - All right, and with that I think we are going to wrap up now the most comprehensive podcasts that

I've certainly ever heard or done on tunnels. - All right, that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, Happy training.

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