We like to joke around about tunnel suck dogs, but in the beginning many dogs don’t enjoy the tunnel as it presents a problem for the dog. They cannot see their handler and this can spook a dog and knock his confidence down. When these dogs finally learn they wont lose their human during their time in the tunnel, most become tunnel loving maniacs.
So what do you do if your dog won’t finish the tunnel? We have some great ideas to get your dog confident and loving the tunnel as much as any other dog.
If it is a sudden change in performance and you are sure your dog is not getting hurt in the tunnel, you should go back to basics. Have someone hold your dog at the entrance of the tunnel while you look through the other end and call your dog through from the other side. If this is too much scrunch up the tunnel to make it as short as possible and try again. Be sure you use a very happy voice with loads of praise and treats when your dog exits the tunnel.
As soon as your dog is confident in a short tunnel, slowly extend the tunnel keeping it straight. Then you can try throwing a ball or toy through the tunnel (as long as it goes out of the tunnel) and letting your dog run after it. Be sure you hold your dog at the entrance when you toss the toy and release them so they will not try to run around the tunnel to get it. You can also put a target and treat out if your dog is food motivated then graduate to throwing it in a food tube as he enters the tunnel.
When you dog will drive through after a toy/treat you are ready to work on running next to them and throwing the toy/treat as they exit the tunnel to keep them driving out to the next obstacle. You can cheer them on as you run next to the tunnel and if need be you can shorten the tunnel again as they learn to drive through on their own. Then add a jump or other obstacle for them to execute while driving to their reward.
When you are ready to add an obstacle before the tunnel be sure to check how you are cuing the tunnel. Make sure you are pointing into the tunnel and not over it as you don’t want your dog to think you want them to jump onto the tunnel. And don’t use a treat in your signal hand or your dog may be drawn to follow the treat back out of the tunnel and not go into the tunnel.
When you start running into the tunnel be sure your dog is committed to the entry before you run down the tunnel and don’t stop at the entry either as your dog may hesitate and back out as well.
Once you have built your dog’s confidence on a straight tunnel and gotten to full extension you can start adding angled entries. Keep them soft and build the angle slowly. You can also start adding a slight bend in the tunnel, keeping the exit visible and slowly increasing the bend until the exit is unseen.
As always, in your training if your dog hesitates or shows aversion, go back to a place they are comfortable and do more proofing and practice before taking the next step.