One of our Fusion Members wrote with this question:
I have a question about the chute. My dogs (Chihuahuas) are small, to say the least. I have found that sometimes they get tangled up in the chute fabric, especially if it has blown around a bit. If that happens at a trial, are we allowed to touch the fabric in any way from the outside to loosen it up? Sometime they really get stuck and struggle in there!!
Is there a training method tip that is successful for people with small dogs to help them learn to just keep pushing? 99% of the time I just keep encouraging mine to “push, push,” and it usually works. But, occasionally, they give up and come back out the wrong way of the chute and look at me as if to say, “I tried, but the chute was stuck closed!”
Does touching an obstacle by the handler disqualify the run?
Great question! Yes, touching the chute is disqualification. But not immediate. Technically it is called a NQ (Non qualification), or an Elimination. In other words, you can continue to run the course after you touch the obstacle, if you wish. Unfortunately with a dog that gets tangled in the chute, the blame typically goes onto the owner, not the chute blowing in the wind. At times, its hard to know whether the wind causes a tangle, or the dog doesn’t run straight and hard, or both. For the safety of your little fellows, you will have to get him untangled and deal with the consequences. The judges will understand and allow you to continue to run. If it’s any consolation, even if you could touch the chute the time lost in untangling would likely be significant. About how to encourage your dogs to plow through all the way to exit, that is a challenge for smaller dogs! Hesitation is the worst thing for small dogs. They need to be highly driven to get to the other end. It can happen even with larger dogs, especially if the chute is of a lighter material, and sometimes if its wet too. I wouldn’t reward your dog after he gets tangled, and don’t panic or offer too much comfort. Just positive encouragement and a little help if needed. I’d start the regular practice of targeting/treating at the end of the chute (in the center, not off to the side), as dogs learn the bad habit of slanting toward your voice. That way your dog will not be slanting toward you, but running straight to the treat instead. I’d also consider that maybe your chute is too lightweight. You could try laying a blanket on top to make it heavier, and also wetting it down. If you have small dogs, and you own a lightweight practice chute, it might be time to consider upgrading to a heavier competition quality chute.
Thoughts? More ideas for our reader? Click on comments in the upper right corner to participate!