Learning the Collapsed Tunnel/Chute

04 Jul 2007Steve Schwarz

I saw some good posts on the Agile Teach email list about teaching the Chute. So I thought I’d jot down my approach and some other’s ideas.

Like most folks I teach the chute with the following progression (which is hard to do if you are training on your own):

  1. Remove the fabric from chute barrel (or roll up all the way), reward dog for going through chute barrel
  2. Replace chute fabric, make fabric only a couple feet long, hold fabric open, reward dog for going through chute
  3. Continue lengthening chute fabric, holding fabric open and rewarding dog for going through. As part of this process allow the fabric to lightly brush against the dog's back to get them familiar with the feeling.
  4. Once the chute fabric is fully extended start lowering the end so the dog has to contact the fabric. Continue until the fabric is fully on the ground.

One thing to consider when training the Chute is you want the dog to run through with their head down rather than up. It helps them get through the tunnel faster and seems to avoid training the dog to jump up coming out of the chute. Some trainers will start the progression above using a target just past the end of the chute fabric and ask for a nose touch. They then fade the target over time. Another approach is to use a thrown treat, treat bag, or toy in the direction of the dog’s motion and low to the ground.

Another aspect of the chute performance is the dog coming straight through the chute and not turning too much to the side to which they anticipate they might be going afterwards. A thrown toy or target can also work for this. Again reward low and straight ahead.

I haven’t seen it too often but there are dogs who don’t like the feel of the chute fabric pressing down on them or need more reinforcement to rocket through the chute fabric. Diane Spalding from the Agile Teach email list had a great idea and has kindly allowed me to quote her approach:

I tell my new students to go to the dollar store and get a $1 shower curtain and then a very cheap shower rod. They then put this on the doorway into a room where the dog constantly goes back and forth....first of all the rod is up high with the curtain barely off the ground with the dog being called thru with great treats or their favorite toy and then as the confidence grows it is lowered until is it about two to three feet off the ground (depending on size of dog) with the curtain being the chute part.....soon the dogs are running thru with gusto and when it is transferred to a barrel - no problem....

Thanks Diane!

As an extension of Diane’s approach, you might want to start with the curtain up high enough so the dog is encouraged to duck under the bottom. This would get the dog used to lowering its head. Also if you have a chute at home you could probably wrap and pin the material around the shower rod or purchase some “chute-like” fabric just for this purpose and make a chute curtain to hang from the rod.

So even training a “simple” obstacle takes some thought and effort and the additional effort definitely pays off with a fast and safe chute performance.

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