Jake and Tunnels

Last summer, the first obstacle of the standard course at an AKC trial was a C-shaped tunnel.  I set Jake up about 5′ away, facing straight-on and directly in front of the correct tunnel entrance, which happened to be on the right side.  I positioned myself on the inside curve and Jake was looking at the correct tunnel entrance when I released him but much to my surprise he ran around the tunnel and when he came back around the other side, I tried again to send him to the correct entrance.  Yet he chose to take the off-course entrance, even though I thought I was clearly indicating the other entrance.

At the time, I thought the problem was that Jake had never seen a C-shaped tunnel as the first obstacle on a course so I figured all I needed to do was to expose him to that scenario.  So I set up a short sequence starting with a C-shaped tunnel.  I was surprised to see what Jake did the first time I sent him to the right-side entrance (the same entrance he avoided at the trial).  He ducked behind me and dashed into the left entrance.   Yet when I sent him to the left entrance, he took it fast and without any hesitation every time.   It became apparent that Jake had developed a strong preference for left-side tunnel entrances.  Once I thought about it for a while, it made sense because Jake also has a preference for running on his right lead which is the lead dogs use when running through the left side of a curved tunnel.

Once I knew what was going on, I wanted to make it very easy for Jake to be right/ hard to be wrong so that I could heavily reinforce right-side entries to build value.  I started by setting him close to the right-side tunnel entrance and rewarded a bunch of successful repetitions. I slowly added distance and different angles over the course of many short sessions.  After a few days, I could see him getting the idea that both sides of the tunnel were worth taking, not just the left one.   I will continue to keep my eye on Jake’s speed and drive towards both tunnel entrances to make sure I am reinforcing enough right-side entrances to keep the value balanced with the left side.

Jake running through a curved tunnel on his left lead. photo by Barry Rosen

Jake Running Through a Curved Tunnel, photo by Barry Rosen

4 thoughts on “Jake and Tunnels

    • The other situation I’ve seen Jake’s lead preference come into play is before the A-Frame. He is more likely to run wide (around the A-Frame) when there is a sharp left turn before it, which means he’d need to be on his left lead to make the turn. Another reason to video tape runs and practice sessions so you can go back and look for evidence to support or nix a theory.

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