Using body motion as pre-cues for tunnels and barrels.

Jake, Lil, and I snuck in one last outdoor trial and weekend in the RV before I need to winterize it.  The brisk fall weather was great for dogs but I’m not so sure about the strong and gusty wind on Saturday.  Jake and Lil didn’t seem too bothered by it though.  And all in all,  it was decent weather for late October in New York.

My personal objective when running agility is to see how well I can communicate the path ahead so my dogs don’t look at off course obstacles or have to slow down due to uncertainty about where to go next.  Many handlers use body and motion to pre-cue turns after jumps and contacts but based on my observations watching teams running NADAC, AKC, and USDAA courses, I am surprised by how few handlers pre-cue tunnels (with body motion) to show their dogs the path AFTER the tunnel BEFORE their dogs enter the tunnel.   IMO, this causes many dogs to slow down a little while in the tunnel and to exit the tunnel looking for their handlers.  Other dogs come blasting out of the tunnel running towards the first obstacle they see and as we all know, once a dog has locked onto an obstacle,  if it is not the correct obstacle, the handler will need to call off her dog.  IMO, if this happens more than once in a blue moon,  it will begin to erode a dog’s trust in her handler and as a result the dog will learn to slow down over time in anticipation of the next call off.

Lil’s Elite Weaver’s course on Sunday had two great opportunities to practice pre-cueing tunnels, which you can see in the video below.  Both of them happened to be front crosses but the same concept can be applied to post turns/ shoulder pulls.

turn_after_tunnel_pre_cue_2(above) photo of Lil exiting the tunnel after pre-cue #2.   Fantastic to see it from this angle.

NADAC is now using barrels in place of C-shaped tunnels (for safety purposes if you were wondering).  I have done a fair amount of training with barrels and have come to see them like tunnels in that they both have an entrance and exit and both cause the handler to disappear from a dog’s sight for a moment.  The HUGE difference between tunnels and barrels is that a tunnel has one entrance and one exit.  A barrel, on the other hand, has one entrance and 180+ exits  🙂 so dogs really need to know BEFORE a barrel, which exit to take to AFTER the barrel… Is the exit a 270, 180, 90 degree turn or is it barely a turn at all.

In Lil’s first Touch N Go course she ran around a barrel twice:  the first time at 0:45 and the second time at 1:00.    I think the video clearly shows that Lil knew exactly which “exit” to take both times.   My intent in pointing this out is not to brag but rather to show the benefit of pre-cueing tunnels…and barrels if you run in NADAC.

On another note, my new pop-up Quechua tent debuted this weekend and I love it.  Even with huge wind gusts, it barely swayed while other tents were flapping like crazy.  It was so convenient to have a ringside tent, especially on Saturday when the trial was running small to tall!  I think I know why the designers made this tent green… because it makes people turn green with envy when they find out this tent in not available in the United States. 🙂

Quechua Base Seconds pop up tent

11 thoughts on “Using body motion as pre-cues for tunnels and barrels.

    • HA HA HA HA HA! Yes. I was (and am) totally bragging about my new and FABULOUS tent which I think I will start referring to as the “green with envy tent.” 🙂 Congrats on your amazingly PERFECT Bonus Line run with Mia and your fabulous runs with Zodi.

    • Kristin, Can you see in the video how I used an “early arm” in both front crosses, which started the rotation of my upper torso towards Lil before she entered the tunnel so the last thing she saw before disappearing was me starting to do a front cross, which let her know to turn after the tunnel vs. to continue running straight ahead.

      I think it is easier to see on the pre-cue #2 due to the camera angle. Dogs are so responsive to our motion that just a hint that a front cross is coming is indicated a turn after the tunnel.

      I also use verbal directionals as pre-cues (TUNNEL RIGHT or TUNNEL LEFT before my dogs enter tunnels) but since dogs follow motion better than verbals, I consider verbal cues as icing on the cake as long as I can start my motion early enough for my dogs to see it before they enter a tunnel vs. not starting the front cross until after the dog has entered the tunnel.

  1. I do pre cue tunnels with my dogs too. However I don’t find I need it very often in NADAC 🙂 In your weavers video I would have just done a blind in the first spot since the turn seemed much more gradual than in the second location where an immediate tight turn was definitely needed to not overshoot the hoop.

  2. The reason I chose to do a front cross between those tunnels vs. a blind cross after that second tunnel was due to 2 reasons. 1) That first straight tunnel was facing another tunnel, and to the right of that tunnel was a hoop.. and to the right of the hoop was the “correct” tunnel. So the pre-cue front cross was intended to let Lil know it was NOT either of those options since she would be seeing both while still in the first tunnel.. before she could see me. 2) After the second straight tunnel, there was a hoop straight ahead and a hoop to the left but it was unusually far from the tunnel.. and close to the WC straight-on hoop but at a 90 degree angle (making it less visible for dogs as they came out of the tunnel. Because if its distance from the tunnel (at least 18 feet) and proximity to the more visible hoop.. plus the path after the hoop, I felt a blind cross after tunnel #2 might have cued too tight of a turn, causing Lil to miss the 90 degree hoop, since she would likely have come out of the tunnel looking for me vs. looking for an obstacle to take since I crossed the tunnel exit while she was in the tunnel. But in the end, my handling choice was based on a deeper (HA HA) purpose. I wanted to see if I could get Lil to run that course without even glancing at a WC obstacle (and I succeeded) because many dogs were coming out of that first tunnel looking at the WC tunnel ahead and comign out of the second tunnel looking at the WC hoop ahead. The one other option I considered, which would have worked as well for the first discrim was to have hung way back and sent Lil forward through the weave poles and then through the hoop inot tunnel #1 so that my position near the exit of tunnel #2 would have let her know that this was the correct tunnel to take next. The reason I didn’t choose that option was mostly because it was Lil’s 10th run of the weekend and I thought her weave poles might be pokey with me totally hanging back vs. supporting her path with my motion. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

      • Yeah! And being practically the last dog in that class allowed me to watch a bunch of dogs run (with different handling choices) which totally changed my handling plan. The funny thing about discrims when watching video is you can’t see them unless the dog thinks about taking a WC obstacle. Kind of funny actually!

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