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Have you really trained your dog's tunnel performance? By Deborah Davidson Harpur

When I saw a dog get confused going into an S-shaped tunnel at a local trial, I was reminded that we take it for granted that our dogs have seen all shapes and sizes of tunnels. Designing this course with different tunnel shapes was done mostly for my novice students, but I expanded it as a challenge for those more advanced.

The white circle course (#1-#11) was my intro-level option. It was smooth, flowing, and without a lot of hiccups. Don't worry, those came later.

The dark circle course (#1-#14) introduced a sharp turn out of an exit of a straight tunnel (#2-#3) and asked the handler to figure out how he or she was going to turn the dog off of an off-course tunnel to a jump at #5-#6 (the off-course tunnel is #10). Later at #11-#12, handlers had to determine how to keep their dogs off a straight tunnel off-course sitting right in front of them to take a different tunnel (#12) that's not so obvious.

The white square course added more challenges. Handlers had to consider their dogs' speed, which way they wanted the dog to turn around the wing jump (#3-#4), which side of that S-shaped tunnel they wanted to be on to set themselves up for success later in the course, and then figure out the same things on the same tunnel going a different direction later in the course (#15-#16). There is no one right answer. There is a right answer for YOUR team and your handling. 

Here's a blank map so you can design your own course based on this set-up. Happy tunneling!

This article is part of a new Training Tuesday series that is appearing on USDAA's facebook page. We encourage you to discuss the courses on our facebook, and to upload videos of you and your dog trying one of them out. If you have a facebook account, please join in the fun here: 

Deborah Davidson Harpur has been competing in agility since 1999 and is known as a handler of a wide variety of breeds of all shapes and sizes. She offers agility training classes in the Port of Los Angeles area for both recreational and competitive agility students. You can find her on facebook at or read about her dogs at


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