Tunnel Threadles and Bypasses
What is a tunnel threadle? A tunnel threadle cue tells the dog to go to the opposite side of the tunnel they see. It is a trained verbal cue and hand signal, that tells the dog to automatically go to the opposite side of the tunnel. This cue should NOT tell the dog to come to the handler or look at the handler. Watch Chip in the video example above - he never looks at me when I give him the threadle cue - he automatically goes to the correct side. This is very helpful when I am behind him, as I often am ;)
You can have a specific threadle word just for tunnels, or it can be the same as your jump threadle word. I do think it can be helpful to have a verbal specifically for tunnel threadles...but I have also made it 8 years with Chip having the same verbal for tunnel and jump threadles and we've manged okay :)
Common verbal cues used - "here here", "come come", "in in".
What is a tunnel bypass? A bypass cue tells the dog to NOT take the obstacle they see and orientate on the handler until cued to do something else. This is a verbal cue and a physically cue of slapping your side. It is very important to use a verbal cue that is different from you threadle cue.
Common verbal cues - "here here" "with me" "side side" "wit wit" "close"
These two cues get confused a lot...in a sequence when your dog should NOT go into the tunnel at all - use your bypass cue. If your dog is going to go in the tunnel, just not the side they see first - use your threadle cue.
Tunnel Threadle Foundation -
Important tips -
Start as close to the correct side of the tunnel as you need to.
Dog is always rewarded after choosing the correct side of the tunnel. That is how we create the automatic drive to the correct tunnel entrance and avoid the dogs looking at the handler too much. They are never rewarded before the tunnel from the handler.
Show the dog your hand before you say your threadle verbal cue.
Repeat your threadle verbal cue until the dog is committed. Sometimes they will start to go, them stop and have a question. Repetition of verbal cues can help them keep going to make the correct choice.
Try to not move your lower body. We want this on a verbal and hand signal, so they dog will understand the cue even if you're behind them.
Randomize it, you don't want the dog to pick up on a pattern. Sometimes mix in obvious side tunnels by giving your tunnel cue.
Watch where your feet are pointing and where the dog is lined up. Look at my feet in the video, they stay pointed straight at the tunnel while I'm lining him up, and the dog's feet should be pointed the same direction as yours. A good line up is a key to success.
Change up the approach angles and distance. As the dog is successful, you should continue to move your starting position closer to the "wrong" side of the tunnel. You also want to add distance. Remember that you'll generally be coming from another obstacle at least 18 feet away. Continue to move farther away from the tunnel and build distance threadles. Build distance gradually and only add more distance with a good success rate.
Don't add the wing wrap too soon. I see this mistake a lot, don't rush through the the first stage of doing it with the dog at your side. Once you have worked through the first stages really well, then it is important to add movement and speed. Start wing the wing in a easy position and move it around to different locations. Now timing is really important! As soon as the dog is coming around the wing, you need to be giving the threadle cue so they have time to respond to it.
Tunnel threadles can be hard for a few reasons
1. They don't have enough value for going into tunnels. This is common with young dogs or less confident dogs. Make sure to train lots of easy tunnels and get the dog lots of rewards for going in. Until they love tunnels, don't start with threadles.
2. The dog doesn't know how to turn away from the handler, or they don't like to. Make sure they can do spins and twists on the flat, and can go both directions equally well.
3. They don't know how to send from a distance.
To help number 2 and 3, I like to do a circle game - depending on the dog you might start without doing a threadle, get the dog into the tunnel and toss a cookie near the exit a few times. The after a few reps, switch sides so they you can cue a threadle entrance. Start really close to the tunnel and continue to reward by tossing a cookie to the exit. Remember to cue them to get the food off the ground - "get it ". While the dog is inside the tunnel, move a small step away each time to build more of a distance send. As soon as they eat the cookie, begin to cue the next threadle. Repeat this circle loop until you're 15-20ft away from the entrance.
This is an example of how to work on building distance and how I handle it if they don't send to the tunnel.
Important Tips -
Use a specific verbal cue, make sure it is different than your threadle cue.
The hand closest to the dog slaps your side, and your hand needs to be empty to make an audible slapping sound. So hold your reward in the other hand, then transfer it over to reward.
Randomize cueing the tunnel. Make sure it is a clear and obvious cue.
Add speed gradually, don't skip steps.
Step 1 - Shoulder pull away from the tunnel.
Step 2 - both the dog and handler are stationary to start.
Step 3 - the dog is still stationary but the handler add motion. Start by only taking a few steps and walking forward.
Step 4 - then progress to running forward.
Step 5 - Add the dogs motion in by having them start with a wing wrap, but handler slows back down to a walk.
Step 6 - Dog still has a speedy approach, handlers adds speed and starts to run.
Threadles and Bypasses are both trained cues. That means you need to spend time training them in order for them to become reliable away from handling involvement. The better something is trained, the less help the handler needs to give physically. The less something is trained, the more help the handler needs to give physically. This can be hard if our dogs are faster than we are and we can't always get there to help them physically. Spend the time training these foundation behaviors well, then start to test them in sequences. This is a set up I like to use to practice both.
Depending on how much room you have, here are some different set ups you can use.
Another drill. Even if you don't have all the equipment, you can set up parts of it. Or just watch and observe the timing. I made a few mistakes that are helpful to learn from.
Set dog up at #1 so they are on a straight line to #3, drive straight to the tunnel with dog on right side. Run straight across to the #5 tunnel. You can cue the turn from 6 to 7 with a decel shoulder pull + bypass cue or a reverse spin. The spin might make some dogs turn too tight and miss the next jump, so know your dog! Threadle cue to 10.
You can cue 2 to 3 with dog on right side and a threadle cue, or by leading out and doing a recall. I chose the recall because it puts the handler ahead for #4. You'll see that Chip totally didn't read it the first time. So I didn't reward, tried it again and rewarded the better attempts.
When doing 4 - 5, it is important to cue the turn over the jump that proceeds the threadle. I do this terribly the first time and he knocks the bar. A good example ;) You want to decel and rotate towards the dog slightly on their approach to #4, this warns them that a turn is coming. Once they read that cue and begin to commit to #4, then start the threadle cue for #5.
Again, depending on your dog either cue a decel shoulder pull and bypass or a spin over #2.
Timing on threadles is really important, you'll see me be late over #5 and cause the bar to be knocked. He took off for the jump thinking he was going into the #1 side of the tunnel, then when I finally got my threadle cue out he had to change directions over the bar, which can make them knock it. Try to start your threadle cue right before they take off so they know where they are going next before they start jumping.