Pipe Tunnel / Dogwalk Discrimination

Out of our Thursday night fun run we turned a segment of the course into a study of handling for a difficult discrimination. We have a pipe tunnel under a dogwalk with the dogwalk set nearly perpendicular to the lines of approach. That means turning the corner into the discrimination at full speed behind the dog.

At the back of my head were opportunities for the “Out” and more immediately implications of the attitude of the handler’s lead.

I’m closing up the transitions between obstacles just a bit to prepare some of my students for play in the TDAA. While the distance between obstacles in the sequences I’ve drawn below are uncomfortably close for people who play in the big dog venues… the spacing is very generous compared to courses in TDAA competition. Next week I’ll be tightening it up even more.


All of that said… we start with a simple hairpin discrimination challenge. I call it a “hairpin” because we can bend the dog back sharply coming out of the pipe tunnel so that the two obstacles are never presented as side-by-side choices. The biggest problem handling the transition between the pipe tunnel and the dogwalk is handling the transition rather than directing the dog.  Some handlers will run to the exit of the pipe tunnel and wave their arms about the dog’s head and pretty much spoil the opportunity to tell him where he’s going next.

I will encourage my students to step to the opposite side of the pipe tunnel entry so as the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel the handler is already at the top of the ascent ramp making a presentation of that ramp to the dog from a forward position. It’s quite amazing that more than 90% of dogs will see the ramp and get up on it with the handler at some distance and without any arm waving at all.

It’s worth practicing this way so that both the dog and handler can become comfortable with the idea. And if you think about it, it is far more likely that the dog might need support from the handler on the descent rather than the ascent.


What I would really like to do is turn the corner and run, tell my dog to “come! walk up!” But I’m a man who likes insurance. It’s probably a pretty good idea to get the body cues right.

If you remember my discussion of the attitude of the arm… in our work last night we talked about how the dog translates the lift or drop of the handler’s lead. For the most part in this sequence we want the dog in obstacle focus. But in that little moment of the turn to the dogwalk the handler turns to face down the length of the dogwalk and drops his lead tight against his body or makes the presentation with a pulling hand. The moment of handler focus is hardly more than a flicker.


This is a tougher little sequence than it looks. Already we have patterned the dogs to either go up the dogwalk or into the right side of the pipe tunnel. So it will be a handling moment to make the turn all the way to the left side of the pipe tunnel.

If the handler can be forward of the dog this is a great opportunity to practice a Front Cross. In our work last night this became more of a discussion of the Post & Tandem movement. This is actually a simple movement, popular among fast dog handlers. The handler simply draws the dog on a Post until he’s out of danger of a wrong course to either of the first two options, and then pushes off in Tandem.

If a Post & Tandem is going to fail, it’s usually in the Post. The handler should turn after jump #3 and make a very real presentation of jump #5; and then, as I said, when the dog is out of danger of a wrong course to either of the first two options, and the handler pushes off in Tandem. But often a handler having no real intention of going to jump #5 will be unconvincing in the turn. And you know what the dog’s going to do if unconvinced he’s going to take a wrong course option.

This sequence continues to be interesting, after the pipe tunnel. There’s a very real possibility that a Front Cross as the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel will put him off course up the dogwalk. So there’s a timing trick here in which the handler must watch the dog past the corner of approach to the dogwalk before committing to the Cross. And the more the corner draws out of the pipe tunnel the more the consequential path after jump #5 will set a perpendicular approach to the weave poles. Like I said… the sequence continues to be interesting.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.


4 Responses to “Pipe Tunnel / Dogwalk Discrimination”

  1. Jon Says:


    At what point does a Tandem Turn turn into a rear cross? I’ve always defined a TT as a rear cross that occurs very close to the landing side of a jump, while defining a rear cross as pretty much all other positions between the two obstacles. In this case I would hold a post turn until my dog’s head/line was close to parallel with Jumps 3 & 5 then take one or two strides towards the tunnel and rear cross somewhere in the middle between 3 & 4. I think you are describing essentially the same thing, but the use of the TT suggests that you are crossing closer to 3.


    • budhouston Says:

      Hey John,

      Of course a Tandem Turn is a form of the Rear Cross. The Tandem is conducted on the dismount of an obstacle or on the flat. It’s the on the flat sort of Tandem that I was describing here.

      Sorry to hear you can’t make it to Rondout. Though I understand completely that if you’re trial sec’y at your own trial everyone will expect you to be there. I’ll make sure to dedicate a sequence to you while I’m there. lol


  2. jon Says:


    Fair enough, make the sequence tough for a fast dog. I seem to be running into a lot of USDAA courses that have a specific section that is designed to cause problems for fast dogs.

    Do you have any seminars in the Northeast after Rondout?


    • budhouston Says:

      I can’t say that there is a policy in USDAA course design to cause problems for fast dogs. But it doesn’t take too much imagination to make it interesting for the fast dog handler.

      No I’m pretty sure I’m not scheduled for anything in the NE after Roundout.


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