Sending to the Tunnel / Gamblers Training
I have to "baby sit" the tunnel opening like a contact. My Shelties run toward the tunnel (with one eye on me) and as soon as I stop running to the opening with them, they turn and bark or spin or just double check. Since running all the way to the tunnel opening or beyond is not the most advantageous, do you have any suggestions to help increase speed and distance?
With my Border Collies, I use a winter game that costs about $20 bucks to play. Toy-R-US has six-foot tunnels for kids. You can do this with puppies as well as dogs and you don't need a large area. I start with a hallway. Simply put a food dish down at end of the hallway (no tunnel yet). Bring the dog along to see where the dish is but don't let them eat any of it yet. On the way back down to the opposite end of the hall, I tell the dog, "Hmmm, hungry for supper? Do you want some fooood? Good cookies!". Of course my girls know ALL of the food words. Turn the dog around and hold on to it, actually holding it back. This will bring in the opposition reflex (which is another story). Then say, "Ready, set, GO!" and release the dog. I can guarantee you that a hungry dog will "charge" away from you without a second glance back.
Do this for a couple of days with both morning and evening meals, as well as, in between snacking. The dog will begin to get the idea of going away from you for food. Next, I put the tunnel in the hallway leaning against the wall with the side of it blocked by a x-pen (wire gating). Then I use a similar procedure to what I described above. I toss a small container with food inside or a ball (depending on which excites your dog more) to the other side of the tunnel. Make sure the dog sees this, get it excited (with food or play words), hold it back, and say "Ready, set, GO!". With this procedure, you are standing still and the dog is racing away from you.
This is actually part of the start of "Gamblers training". The dog is being sent away from you and has a really good incentive. I then progress daily from straight on (close) to the tunnel and increase the distance away. I know I have provided a strong incentive and the dog will be successful. After the dog is successful with being sent straight on at a distance, we go to find the "blind" tunnel entrance. I use the same set up, but put the dog off to the side of the tunnel and have her find the entrance. The first time I tried this, the dog ran from one side to the other and tried pouncing off the outside of the x-pen and but soon "found" the tunnel entrance. The next day was a different story. Zip, into the tunnel and to the food.
So now that the dog can find the tunnel entrance from a distance and from off to the side, you can move it into the living room (provided your husband is not watching football on TV). Work the same as above, but with minimal movement on your part. If you are smart, you can even incorporate right and left into this training (but that, too, is another story).
Another important bit of advice I can give is to NOT cross behind the dog when going into the tunnels if the dog is not "tunnel sure". It will "pull them out" of the tunnel. They will turn around to see why you are cutting out on them. It is as if the dog is saying, "Hey Chief, where are you going?". Crossing behind should be taught as a proofing exercise after your dog is "tunnel sure".
Provided with positive incentives dogs can and will work away from their handlers. Of course, it is easier to train a pup to do this than a dog that has been obedience trained for many years. I used this technique successfully with my adult, Velcro dog "Raven" and believe that you can be successful with it too.