Methods and Practices for Securing the Pipe Tunnel
The Kennel Club Regulation for the Pipe Tunnel is that the obstacle should have a diameter of a minimum of 609mm (2ft). At present many tunnels are secured with strapping (approximately two inches wide) or bungees, which when tightened can reduce the diameter of the tunnel by up to two inches or more. As a result, a dog enters a 2ft diameter tunnel and then is faced with a reduced diameter part way in.
Metal cradles are also often used under the tunnel to secure the straps or bungees, which in themselves present a potential risk to the dog, in particular on exiting the tunnel. Since the cradles are usually wider than the tunnel they also present a risk as the handler runs past of catching a foot between the tunnel and cradle; this could also apply to a dog that just misses the entrance and catches a paw in the same gap.
As tunnels get older and less rigid, through wear and tear, they also present a problem of not being able to maintain their shape and diameter, with the entrance and exit often considerably less than 2ft because they sag into themselves.
There is also a difference in quality of tunnels used at agility shows, usually shown in the differing thickness of the wire coil supporting the plastic covering; heavier gauge wire holds the tunnel shape much better when being fixed down.
There is also a tendency to tighten any type of fixing as much as possible in an attempt to stop the tunnel moving in competition, yet it still moves. A way to secure the tunnel to allow it to move with the dog's movements and then come back to the original position is needed.
One method is the 'saddle-bag' type of fixing which consists of a PVC-type material at least 24 inches wide to wrap over the tunnel and then fixed in position with stakes through the attached straps/eyelets close to the tunnel. These saddle-bag fixings can also be made with a pocket/pouch that can be filled with sand, using a Velcro type fastener, for use at indoor venues when stakes cannot be used.
- Equipment hirers should inspect their tunnels regularly for wear and tear, firmness and shape.
- Tight bends in the tunnel mean the diameter is automatically reduced by the concertina effect of the plastic. Good Judges can still build an exciting, challenging course with less severe bends in tunnels, and even with just straight tunnels.
- Using the saddle-bag fixing it should be possible to stake the tunnel to the ground without pulling it down too tight, allowing a little movement by just holding the tunnel in position. When stakes are used they should be close to and in perpendicular line to the tunnel, not allowing a gap-trap either side. Saddle-bag fixings should also have a flap attached that would cover the stakes when in position.
- On a five metre tunnel, ideally four saddle-bag fixings would hold it in position.
- It is quite common to use tunnels under the A-Ramp and Dog-Walk; judges should ensure that no part of the tunnel is actually touching or might touch any part of the contact equipment.