Perfect Entries

Q. Zero, my big Dalmatian, always misses his entry to the weaves.  As soon as he misses it, I call him back and we start again.  Second time around he gets his entry no problem and does the rest of the poles beautifully.  How can I make sure he gets his entry on his first attempt?

A. By teaching him to get it at the first attempt!  You are starting from a halt when you go for the second time and there is a big difference…

Zero has not yet learned to nail his weave entry when he approaches the poles at speed.  When he is running a course,  Zero is accelerating from one obstacle to the next.  He’s a big dog and it isn’t easy to squeeze himself between two poles when he is in top gear…

The first  two poles Your first step should be to make sure that Zero understands weave entries.  Set up two  poles in your garden about 24in. apart.  Position Zero so that the poles are in front of him- a big welcoming doorway.  You can click as he goes through the gap but make sure he runs on to his toy or his treat bag to ensure that he continues moving forward.  You don’t want him looking back at you for his reward.  Repeat until Zero is driving through confidently.  Don’t stand still.  Accustom him to your movement.  Run on his left and run on his right.

The squeeze Instead of starting the exercise with the two poles directly in front of Zero, begin by placing him a little to their left.  The size of the gap between the poles remains the same, but it will look a little smaller from this angle.  Continue moving in an arc to the left.  Zero will be squeezing between the poles as the entry becomes more oblique with each move.  Eventually the two poles will appear to be in a straight line and the approach will finally look like the entry to the weaving poles that you see in competition.  Remember that you are moving Zero, not the poles, and Zero should accelerate through each time.  Keep him moving forward by continuing to throw a toy or treat bag ahead of him.  Now do it all again with your dog on your right side.

More poles You should now have good entry to the weaves.  Zero has learned to aim for the gap in the first two poles and to squeeze himself through. Add more poles a afew at a time.  Keep his rhythm going.  Once he is in, there should be no problem.  It’s just one squeeze after another.  Continue to run with Zero on the left and right.

More Agility The weaves never stand alone in the middle of a course.  It’s time to practice them in combination with other pieces of agility equipment.  Add a jump before the weaves.  Does Zero still get his entry?  Reward him with a jump after the weaves if he wiggles through each and every pole.  Once you have re-taught and proofed your weave entries Zero will be perfect on his first attempt.]

Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
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