How To Train Solid Weaves in Dog Agility
Dog Training isn’t easy or everyone would be doing it successfully. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. There are two things that will help you to become a better trainer for your dog. 1) Remember the answer is only obvious to you, the teacher. The dog has to do a series of guessing before he stumbles onto the correct answer. Then he has to test that answer to be sure it is correct. 2) When you think your dog knows the answer, he actually has no clue. Yes, he may be guessing correctly, but what you don’t know is what he thinks the answer is. You are thinking “over” means take any jump. The dog is thinking “over” means jump the green and white sticks.
And while many dog agility obstacles are “natural” for the dog, the weaves are more in line with trick training. It is an unnatural movement that serves no purpose to the dog and we want him to do it on command. It is at this point that you will see differing ideas on how to train the weave poles. Some believe you have to teach the muscle memory then get speed while others feel you should break down the obstacle and teach drive from the beginning.
Regardless of the method chosen you must give your dog the time he needs to understand what you want from him and you must take the time to get him solid with practice and proofing at one level before moving up the degree of difficulty. Don’t get discouraged if you dog is completing the weaves “perfectly” one day and then another he seems to have forgotten everything. Remember, he really does not know the answer and is still exploring other options. Go back in your training to the point he can do it successfully and start again from there. Always set your dog up for success in training. For a complete line of weave pole training equipment click any of the pictures or visit www.AffordableAgility.com
Here are the most popular methods of training the weaves starting with the channel or chute weave poles. With this method two sets of poles, left row and right row, are spread apart from the center line to create the channel or chute. The dog is taught to run through the chute as the two sets are gradually brought closer together. The poles are not slanted and the dog learns the weave movement as the poles get closer together and eventually form the straight line. You want to go in small steps so you don’t confuse the dog and force him to pop out of the weaves in the early stages. Don’t sacrifice correctness for speed. As the dog learns exactly what is required he will gain confidence and speed.
The push/pull method of teaching a dog weave poles requires the handler to literally lure the dog, push the dog away from and pull toward the handler, through the weaves with bait or leash. It can also incorporate the use of the slanted poles to help the dog understand. Some will instruct the handler to repeat “weave” as the dog is being guided through the obstacle.
The wired weave poles are much like the push/pull method in that you lure the dog through the complete (6 poles) set of poles right from the beginning. Wires connect to the poles and define the dog’s path through the poles by making a “channel.” The wires are gradually removed, usually from the center first, until only the poles remain. There are different styles of wires used, but they all employ the same training principle of gaining muscle memory and shaping the performance of the weaves then adding drive.
The 2×2 method. In this method of training the weave poles are broken down into 3 sets of 2 poles each. Normally starting with one set the dog is taught to drive between them like a jump standards. You practice different angles and then add a second set teaching the dog to drive through both sets. Again, practicing angled entries. As the dog understands you start moving the sets into line with each other bit by bit until they form a straight line. Don’t be in a rush to get the poles in that line. Get your dog solid at each level and then add poles two at a time until the dog is doing the full set. Some will get to three sets of two before bringing them into line.
The angled, bent or slant pole weaves use a system of poles that can be angled off the center line, alternately left and right, while the base remains on the center. Some can adjust all the way to a 90 degree angle from the vertical allowing the dog no contact as it makes it’s way down the center line. The poles are then slowly brought up. The Weave-A-Matic is a special set of weave poles designed by Monica Percival (Pipe Dreams) to teach weaves using the leaning poles method.
As you can see there are several options for teaching the weave poles to dogs and all seem to work as long as the handler stays consistent, sets the dog up for success and takes the time the dog needs at each level before increasing difficulty. Remember, that can be as simple as placing the weaves in a different area of the yard. You need to proof your dog and work on entry angles before advancing to the next level as well. And always be gracious to your dog in the learning phases. If he needs to back up and work at a lower level, give that to him until he regains his confidence and abilities at that level. The end results will be well worth the wait.