Dog Agility Weave Pole Trouble Shooting

weaves poles in groundSo you have been teaching your dog how to perform the weaves and all is going according to plan until you decide you would like a little more speed on those weaves. You are at a loss as it all seems to fall apart and your dog actually gets slower, so you think. There are several things to consider when your dog seems to lose their accelerator.
  • Does your dog actually understand weaving?
  • Is it only the weave poles they slow up on? (it may actually be less noticeable on other obstacles?)
  • Weave pole spacing (especially since if you have a long-backed dog).

The best way to see if you missed a step in your weave training is to go back to the basics with your dog. Don’t linger there too long, move on as soon as you are sure they understand the step. You may want to incorporate a different technique instead of going back through your entire training process. Some dogs need more help in learning how to move through the weaves and can be greatly helped by using weave wires. They allow your dog to put more energy and focus on muscle memory and the mechanics of weaving without worrying about wrong performance.

It may be that your dog just doesn’t understand the concept and needs more practice. You can always speed things up, but it takes a lot of time to fix a bad habit caused by asking for too much speed too soon. Also check your energy, are you using corrections, a no no, or are you using a cheery voice and yummy treats? Corrections will actually slow your dog down as they fret on making a mistake or try to avoid a correction. You need to make this a fun event with upbeat tones and toys or treats that motivate your dog. Save the best treats for improvements and use an encouraging voice for all work.

If you are sure your dog understands the weave pole as an obstacle, you may need an extra pair of eyes to watch and see if your dog lacks overall drive. If this may be the case, work on exercises that reward drive and speed. Be certain your dog understands you reward speed. You may want to try using channel or slanted (V) weaves set up to build drive through the weaves until your dog understands what you are looking for.

If you think it is a conformation issue, set up a video or find a helper to video tape your dog going through the weaves. Does he seem to be bending his back a lot? Is his stride off? Consider moving him onto 24″ weaves and see if that helps him. Try mending the striding by doing a weave pole dance, or setting cavallettis before the weaves to get him entering on the right side, with the right foot. You’ll have to watch carefully to figure out which foot that is for him.

On a more rare note, it could be that your dog is hurting their feet on the support bar of the weave set. Check your dog’s toenails and see that they are correctly trimmed to avoid them hitting the base or worse, getting them caught in the supports or other pieces of equipment. Losing a toenail will zap drive from even the most ardent runners. If toenails aren’t the issue, and you don’t plan on competing, a simple fix is to use ‘stick in the ground’ weave poles. If you do plan on competing and none of the above suggestions help, you should work with your vet to find an underlying issue that is causing your dog stress in the weave poles.