Teaching Weave Poles
Apr 26, 2015
When teaching weave poles:
1) Start by using spread weaves to build speed, where your dog runs through the interior of the wide poles. Have a spotter hold your dog by the leash or collar while you walk through the middle of the weave poles, turn, face your dog, and call your dog through the spread poles. Your dog should run to you with enthusiasm.
2) Continue Step 1 with some adaptations. No longer use a spotter. Instead, start with your dog in a down stay, walk outside the weave poles to the opposite end, then call your dog through the poles. If using a leash during this stage, be careful that the leash does not get caught around the poles, which may frighten your dog and inhibit progress.
3) Continue Step 2, except run alongside your dog, where you are on the outside of the weave poles and your dog remains between the poles. Use a leash at first if your dog starts to drift outside the poles. If using a leash, hold the leash high enough so that it does not get caught around the poles. When your dog drifts outward, gently manipulate the leash to guide your dog back to the center of the poles. At this stage you will also wish to rotate positioning yourself to the right and left of the poles. Your dog needs to become comfortable running the weaves, regardless of which side you are positioned relative to the dog.
4) Advance by using progressively tighter weaves, but where your dog can still run through the mid-line of the 12 weave poles. Use a leash at first to prevent errors and to establish correct positioning. Then, try off-leash when your dog is accurate at a specific width.
5) Once the weave poles become too narrow in width for your dog to run down the mid-line, convert to using a target stick with your dog on-leash. We usually use a presentation pointer as the target stick and place a hot dog on the end, like the pointer is a skewer. If you are on the right side of the weave poles, hold the target stick in your right hand and your leash in your left hand. If you are on the left side of the weaves, then do the reverse. Maneuver the target stick around the poles in a left-right-left-right position so that your dog properly weaves when following the stick. If your dog starts to make an error, simply response block your dog with the leash and/or your body so that your dog learns the correct left-right technique without error. If your dog completes an error by popping our of the weaves or moving in the wrong direction, withdraw the stick and either reinsert your dog in the correct position and finish or have your dog start again from the beginning. If your dog becomes frustrated, consider using just 6 poles instead of the full set of 12. Remember, always have your dog start to the right of the first pole.
6) When your dog is reliable on leash, where he/she appears to understand the left-right-left-right weave pole protocol, continue Step 5, but with your dog off-leash. Make sure to keep the movement of the target stick tight to the weave poles. The straighter your dog proceeds around each weave, the faster he/she will progress through the poles. If your dog has a high percentage of errors, then temporarily return to using the leash so that you can prevent error and pattern correct technique. If your dog is very successful, progress to the next step.
7) Next, wean the target stick and food, while substituting hand and/or body communication that prompts your dog to weave. Ultimately, to succeed at agility, your dog needs to perform for the sheer joy of the activity. Moreover, your dog needs to rely on you for communication regarding how to navigate the course. At this level, extended reliance on food for spatial positioning will retard progress. However, you may still use random food rewards (in conjunction with enthusiastic praise) when your dog does an exceptional job of weaving through all 12 poles.
8) In the penultimate step, reduce the amount of body communication so that your dog becomes less reliant on you when traversing the weave poles.
9) In the final steps distance yourself from the weave poles so that your dog runs more independently. Also, work on entrances, so that your dog knows to always start to the right of the first pole, regardless of whether you are positioned right or left and regardless of how distant from the poles you are positioned.
The following video shows CPT Advanced Agility students Becca and Inny during Step 7 of the above process:
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