August 22, 2014

The Last Inch: Closing the Weave Poles

With both the 2×2 method and the channel method, you ultimately get to a point where you are going from offset (by just an inch or less!) to inline. Many dogs and trainers struggle with this final step in the process. I have seen many dogs with near 100% success with one inch offset poles, and near 0% when they tried to take that leap to inline poles.

I taught my 16 month old puppy Venture with the 2×2 method. I didn’t like the huge drop in reinforcement rate as I tried to close the poles that final inch. I ended up trying to close the poles, opening them a little to get some success, and trying to close the poles again. After a few sessions, I came up with the following plan:

  • Set up a set of six poles offset just an inch or two (whatever distance leads to successful repetitions).
  • Set up a second set of six inline poles nearby (I chose to put them in a line to ease the transition).
  • Run the offset 6 and reward, using the reward to move into position for the inline set.
  • Attempt the inline 6, giving him 2-3 tries before going back to the offset 6.

My thought was that he would have weaves ‘on the brain’; that having just done 6 offset, he would assume the next attempt was the same; that his reinforcement rate would be at least 33% (1 rewarded offset rep for every 2 non-rewards on the inline set); and that I would wait for him to figure it out.

That moment came during the very first session with this method.

This first video shows a recent training session (his 2nd using this method).

A low angle and video review highlights the difference in footwork between the offset poles and the inline poles at this early stage in his training.

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  • This is my method for Weave Pole training.

    Step One: Teach the dog to pass between the space between two poles on a specific cue. This step, of course, is exactly like the 2×2 method, however, there is a difference. If the trainer would like, the width of the space between the set of two Weave Poles can fit the dog. That will most likely be less than the width of the space between Weave Poles used in competitions. For my Border Collie, I first started out with the space being ten-inches-wide between the two poles. But of course, as training progresses, I increased the space between the two poles, until it was twenty-four-inches-wide. See below.

    From Ten Inches o———-o To Twenty-four Inches o————————o

    The reason why I started with a smaller space is because it was easier for my dog to understand that she must pass between a space between two poles. That’s why I did not start with a twenty-four-inch space. Also, she became used to the feel of touching poles right from the beginning.

    Also, during Step One, it is very important that the dog learns to enter with the left shoulder touching the first pole, and exit with the right shoulder touching the last pole. This is because throughout a set of Weave Poles, there is always the Left Shoulder – Right Shoulder – Left Shoulder – Right Shoulder – Left Shoulder – Right Shoulder – and so on patter, which the dog must learn! When the dog knows this patter well, they have great entries and exits, and they are much less likely to pop out of the Weave Poles.

    Step Two: Now, it’s time to introduce the second set of two Weave Poles, but at a distance from the starting set of two Weave Poles. See below. But before asking the dog to weave all four poles, make sure the dog knows about the second set. I did this by having my dog watch me place the second set ahead of the first set, and then, I asked her to perform the second set a few times, before performing the first and second set together.


    Also, during Step Two, the dog should continue practicing wraps around the entry pole, but not the exit pole, even though the dog must still touch the exit pole. This is because the dog needs to learn to continue moving forward throughout an entire set of Weave Poles.

    Step Three: Over time, shrink the gap between the two sets of two Weave Poles, in order to form a set of four Weave Poles.


    Step Four: After the dog can weave a set of four Weave Poles well, it’s time to introduce the third set of two Weave Poles. See below.


    Step Five: Over time, close the gap to form a set of six Weave Poles. See below.


    Step Six: After the dog can weave a set of six Weave Poles well, there are two choices for moving onto a set of twelve Weave Poles.

    Choice one is similar to what Susan Garrett does, when she closes the gap between two sets of six Weave Poles.

    Choice two is to do what I did with my dog, which is to continue introducing sets of two Weave Poles to the existing set, until reaching a set of twelve Weave Poles.

    Step Seven: Only after the dog understands the Left Shoulder – Right Shoulder patter, and can weave a set of twelve Weave Poles well, is it time to practice entries and exits which the dog does not touch the first pole while entering, and does not touch the last pole while exiting. It would be much better if I could post pictures here to show you what I mean by this, but hopefully, you know what I mean by the dog not touching the first pole in a set when entering, and not touching the last pole in a set while exiting.

    The reason why I teach entries at all angles last is because the dog has got to learn that Left Shoulder – Right Shoulder patter. Only after they learn this patter and can weave at least twelve Weave Poles, do we start practicing entries from all angles.

    And also, if it’s needed, the poles may be offset (like a closing channel) at any time during the training. I did not offset any poles while teaching my dog, but I’m sure some may still want to do that.

  • As has been said, there are as many ways to train weaves as there are trainers. So here is a slight wrinkle…
    I don’t go to 6 poles until the dog is doing 4 poles in a perfect line (modified 2×2 method). He learns all the entries with just 4 poles.
    Then I have 4 straight poles and 2 offset. So my dog never sees 6 poles with all of them offset. He sees the 4 straight which he mastered and the 2 offset. Then that last 2 rotates into position.
    Once 6 are perfect, I add 2 more. Repeat all the entry work, speed work, jumps before/after and so forth. Then I add 2 more. and repeat. And so on until I get to 12 and then 14. However, I have only trained 2 dogs with this method…
    I’m with Steve on the low body position — would LOVE to have it. I tried to get it with my first dog two ways:
    1. cut down poles
    2. string along the poles
    Neither worked but it might be because I wasn’t persistent enough. The dog was already weaving well with an upright position.

    • Barb –
      I had that SAME thought once (when teaching rotties) about cutting the poles. Never got around to trying it, but I LOVE that analytical thinking ๐Ÿ™‚ I expect it might actually work if they STARTED cut down.

      I do think that working the extreme entries during initial training (2×2 method) encourages that low position because dogs naturally get low like that as they dig in to make the entries.

      • I taught my first 2 dogs to use low body position using the 2 methods Barb mentioned after closing the channel. My poles were short because that is all I had back then. Just for fun, I trained my new pup using 2×2 method.He learned to weave 12 poles in 2 weeks. Of course, we have lots more practice to do and I am using 6 poles
        and a combination of sets of 4. I was pleasantly surprised to see 24″ Chaos automatically use a lower body position. Maybe because of all the extreme entries we practiced from the beginning?. Or because my at home practice set has a pvc base and he needs to duck if he knocks them too hard. VBG

  • Great job!!! What a cool idea of helping in that area!! Like Steve pointed out there are soo many ways to train weaves or anything in agility really. I don’t have any formal agility training & my boy is my first agility dog. I basically just do a lot of internet searching for ideas & simply trying things out. Dogs really are forgiving so if something does not work it ok just move on:-) I struggled a bit in this area also & I now have a new up & coming agility puppy that I will keep this mind!

    The low driving weave style he has is AWESOME also!!! I noticed you throw your toy towards the ground. This is also how I do it most of the time & wonder how much that plays into their weave style being low? Hope it is ok if I share my latest video clips of my boy “Kibo” who is 19 months old doing weaves:-) However in this video I did throw his toy pretty high, oopps.

    • oh my gosh – what a cutie. Reminds me of my Denver!

      I’m not sure you can really get a low stance when you’re dog hops (and your dog HAS to hop). I think your pup looks AWESOME!

      I did note my thoughts on low position in my reply to Barb below.

  • Nice! The one foot vs. two foot when the gap goes away is nicely shown in that video!
    How did you train the low body position?

    A method I use is to vary the gap along the length of the same set of poles. So the first 2 might be at 2 inches, then 2 at 1 inch and last two at 0. I think the dog’s weaving motion/pattern keeps them going through the end. It also doesn’t mix the the “hitting the entry” at 0 spacing (channels)/ 0 angle (WAMs) with weaving at that spacing. But one might argue it could show the same symptoms as “last pole pop” if the dog can’t negotiate the final 0 spacing pair.

    There are as many ways to train weaves as there are trainers! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That low body position is just how he chooses to weave, though I admit that I LOVE it!

      As a side note, even though I’ve been working through distractions, I was surprised (happy surprised!) that he never looked at Esteban who was about 2 feet away from the poles laying on the ground with the camera. I especially expected Venture to choose running over and licking E all over vs making the inline entry. But he never blinked, did his poles, scooped up the toy and came right back to me. What a pup!!

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