Weave Poles

Topics: Contruction  |  Training  |  Trouble-Shooting


The chute and wire method of training weave poles, in which you split the poles apart into a chute with wires connecting them, works well for most dogs. Work on entering the poles and weaving on right and left while the poles are still a chute. Insist that the dog works the poles with speed at each step before he can move to the next step. Slowly move the poles together, until the chute becomes weave poles with wires. Continue to work on entries, as well as reliability and speed.

Once the dog is solid on the poles with wires, begin removing the wires, one at a time. Remove one wire, then replace it and remove another wire, then replace it and remove another wire, etc. When the dog weaves with any one wire off, remove two wires, replace them, remove two more wires, etc. Continue on in this manner, until the dog is weaving reliably, with speed, entering the poles on its own, and weaving from both sides.
(Billie Rosen)

You can also train weave poles on a chute without the "wires". The method was described in the NCDA newsletter by Pat Guticz. Position the poles at 36" centers and placed them alternately such that a 2-3 foot path is created. Do recalls through them, perhaps using a Flexi. Do recalls 2-5 times at least 4-6 times daily for about 4-5 days, then over a period of 7 days, reduce the width of the path, still doing recalls(with a treat at the end). If your dog misses a pole, try again after widening the distance between poles. Finally, set the poles as below, first far apart, and gradually getting smaller lateral displacement until they were in line. You might want to train with 14-16 poles.
(Jerry Ranch)

You can also use the weave-a-matic to teach proper entry, left and right weaving and speed in the poles. It's pretty obvious what amount of tilt requires a dog to begin to snake his back around, and you can stay below that for a puppy. You most CERTAINLY can teach even a puppy proper entry from any angle, any distance, both sides, and poles at a distance. AND -- you can get speed. All you have to do is train the dog to run down the middle of it -- then increase distance and angles. (Lynda Oleksuk)

The key when using the weave-a-matics is to never let the dogs jump over the poles from the beginning. This is easily achieved by working the dog on leash and starting with the poles flat on the ground -- you train for teaching the dog to go through the chute of leaning poles at a speedy trot or a canter but you don't let them jump. As the poles are raised, the dog starts to naturally bend around them in order to get through the chute. If a dog gives any inclination of trying to jump poles at this point (a few dog will sometimes try to jump over the last two poles) you work with the dog on leash again and hold him back to fast trot. (Monica Percival)

If the dog begins jumping through the poles at high speed, put the dog back on leash. Use the leash to give her a quick check when she attempts to leap through the chute of bent poles. You don't want to dampen her enthusiasm and significantly slow her down, but she needs to learn that she must drop her gait a notch in order to weave. You can also use a Flexi lead to allow the dog to go ahead of you but still give you a way of giving the dog a check if she starts to leap. The dog must learn the proper "rhythm" and gait for weaving. A large part of weaving is muscle memory.

If you are using a target at the end of the poles, the other thing you can do is move the target *very* close to the end of the chute. This will tend to slow the dog down a bit since they don't want to overshoot the reward, and will prevent the dog from leaping out of the last couple of poles.

Usually, a few sessions with a leash will allow the dog to become comfortable trotting quickly through the chute.
(Monica Percival)

The trick when using the chute method is every time you narrow the channel put the dog back on lead and walk the dog through many times so he becomes comfortable with the wires. Peter Lewis goes over this technique in detail in both of his video tapes. Basically it involves a routine that you repeat over a period of days or weeks each time you narrow the channel. It goes something like this:

  1. Walk dog down channel on lead many times.
  2. Sit dog with shoulder next to first pole on left and recall dog through channel (many times).
  3. Run along with the dog through the channel (many times).
  4. Send dog away through channel (many times).
  5. Work various angles right and left entering channel.
  6. Add a jump at beginning and end of channel working various angles.
  7. Use a short sequence of obstacles that include the weave pole channel.

Then when the dog is executing the channel under all these conditions, narrow the channel and go through the sequence all over again starting from number 1. Be patient if the dog is making mistakes, don't be afraid to widen the channel and work through the sequence again. If you can view Lewis' video tape, by all means do so. (Kent Mahan)

Guide wires have to be removed gradually/ incrementally so the dogs don't even realize they are being weaned off of them. It is not a problem as long as the process is gradual and you make sure the dog is solid and fast before taking the next step. Some dogs go slow at first and you want to get them up to speed with motivation (whatever works for your dog -- food, toys, tons of praise, etc.) before you even think about removing a wire.

Start with short sequences and build up the length as speed increases. At that point, remove the wire from only one turn in the middle of the sequence. Your dog should be so solid, that he doesn't even notice the absence of one wire. Then put that wire back, and take off a different one (perhaps on the other side). Make sure that you don't take off the wires on the entry or exit poles as these insure entry on the proper side and completion of the whole sequence.

Gradually (*very gradually*), after you have varied the individual wire removed, you start removing 2 at a time, again varying which two (they need not be consecutive wires at first). Then you work up to removing 3 at a time and so on. The very last wires to be removed are those on the entry poles. This can be a long process, depending on the individual dog. The key is not to rush it. If you have trouble weaning your dog from the wires it may be because the dog is not quite ready to move to the next level, or you are trying to remove too many wires too fast. (Nadia Barrett)

Start out by learning on the V method. The poles are tilted so the dog just runs straight down them. They are slowly tilted up to normal position. The dogs learn it much faster and with greater speed. You can build a set with PVC pipes that can also transfer to outside (stick in the ground) poles. With the poles tilted you can work on the problem areas much easier until the dog understands the If a dog has problems with the entry and misses the first pole, tilt it so that he has to go around it correctly. This can also help with entering from angles, working off the right etc.. You can set it up so that the dog never fails, this builds up confidence and speed. (Elaine Striler)

Here's another method for training with adjustable weave poles:

Note: Dogs should have a very solid off-leash recall before beginning training. Begin with the weave base at widest adjustment-last six poles with wires on, first six poles with wires off support and laying at the side. Instructor holds dog with dog's head (ears) in line with the 1st upright pole, handler at far end showing motivator in the center and very near the floor of the weaves. Remember - call the dog using the command "WEAVE". Never use their name. One run, then add two more poles and wires. Run dog as above. Second run, then add two more poles and wires. Run dog as above. Third run, then add last two poles and wires. Start now to alternate hands holding the motivator and start to alternate sides of weaves. Beginning tips - wires on ALL poles - poles adequately separated for dog size. Instructor holds dog in line with poles about 1 metre outside the weaves. Hold motivator for dog close to the floor and call dog using the "WEAVE" command. As soon as dog exits the weaves (to the very split second) REWARD, food and verbal. Usually 8 - 10 reps will be sufficient training for this phase. When dog has learned this, add a jump. This now becomes part of the weaves, about 2 -5 metres from the end. Repeat sequence BUT with handler motivating from beyond the end of the weaves. LOTS and LOTS of reps. Remember to REWARD, reward, reward. When the dog appears to have an inkling of what is expected, handler alternates sides of weaves and tosses the motivator over the jump. Jackpot sometimes. Introduce the dog to the idea of entering weaves from a slight angle left and right. VERY, VERY, slowly increase the angle. Lots of motivation from the handler. Keep tossing the motivator. Reduce number of times for food reward but keep up the verbal. For this stage, the dog is started by the instructor with the handler at the far end acting as a motivator. Handler gives commands and praise.

Intermediate Tips - wires on ALL poles - poles adjusted 10 - 20m centimetres out of alignment. Beginning techniques same as above. As dog becomes more confident about using the weaves, handler moves down right side of weaves about three poles towards the dog. The dog is put on a sit or wait at the beginning with the handler close to the dog and giving the "WEAVE" command and moving quickly down the right side of the poles. Here's the tricky timing part. As soon as the dog reaches the second last pole, toss the motivator over the dog's head to land 1 - 2 metres in front. REWARD. Lots and lots of reps. Handler now begins to move closer to the start of the poles. Handler starts to alternate sides of the weaves. Still use the "WEAVE", start to reduce the food treats but keep up the verbal praise. Keep up the "toss-over-the-dog" motivator but now do every 3rd or 4th run. Weaves can be VERY gradually brought together until in line. Intermediate/Advanced - wires on ALL poles - poles in line. Techniques still same as above. Start to remove wires - ONE at a time from the middle towards the ends. If the dog pops out, replace all wires, do 3 runs, then remove wires one at a time. Lots and lots of reps. Rushing your dog now will mean TONS and TONS more time in the future trying to correct. Start to increase your distance from the poles. Remember to work both sides. If the dog or handler makes same mistake twice in a row, go back to a lower level of training. First two and last two wires stay on at all times. Only when you think YOU and YOUR DOG are ready for competition do you remove the last wires. Even when competing, practice with the wires more times than without. And a few rules: Dogs are always off-leash. Don't use your hands to guide the dog through or between. Don't be scrimpy about your praise. Dogs are never embarassed if you make a fool of yourself. Never give up. Train the handler - don't shoot the dog.
(Don Hooper)

To help train a dog on right-side weaves, start with the tilt method and work the dog on your left until they have the entry part down good. Then make them stay and stand at the beginning of the poles and call weave and follow them down the poles to the treat at the end. If they do one pole wrong - no treat. Keep advancing yourself down the poles and calling the dog to do the poles until you are at the end of the poles with the treat and the dog did the poles by themselves. Then, start working your way back up the left side of the poles. Eventually, you are working your dog on the right thru the poles and the dog didn't know how that happened. Having weave poles in your house and doing it a lot helps. (Elaine Striler)

When training weaves, try changing the appearance and sequence of the poles. Have some striped, like a barber pole, while others have nothing. Have some with tape just at the top. Try having your dog do poles with alternating striped and plain poles. Then alternate the first half with striped/solid poles and then throw in a sequence of just striped ones and finish with a sequence of plain ones together. (Carol Mount)

It's not a bad drill to practice sending your dog to the weaves from all different angles. Also send at different speeds which work off of a variety of different angles. The Rule of 5000 applies (anything you do 5000 times .. you *own* it).

Use a sequence of jumps to set up speed into the poles. When you are doing a pretty good job of gating your dog into the poles at some speed, be daring... put a short distance between the final jump and the poles. (Bud Houston)

Here is a puppy kind of exercise that might pay dividends in the long run. This is a game in which you reward your puppy for entering the poles between 1 and 2, and circling #2 to return to you for a treat. Most puppies will catch on very quickly and will love the game. You can, and should, vary the angle and distance from which you ask the puppy to play the game (make the entry). The interesting thing is that by the time you actually start teaching the dog to weave, you already have a dog motivated to make a clean entry to the poles. (Bud Houston)

In order to gain speed on the weaves do not set them up in your home, unless you have 50 foot hallways!. To encourage your dogs to go fast through the poles you should never have go through them any other way--that is, they are always going from start to finish as fast as they possibly can--right from the time you first introduce them. Having a set of poles in your living room doesn't give the dog the opportunity of get up to speed prior to entering and after exiting.

Keep the poles out of doors and send your dog to them with great enthusiasm and speed. In channel weaving the dog can be correct always without your assistance. Flyballers out there may want to set up a game of weave pole flyball to encourage a faster run through the weave poles. Set up the weaves as one flyball jump--with guide wires at first, another jump, then your flyball box. Send your dog and call him back just like flyball. (Ideally you want to do this with a dog who already does a fast flyball run down AND back). Don't worry if your dog drops the ball upon return-- just keep him weaving fast. To really pump him up, add the distraction of an entire team doing this running against another team!
(Susan Garrett)

When working on the chute method for weave poles, the dog cannot really learn the entry and exit correctly until the poles are more or less in a straight line. As long as the two rows of poles form a corridor, the dog is just entering straight into a corridor. This is a very different approach from when the poles are in a straight line. With a proper set of weave poles, the dog must approach from the right hand side at an angle to the line of the poles. Similarly the dog will exit at an angle and not straight ahead There is several stages of achievement in training with the chute method.

STAGE 1 - poles in two rows approximately 15" apart

You will be walking backwards along the corridor with the dog following you closely on a short leash. Lots of encouragement is needed especially with the timid dog. This is just an introductory stage to show the dog there is nothing frightening about these poles. Normally once through for a confident dog, 3 times for an average dog and 6 or more for a timid dog. Use 8 poles initially as a full set of twelve might be too difficult and confusing. Spacing the poles 24" apart will make it easier for the larger dogs.

STAGE 2 - chute sides approximately 8" apart

The corridor width will depend on the size of the dog. The corridor with the training wires on should be slightly wider than the dog.

Dog will be on leash to prevent exiting from the side and to make the dog run. The dog must learn to run at speed through this corridor with the handler running along on the outside of the weave poles.

Peter Lewis, who invented the chute system, suggest setting a hurdle jump after the set of poles. This helps train the dog to carry on forward to the next obstacle. The jump will also stop the handler from turning back to the start too quickly and making the dog exit from the side.. For those dogs who really enjoy jumping the jump is a reward in itself. It also helps to keep the exercise from being boring. Weave, Jump, Weave, Jump is much more lively than Weave, Weave, Weave, Weave. If the dog likes to play with either a ball or toy, throw it for the dog to retrieve as a reward.

Remember you are training for speed so don't meander back to the start or make the dog sit or down or anything that makes the dog slow down. You must run as hard as you can from the far end to the start and enter the dog without any pause and run with the dog as it weaves.

Make all training as much fun and as exciting as you can Running with you is one of the biggest rewards you can give your dog. Just run across your lawn calling your dog as you go and see how excited it becomes. If your dog is confident and obedient you can take off the leash after you have got the dog up to the required speed. But be ready to put the leash back on if the dog exits from the side or if it slows down.

It is also essential that the dog becomes accustomed to the handler running on the left and on the right so change sides every time once the dog is happy with the obstacle. On the left this time and on the right next time.

STAGE 3 - slowly move poles into straight line.

Leave the training wires on and work at least initially with the leash on. This is the stage where the dog is learning to weave. Don't be in a rush by closing in the poles too quickly or by too much at a time (1/2" to 1" is satisfactory). You do not want to lose that speed or confuse the dog or make it exit from the side. You may be able to do away with the leash part way through this exercise if your dog is able to heel off-leash.

STAGE 4 - Poles in a Straight Line

Once the poles are in a straight line remove the training wires one at a time starting with the center ones. This can be done on or off leash depending on the dog.

If the dog takes advantage of the missing wire and does a side exit or a wrong entry, put the wire back on for a while and then try again. Guiding with the leash can also solve this problem.

Vary the exercise by not running with dog every time, Do recalls from the far end. Stand still at the beginning and send the dog to weave by itself. Go halfway and stop. Remember to keep changing sides. These variations can only be done off-leash so hopefully your basic training has advanced enough.

STAGE 5 - Reinforcing the Entry and Exit

During stage 4 the dog is learning to enter and exit correctly although that is not the purpose of that stage. Now put the first two wires back on at the entrance (one on the left and one on the right). Stand in line with the poles about six feet from the first one and send the dog to the weave poles. There should be no trouble with this as you will have done this many times in Stage 4. Remember to have the dog jump the hurdle at the far end and throw that ball or toy as a reward.

Now take a small step to the right so you are slightly to the right of the line. Have your dog on your left. Send the dog several times from this position until it is happily entering and weaving all the way to the end.

Round a bit further to your right and repeat. Do this until the dog will enter correctly from a position at right angles (still about six feet away) to the line of the poles.

Return to the in-line position and then repeat the whole performance with you moving round to the left a little bit at a time. The dog will be on your right for this part of the exercise.

When you have traversed round to the right angle position it is time to see if the dog has really learned the lesson properly. Take the training wires off and go through the whole performance starting in line and moving around to the right and then to the left. Just go back to the wires if you have any troubles and practice a bit more.

If you dog was not trained for the basic obedience commands of sit, down, come and heel before you started agility then training in these commands must be done as you are training for agility. The quicker your dog learns the basics the quicker you will make progress in agility. Remember dogs don't even wear collars in an agility trial.

STAGE 6 - remote work

This the stage where you are training for remote work. Repeat the entries from both the left and right as you did in Stage 5 standing at a greater distance, 6' to 7' to 8' up to say seven yards or twice that if you are ambitious. Of course if you are really ambitious stand about 7 yards away from the chute opposite the center of the poles. Then send your dog to either end with the use of hand signals. Slow but sure is the quickest way to success. Just another way of saying have patience and don't rush things.


When you have graduated from the training set it is back to the training wires used on a full set of twelve poles with pole spacing comparable with what you will meet in a trial. Use 20" as well at 18" as club weave poles will vary. Remember to practice weaving with an odd number of poles as well as practice with any number of poles from 5 to 12. This way your dog will be prepared for anything!

(Ian Pate)


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