Weave Poles

Topics: Contruction  |  Training  |  Trouble-Shooting


When having trouble training a large dog on a weave pole chute, one thought might be that the dog may be worried about bumping into things. A giant dog has probably been taught (or at least encouraged) to slow down & be exceedingly careful when there are things around that might get bumped into. So when you narrowed the chute, the dog may be trying to avoid touching the poles or wire. Here are a variety of approaches:

  • Narrow the chute down, then reinforce for bumping into the sides.
  • Restrained recall down the narrowed chute. Chase a canine buddy thru.
  • Use a stopwatch, & reward only if faster than average (Karen Pryor's Limited Hold).
  • Put some plumber's helpers in a doorway/hallway at home, so dog gets used to bumping them.
  • Go back to wide, fast chute, and narrow it down so gradually that dog won't notice enough to slow down.

When you get to actual bending & flexing, additional issues may come up with respect to dog's flexibility & using its rear. (Susan Waltman)

Dogs that pop out of poles are usually in too much of a hurry to get to their next obstacle --similar to dogs popping contacts. It is kind of a catch 22; we work hard to motivate our dogs to enjoy agility and then, when they enjoy it too much, this comes to work against us in missing the last pole or two. In the following training method, it is best not to be training alone or with just one dog because you are going to use your dog's love of the action to help you work through the problem.

Use any motivator you like. If you are going to use food on a target you must have someone standing by to take it away if the dog pops out of the poles. Then rev your dog up and send him both from the right side and the left, with you lagging behind and with you streaking off ahead of him. If at any time your dog ducks out of the poles (and he probably will), simply say "wrong" in a NEUTRAL, non-corrective, un-emotional voice--at which point your dog will immediately turn away from his motivator and come back to you in order to start again. If your dog does not turn back but proceeds ahead to steal his motivator, simply walk calmly over to him, take it out of his mouth, put it back where it was, and walk him off the course into a waiting crate or other confined area Be sure the crate is nice and close to the action because you are now going to take your other dog, or help a friend work a dog who is going to get that special motivator at the end of the poles while your poor dog watches and waits. If the dog does come back to you after you say "wrong" you simply start over at the end of the poles.

Keep repeating this sequence until your dog does the poles successfully, at which point you will "click", say "yes" or use any other conditioned reinforcer you may choose and let him get his reward---play, play, play. You must be very patient when you are trying to shape a dog; you may think he is never going to *get it*, but he will, and if you are truly using a neutral "wrong" command he will not give up trying.

Realize it can sometimes take *many* repetitions before the dog finally gets it right. Shaping does work, but you need to be patient and allow your dog to be wrong in order that he may discover, on his own, how to be right.

There are many roads up a mountain; they all lead to the top and none are necessarily wrong. This approach is simply a different path and it makes training a truly pleasurable activity not just for your dogs but for you as well. You will marvel at what you can accomplish by purely shaping a dogs' behavior while you are working on anything you can dream up to teach your dog.
(Susan Garrett)

With a dog that is reluctant to weave, teach them to weave one pole at a time. Put two poles up and just teach them to enter correctly. Each time they receive a lot of praise and a treat. Continue this for a while until they understand what you want. Then simply add one pole, and start all over. They will now need to weave out and in. Again praise and treat. Put the poles about 15 inches apart and continue this and hopefully the dog eventually get back confidence. (Curt Canaday)

Sometimes you will run into a dog that slows in the weaves over time. The main thing before trying what is about to be described is that the dog must be rock steady with the concept of weaving. You may want to concentrate on the weaves just for a few sessions while doing this. Grab a handful of really soft, smelly liver, or other fantastic treat and hold it just in front of the dog's nose as he weaves, at the end he gets to eat it. Next time, move the hand a little faster, and so on - when he misses a pole just calmly say 'wrong' and go back to the beginning of the weaves (this is why the dog must understand how to weave before you try this, otherwise the poor dog will never manage to get to the reward!). After a couple sessions he should be back up to his normal speed and the food down to kibble in a bag waved in front of him. Before returning to competition, move on to doing other equipment, but still reward the weaves as an individual obstacle. In a show, you should be able to just move ahead of him in the weaves with your hand out. The trick here is to make the weaves an exciting part of the course - some dogs do find the weaves intrinsically reinforcing but not all that many - for the rest of them, the dog must get some reward for doing the weaves fast and clean. For some dogs it can be a toy, for others a tug-game, for many food does the trick. (Tony Dickenson)

Be careful in competition that you don't run down the line of poles before the dog enters (particularly in competition, this seems to draw his attention away from the entry into the weaves, so take into account your position. If you have video tape study it to see where you are in relation to the dog. You see so many mistakes you make on videotape. Remind yourself to stop and pause and give them a good signal into the weaves. Entering ahead of you should not be much of a problem if they are focused ahead. (Kent Mahan)

If your dog has different rhythms during the weave poles, you are not alone. For example, if the first 8 poles are done with a quick side to side move that looks great but then your dog slows down and appears to miss a beat for the last two poles only, you have a problem.

What is usually happening here is so subtle you will only pick it up on videotape, if then, but it's usually very easy to fix. The "last two poles" syndrome happens when the dog responds to body cues from a handler who is anticipating either the completion of the weave pole set or the next obstacle. Usually the cue is either a slight lengthening of stride or a head turn to locate the next obstacle. The important thing is that it is primarily a handler problem, not a dog problem. The cure is for the handler to visualize an endless line of poles and stay focused on them until AFTER the dog has completed the poles. The problem will diminish (but not disappear, because dogs will still respond to body cues) when the dog is able to complete poles entirely on his own.

Do try this cure......It works like magic for most dogs (handlers ) with this problem!
(Sherry Wargo)


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