The Agility Weave Poles: How to Train
How often have you watched an expert exhibit their talent in any field and said the famous words, “boy, they make it look so easy.” That pretty much sums up the effect of watching talented agility dogs do the weave poles. Weave poles, by the non-initiated, in the world of agility looks easy. However, it is anything but. Without question, the weave poles are one of the most difficult of the agility exercises, both in training technique and in training hours.
There certainly is an array of methods a person can use for “the poles, “but why try to re-invent the wheel? Go with what has been used successfully by others.
Now, with a lot of the agility equipment you can get away with using whatever your local club or trainer has to offer. With this behavior you really should get yourself a set of poles. Fortunately you are not going to break the bank with this purchase and you can get a nice starter set for a reasonable price. Unlike most of the training equipment in agility, you actually need the poles as both a training tool and as a piece of course equipment.
For example, in one method sturdy wires (they call them wires but they are more like ½” flexible PVC) are strategically placed on the poles to create a path for buddy to follow. (Sort of like the ropes that are used for people, who have to wait in long lines.) The placement of these wires is of paramount importance. If placed too high they lose all effect because Buddy just doesn’t see them. If placed too low, Buddy will simply walk over them. The idea here is to habituate the process of weaving with Buddy, and then slowly raise the wires above his line of sight, to where you can remove them completely. You can get the same effect, using appropriately sized chicken-wire gates to form a sort of easily maneuvered path.
Still another version of Weave Pole training involves using two sets and setting them up in a straight line, and fairly far apart. Buddy is trained to run between what looks like two parallel standards and not weaving at all.
If Buddy likes to fetch (retrieve) this is a great fun game for him. You throw the object then buddy must go through both sets of standards for the retrieve. (Please make sure you focus on the retrieve and not use the item you are throwing as a lure.)
Then you start to bring the poles closer together in an offset placement. This way Buddy will have to do a slight weave to get through the second set of poles. Then you simply adjust the angles and distance so eventually, your Buddy is weaving through the poles in a straight line.
Another very popular method involves each upright pole being attached to locking swivels at the base. The first pole is placed at a wide angle to the base and then the post next in line placed at the opposite complementary angle, and so on until you run out of poles. Now Buddy can run a straight line past the alternating poles on each side of him. Since the poles are on locking swivels, the angle on the poles can be slowly manipulated upward, until Buddy can do the weave between the now totally upright vertical poles.
Of course you should start out with just a short set of six poles. When Buddy has those down cold, you can start to add more poles.
As if the weave poles were not challenging enough, Buddy must always enter the equipment on the right side of the first pole. So it would be wise and to your benefit once he has the routine down, to start having him enter from various sides and angles of your body.
One last item worth mentioning; as was explained this is a tough one to train, and takes time and patience. So if Buddy messes up and “pops” (this is agility speak) or misses a pole or two, don’t sweat it. Just start over, this time being prepared for his mistake (if he did it once, there is a probability he will do it again, so be ready) even if it means putting him on lead and walking him though a couple of times.
If the problem appears to have become habitual then you have no recourse but to start over, using whatever method you used to get him to this point.
Important: Always remember to have your clicker and those high value treats, along with a whole bunch of praise, bottled up inside you and ready to explode, for each of Buddy’s successful execution of the weave poles. (Of course, this also includes while he is in training.)