One of the gifts I received over Christmas was a very smart set of weave poles for Rusty’s agility training. Previously I had used some of the bamboo canes that my parents use in the garden but these are not as visible to Rusty against the grass and are not as safe as using proper equipment. (Interestingly, it wasn’t until after I got them that I discovered that dogs only have yellow and blue colour sensitive cones in their retina – so these are the ideal colours for agility obstacles, as the dogs can distinguish between them better than other colours).
When first training the weaves, the dog should not actually be encouraged to wiggle between the poles at all – the main aim is that the dog learns to travel straight down the line of poles until they reach the end. To achieve this, the weaves can be set out as shown in the picture below: with the poles leaning to alternate sides.
In competition, the dog must always enter with the first weave pole on its left shoulder – I set up the weaves so that this is the case, in the hope that when they are fully upright she will remember which side to choose! (In some of the pictures they are wrong to begin with, but then I corrected them).
The dog can then be asked to sit at one end whilst the handler walks down and then calls them, giving the command for weaving and making sure the dog had lots of praise when they run down the middle of the line of poles.
Once this is established, the handler can walk next to the dog: it is important to lead from both sides so that the dog is easy to handle on both the left and the right.
Gradually over many weeks the poles can be lifted until they are vertical – as the poles become more upright, the dog has to weave in between them in order to continue in a straight line.
Rusty is an intelligent dog and usually figures out new things pretty quickly, but this has proven to be a greater challenge for her. Currently in our training sessions I begin with the weaves at lower angles to the ground and lift them up as we go along – although we haven’t quite mastered having them completely upright yet!
As this can be quite a difficult concept for a dog, it is important not to train it too intensively as they may lose focus and become disinterested – I like to intersperse this with things that Rusty finds really fun and easy, such as jumping a few jumps or playing fetch.
The video below shows her progress, and also clips of the first time I raised the poles to being almost vertical – I kept persisting and asking her to do it again because I wanted her to get it right before we went off to do something else, and it is clear from the video that she responds to me praising her and gradually figures out what she needs to do!