Weave Training

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There are many ways of training the weave and these days a lot of people favour the 2 x 2 method.  This is a quick way to teach the weaves and if you are successful 12 poles can be achieved in 12 days.  To use this method you need to do precisely what your trainer tells you to do, or follow written or video instructions to the letter.  It's easy to get it wrong and some dogs and handlers just don't take to the method at all.  Don't beat yourself up if you can't do it.  Try something different that suits you and your dog a bit better.

We actually started trying to use the 2 x 2 and we spent a couple of days trying to get the idea of going through two poles.  After several sessions Jilly still didn't understand that going between the poles got her the reward. She wanted to go round them all the time.

I could see where she was coming from. As puppy we practised doing our front crosses round a pole so as soon as Jilly saw the weave poles she thought it was a game of going round both of them with me doing a front cross. Each time she went round the both poles she didn't get a reward and this puzzled her. It seemed as if I was setting her up for failure all the time. In the photo she has gone round both weave poles and bumped into the second one.  The clip below shows what was happening all the time. 


The secret of training is to set a dog up for success so that you don't have to deal with the frustration of getting it wrong and repeating everything until it's right. Persevering with 2 x 2 was rapidly going down this road and stressing both of us and so we decided to abandon the method.   This left us with a few choices.

Channel Weaves

Channel weaves are another way to teach a dog.  You set up 12 weave poles with every other pole offset so that you form a channel for the dog to run through.  The channel is gradually narrowed until the dog starts to weave through the poles.  It sounds easy but a lot of dogs get stuck when the poles end up in a straight line. 

Leading Through

Leading through the weaves is an old fashioned way of teaching but that's how Jamie learned and he was a most reliable weaver.  He never missed an entrance and rarely popped a pole.  The only problem was that I only worked him from my left side and so he could never do right hand weaves.  Use this method if it's what works for you but I would work both sides equally.  Severalof my fellow club members still use this method of teaching with very good results. 


V-weaves are something that I tried with Sasha.  The poles are angled to make it easier for the dog to go through the weave and then they're gradually moved upright.  Sasha just couldn't get the hang of this idea and so we eventually used the channel weaves with great success. 

The next option that I tried for Jilly was a short channel weave.

My Channel Weave method day 1

To start with I used just four poles and I formed these into a narrow channel.  I sat Jilly at one end and called her through the channel.  When she'd done it a couple of times I ran alongside with Jilly on my left hand side. 

Once she'd done this and was confident I moved the first two poles inwards so that the channel was a bit wider at the end than at the start.  This meant there was less chance of running out.  We practised at odd intervals during the day and just a few minutes at a time.

Here we're just starting the channel weave with Jilly in the wait and then being called through.  It works better if you don't have an interfering dog wanting to have her go all the time but I can't really blame Sasha for wanting to join in.  Nevertheless we were soon able to move the poles inwards a bit.

By day three I was ready to add two more poles to the four pole weave to see how Jilly would get on and she did them straight away but after that it became very uncertain.  I tried moving the poles into a good sized channel but the extra two poles seemed to throw her.  When I took her to her little indoor class for obedience and tricks I set up a channel of brightly coloured cones and I did manage to get Jilly to run through them on my left and right side but she still found the concept of running straight a bit difficult. 

I began wonder if her breeding had anything to do with it.  Spaniels don't really have much idea of doing anything in a straight line.  When I take Jilly for a walk with Sasha they take very different routes.  Sasha trots along a path whereas Jilly investigates all the bushes on either side all the time and she takes a zig zag route.  I tried a few more times with the channel weave but the method just didn't seem quite right for Jilly.


The only thing I hadn't tried apart from the lead through method was the v-weaves.  I'm not really all that keen on them but I thought if I had the poles at a big enough angle it would stop her running out and it worked.

On day one I used all twelve stick in the ground weave poles and before long Jilly was running through them.  She quickly worked out that it was the only way to get the reward and soon she was running through the poles every time.  Of course I didn't have my camera to record it as I didn't think it would work but there you are.

On day two I had a few minutes spare and so I set up a six pole weave out in the back garden and this was even more successful.  In a very short time Jilly picked up on the idea of weaving between the poles and she was quite fast. 

Here's a little clip that shows her learning the v-weave.  She doesn't quite get it at first but then all of a sudden she understands what to do and runs through.  We did this a few more times and then I moved the poles into a more upright position with great success.  I'm hoping that this is going to be the best method for Jilly and that eventually she'll be able to do all twelve weave poles. 


On day three I decided to use 8 poles.  I thought maybe we should build up to the 12 pole weave a bit more slowly as Jilly doesn't get it all the time.  She was very happy with just the two extra poles added and she didn't even seem to notice.  The first two poles are more or less upright and I'm letting Jilly find the right entry point each time without saying anything.  She has to work out what gets her the reward.  If she gets the right entry I say, "Yes," and let her go on.  For any other entry I just say nothing and Jilly quickly understands that she has to do something else to get the toy.  When she's getting it every time and I've built up to 12 poles I give it a name but for now we're just shaping the entry point and the concept of weaving.  Here's our 8 pole effort.

It didn't take Jilly long to learn how to weave using the v-weave method.  I did get her onto upright poles as quickly as possible.  If you leave the poles in a v shape for too long it's more difficult for the dog to understand what they need to do.  When I took her to her training class and she was faced with 12 poles for the first time she did them straightaway with no hesitation. 

We still need to proof the entry point however.  Weaving is quite strain on a young dog and so it's best to use just three poles to shape the entry.  I have used a favourite toy to help Jilly where she gets the toy if she gets the right entry but the method I found best was targeted weave entry training.  Here's a link to a Youtube video that illustrates the training perfectly.

Here's Jilly practising through four poles in the back garden after just one session of the targeted entry training. 


People who use the 2 x 2 method of training say that it's extremely quick and dog will find the right entry point wherever the handler happens to be on the course.  However, the dog needs to offer the behaviour of going between the poles in the first place. 


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