Training to Perform the Weave Poles

By Willard L. Koukkari (October 2013)

Editor's note: This article was originally published in the Saint Paul Dog Training Club Newsletter. It is reprinted here with the author's permission.

Today, in the competitive sport of agility, a dog is required not only to enter and successfully perform the weave poles from almost any angle of approach, but also to do so as fast as possible. It is within the scope of these requirements that I wish to share with you a procedure that I have found to be effective in my teaching and training.

The entry, performance, and speed in the weave poles are not taught or treated as three separate entities; rather, they are integrated into a single unit or requirement every time that a dog is directed by the handler to perform the weave poles. Because the set of 12 weave poles that we use in training can be separated into two rows of poles to form a channel (Figure 1), the procedure, and variations thereof, are commonly referred to as a "channel method." In addition to a double row of poles, wires that can be easily added to or removed from the poles are an essential component. They delineate the sides of the channel, as well as make the entrance and exit openings of the obstacle much easier for the dog to find.

The two paramount speeds in agility are "fast and faster," so the latter is strongly emphasized throughout the process of training. For example, handlers are encouraged to "rev-up" their dogs (e.g., a restrained send) prior to releasing them to enter the weave poles. Also, the handler is encouraged to run with their dog. To enhance speed the handler should toss a ball so that it will land about 10 feet directly beyond the last weave pole. The toss should occur when the dog is about two-thirds of the way through the length of the channel (Figure 2 A & B). The ball is secured to a short length of rope, which serves as a handle and helps prevents the ball from rolling beyond the intended landing spot.

The salient points of the procedure are illustrated in Figure 2. For each width of the channel, the team (dog & handler) performs two separate series of steps. The first series includes wire loops (Figure 2 A or C), and the second series is conducted without the loops (Figure 2 B or D). The initial step in each series starts with a straight entry into the weave poles. Next, the angle of approach to the entry is changed consecutively in 45-degree increments until each of the five approaches, which are illustrated by arrows in Figure 2 C, can be performed successfully. The progression from open channels to closed channels occurs in one-inch intervals, and depending upon the dog and handler, could be extended over a span of many weeks. It is important that the handler does not decrease width and sacrifice speed. For dogs that have difficulty completing the weave poles, only the middle wires are removed initially, followed by the successive removal of other wires as the dog progresses. It is important that the width of the channel not be reduced by more than about one inch at a time, and then only after all five approaches have been performed successfully without wires. In other words, wires are always used for the first series, which starts at the new width of the channel. The wires are removed for the second series, but the width of the channel remains the same as it was for the first series. During the latter stages of training, and to provide some fun, a tunnel or jump may be incorporated into the routine.

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Weaves diagram slides Figure Legends:
Figure 1.

Photo of a set of 12 weave poles, 10 wires, and a channel between the two rows of poles.
Figure 2.
Top view illustrating four sets of 12 weave poles, with the channel being either open (A & B) or closed (C & D), and with wires either in place (A & C) or absent (B & D). Paw prints indicate the location of the dog and shoe prints indicate the location of the handler. The location where the ball has landed is approximate (far right in A & B), depending upon the accuracy of the toss.