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Monday, September 3, 2012

Teaching weave poles in 30 mins to a dog besides a Border Collie.

The vet gave me the green light to go ahead and run Chili into the ground, his knee issue, turns out gets BETTER with exercise, not worse. I also thought broken things wear out faster if used MORE, but in this case, he gets a free pass.

More exercise means more muscle, and the stronger the muscles, the less the knee will pop out of place, and sure enough, it seems to hold true. Sit on your ass for a week and the dog skips. Run him around like a nut, legs work great.

Weave poles have always mystified me. They seem so damn hard. This is how learning weaves go...

Watch all the videos you like of border collies and Aussies doing them, doing them FAST.

Get really excited.

Buy your own set.

Realize you own a chihuahua.


Try again with another dog.


Don't try again for at LEAST two years.

well, at least that's how I did it. I did what seemed logical, the bait and lure around the poles method, and aside from the dog not really learning anything, its kinda hard to do and not step on anyone or keep the dog from over shooting you. Then the question is, do you start over at each FAIL or keep going? I had no clue wtf I was doing, and I felt quite stupid. After all I had tackled som' big behavior challenges and taught som' really elaborate tricks by this point. I threw in the towel and decided I'd retry if I ever rescued a border.

Think outside the box Crystal, jeebus.

So I pondered the weaves for YEARS, thought hard and then saw firsthand that the bait method just don't work. Dogs who had done 6+ weeks, all the way up to YEARS of agility still sucking sticks at it, I knew it wasn't me. It was the method. I watched another trainer struggle to get her dog to do weaves and then I decided I HAD to figure this out. Sure I could read how to do it but many different trainers and copy, but I wanted to figure it out from scratch.... Its unfair for people to pay me to teach them som'thing I hadn't mastered. Its unfair for people to pay me for a method that I didn't come up with on my own, thus can't troubleshoot... That is som'thing I vowed I'd never do, and so far, I've kept that vow.

I taught my dog to do 12 pole weaves perfectly with one reward at the end in 30 mins total.  This included my troubleshooting and figuring it out. Training sessions averaged about 5-10 mins over several days.

Taught him to do them at full speed without any help from me, perfectly, took about an hour of training with 5-15 min sessions.

This is how I did it.

firstly, I noticed people start TOO CLOSE to the weave poles. Don't start at the entrance... Start at least 3' away, preferably 5' or more. In the course the dog is going to be running up to the things anyway, generally.

Using a hand target have the dog in a heel or away from the poles and walk up to them, lure them with your hand around the first pole. Click when their left shoulder is parallel to the first pole. REWARD on the GROUND to the front and left of the first pole.

 Always reward on the floor. We are teaching the dog a HOT SPOT of a place in space, so they will automatically go to that place. Feeding them from your hand teaches them to watch you more than we want in this task. This is also why I do not believe in using a lure or bait in this task, because it distracts the dog too much, and without it, most dogs can't do it. Teach the dog to hand target or touch FIRST and then use your hand as a moving target. Most dogs focus much better this way.

Imagine the dog hadn't heard the click and was about to magically weave into pole #2, visually look at the ground and imagine where the dog would have been at his peak movement left before he turns to go right for pole #2. That is where you place the treat. If you are really slick at this, you can THROW the treat in that direction, which really teaches the dog trajectory.

Yes your dog will overshoot the second pole doing this. That's ok, we are only working on entry and pole #1. We aren't just teaching the dog to weave, but that he ALWAYS must start with the first pole at his left shoulder. If yours dog fails to learn this, he may weave, but it will be technically "wrong" and it doesn't work for competition.

Do this until the dog gets 3-5 in a row correct. If he messes up, restart him 3'-5' away. If the dog is getting discouraged, I like to add a hand touch at the reset, which I'll click at random.  So the dog thinks the whole thing is fun.

Remember never let the dog know they failed during the weaves. This is HARD for them both physically and mentally, and I've watched so many dogs get their interest killed before anything can be taught because owners either gave a NRM or just acted disappointed. If they fail, say nothing except whatever you need to reset them ( like a touch or recall), offering them a reward for resetting. Coming to you on command away from an obstacle is a good skill to have anyway, and much easier to teach BEFORE the dog realizes how much fun the obstacle is.

Now have the dog do pole one, and using your hand as a target guide them around pole two. Click as that shoulder passes the pole. Reward off to the right of the pole, Just ahead of it. Just like you did for pole one but mirror imaged. Do practice this until the dog gets 3-5 in a row then take a break. Preferably overnight.

Second session.. Be prepared to review resetting and reteaching pole 1 by itself and then pole 2. Don't expect the dog to remember anything from session 1, and you wont be disapointed. ;) Start rewarding at random at either pole 1 or 2. Remember the moment of the click is when the shoulder is straight with the pole.

Repeat the same method for all the other poles, if the dog starts getting stuck, lower your criteria back to one pole for a few reps then try again. Remember to be HAPPY and not push it too much. Your goal in the second session is really to only get pole 3 down. This is because the dog will have to review poles 1 and 2 from scratch (most likely)and that will take up alot of your time. Don't push for more poles unless your 110% sure your dog will do it.

Third session. Dog should be decent at this point and need to review, but only a couple of reps. Go ahead and teach more poles. At this point the dog should be following your hand movements pretty well. Dogs who are familiar with hand targeting before this task will probably be able to complete about 6 poles at this point with a hand target. Dogs not proficient in hand targeting will need more time.

Once your dog is doing the whole set, remember to click on that last pole and throw your reward straight ahead, this is the start of building speed and keeps the dog moving. Dogs who aren't used to this may stop and look at you. Big pieces of cheddar cheese are great for dogs who don't seem to see thrown treats.

If the dog fails, take a step back and make it easier. Its very tempting to rush this, and it wont work, trust me. The dog will start to pop out on the poles you spent the least amount of time on, (in my dogs case, poles 8 or 9 in a 12 pole set) the more times your dog pops out the longer it will take to fix, so its best to restart and solidify things than push it if you see pop outs.

There you have it, not the only way, but the way I found works for me. Yay! :)


  1. Lovely!
    Wonder if this method would work on a bird-obsessed setter? I must try!

    Good to see you posting again ;-)

    1. perhaps use birdy bits for treats? :)

      Thanks Sue. Good to hear from you :)