Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weave Pole Performance

Photo by - Marsha Kingsley
See her amazing photos at:

If you’ve been around agility for any time at all, you’ve probably seen a number of different training methods for weave poles. Let’s face it, they ALL WORK! Weave Pole Training Methods, along with Religion and Politics are one of those topics you’re 'almost' afraid to bring up. Followed closely by Contact Training, but that’s another post entirely.

Way back in the day, there was the ‘push pull – lure method’. By George, those amazing dogs GOT IT!! Of course, almost everyone had a strong obedience background, so the dogs only weaved on the left. If you could weave on the right, you had us ALL IN AWE!!! I’m NOT MAKING THIS UP!

Then there was the ‘weave-a-matic’ craze. You might also know it as ‘canted poles’. The poles started out flat on the ground and you slowly raised them up. The drawn back on this method always seemed to be that last 2 inches. If the poles weren’t slightly canted, the dog just didn’t see the entry.

Followed closely by the ‘channel weaves’ which as it implies involves two channels, each channel having 6 poles placed approximately 42” apart, as you brought the poles together you’d have your 12 weaves at 21” width. Like the weave-a-matics, they last couple inches seemed to be the issue.

The ‘newest’ craze (it’s not actually super new) seems to be the ‘2 by 2’ weave method. This involves training 2 poles at a time, using shaping and placement of reward. This method does require that the handler understand the importance of placement of reward.

All of the above methods will work. All are interesting, and can bring about a rather lively discussion for those that have really strong feelings on training weaves. I’ve used all of the above, so I too have my opinions, but I’ll refrain from that discussion for now.

The discussion I was really heading toward, although I took the ‘LONG WAY AROUND THE BARN’, was the use of wires.

At a recent agility trial a friend and I had a brief, and thought provoking discussion about using weave pole wires. First off, in case you’re afraid I’m against wires, I own a set!! A really nice aluminum set to be honest! Does that make me pro? I don’t know. Well, kind of. Boy am I ever wishy washy! Yep, that’s me! FOCUS ESTER!!

She has a big dog, let’s say over 22”. I’m not even sure how we got on the topic of weave poles, but it might be that we both have dogs that are younger and were discussing the channel vs. 2 X 2 method. She then pointed out that she really didn’t like the wires as she felt they hit her dog’s legs when he’d stride, thus made the weave poles uncomfortable to perform. Hum, interesting. I’d never thought of that. We didn’t talk about it very long, but it sure did make me think. Sometimes this is actually a GOOD thing!

So, I began to think back at the training methods used on our dogs. (I just need to interject here that when I say ‘our’ dogs, I really mean Bill’s dogs. I am strictly the dog trainer and handler. I have CATS!) G

Molly – She was just a little thing at 11.25” and she learned via the push/pull method. Weaves were a struggle throughout her career, but when wires came along they were a GOD SEND!! They allowed ME (I was the one with the problem) to trust her during training, knowing she’d be successful. I LOVED MY WIRES!!

Kruz, Nina and Mad all learned with the ‘Channel with Wire Method’. Looking back I made MANY mistakes. First off, I started them all WAY too young. Well, not Mad since we didn’t get her until she was 2. Kruz and Nina however experienced the running through the chute as puppies, while we told them to “WEAVE”. I’m just sitting here shaking my head. You poor ‘kids’, how did you ever learn? I did a GREAT job of teaching them to run straight by a line of poles!

Kruz and Nina are/were both at or over 21’ tall. Kruz is right at or very close to 22”, Nina was a strong 21”. They both had longer legs. Kruz never had very good footwork in the weaves, unless they were opened up just one inch, at that time he’d perform a lovely one step. Nina developed a nice bounce back and forth in the weaves. If however the weaves were opened just an inch, she would one step. Mad is 19.5” tall and would always one step.

So, here’s where I got to thinking. With the taller dogs, were they bumping those wires with their legs, thus causing them some discomfort? Was I accidentally ruining a nice weave pole stride? Did Nina compensate by going more up right in a bouncing motion to avoid the wires? Did Kruz, being a Border Collie, a breed that works lower to the ground in comparison to the Portuguese Water Dog, do the only thing he could to avoid the wires? Develop a poor stride. By opening that channel just one inch, did that allow them to stride comfortably through the channel with the wires on? It’s sure something to think about.

Mad and Seeker are both smaller dogs, both measuring around 19.5-20” tall. So, for them, the wires may never have been an issue. Seeker did see the channel with wires for a very short time, but most of his training has been the ‘2X2 Method’.

Will I give up my wires? No. I do think they offer a lot of value for those that don’t have a clear understanding of how the “2X2 Method” works. I believe they can be a great aid for those that aren’t quite ready to ‘trust their dog’ during training. Wires aren’t perfect, you obviously have to ‘get rid of them’ before you can trial. But I do still LOVE my wires. I will, however, be more aware of the dogs’ size and how they interact with them. What an interesting and thought provoking discussion. THANKS WENDIE!!


  1. VERY interesting thoughts - never woulda thunk about the wires being a problem for larger dogs...

  2. Gosh, I didn't know Mr. Dervish was going to make an anonymous guest appearance today...

    Anyway, based on our experience I'd say that the key to training channel weaves without wires is to have very solid entry skills BEFORE you start working on the weaves themselves. If your dog is 85 or 90 percent accurate on finding the entries on 2 or 3 poles, I found that you really don't need the wires. Of course, it's good to have a wire-savvy dog so that you can use them in a pinch. But I don't think you need them if you work on strong understanding of entries before you train the striding/weaving itself.

    That said, I'll probably just start with the 2x2 method next time...

  3. OMG, I remember "this way, that way" luring with Connor!

    I've never used wires with Phoenix. When they appear by accident on the poles at class, they seem to add an element of confusion he just could not deal with. Maybe he was zinging his little footsies? Fortunately, I haven't felt we needed them.

    I was lucky enough (dumb luck!) to accidentally teach my own version of 2x2 weaves with a bored young dog and clicker in the back yard. It was going to be our "long term winter project." In 10 days I had six lovely left- and right-side recall-send-run weaves with solid entries. So much for a long term project!

    Phoenix gets all the credit. He is very clicker savvy and apparently my timing was good enough.