Wednesday, June 25, 2014


I have mentioned before that Molly and I had a very suboptimal foundation laid for agility.  Weave poles are no exception.  Molly was taught weave poles with the 2x2 method and while I have seen enormous success with that method, Molly and I did not have that experience.  An enormous part of that problem is that I had no idea what I was doing.  I was told to wait for my dog to go through the poles and throw a treat on the other side.  She was not to return back through the poles, but I didn't understand why.  We repeated this again and again, but we never lined up a full set of 2x2s.  We just progressed to a straight set of 6 weave poles.  I don't know.  It's all a blur.  

All I know is that when I took Perri to the same place, the method had switched to the "channel method".  This worked amazingly for Perri.  She understood it nearly from the start and to this day Perri understands collection and entry far better than Molly.   I do not blame the 2x2 method.  I blame myself.  I had absolutely no idea what I was doing back then, and I had no idea how to even judge if my dog was doing the behavior I wanted.  Hell, I didn't even know what behavior I wanted - how could I tell if my dog was doing the behavior that I wanted when I didn't know what to look for?

Confused?  I was, too.  I lured her through them.  We started trialing since you do not need to weave in CPE Level 1.  I got hooked.   You could really get through CPE Level 2 also with barely having to do the weaves.  With no refusals, as long as you can get your dog into the 6 weave poles that sometimes show up in Standard 2, you'll be okay.  Then came and went Level 3.  And Level 4. (almost.)  And AKC Novice and Open.

And here I am, with a dog who crawls through the weaves.  She has no style.  She is flat and lifeless in those weaves.  Give her a tunnel or a jump, spread or single, and she attacks it.  But not the weaves.  If I wasn't feeling absolutely determined to use the correct motivators to help Molly enjoy her weave poles, we got another wake up call in class this week.  

Footwork.  Molly doesn't know what to do with her feet in the poles.  So she walks.  And walk she does!  Our instructor was really keeping an eye on Molly during class and advised me to use some 2x2s with a narrow opening in the center.  I don't have 2x2s, but I have 12 channel weaves.  This is going to help us.  With the channel weaves, the poles can be pushed away from the center slightly, or all the way, so that the dog can go through a wide channel to a very narrow channel, my choice.  A nice slim channel will give Molly a passage through with her head, but she will have to learn how to move her feet.  

And I know this.  The problem is I felt like we "should be further along", so I would open up that slim channel a little bit and as soon as she would stride through with nice footwork, I would close the channel up.  But Molly needs to build up the confidence, motivation and muscle memory of how to move her feet in those weave poles, and it isn't going to happen in five repetitions!  

I found this awesome blog post , A Study of Weave Performance - Front View and it discusses weave footwork and also has the coolest video embedded into it.  Different dogs in the same T2B course and how they move their feet in the weaves.  Some dogs hop side to side with their two front feet landing on the same side with each pole, others only place one foot out as they weave.  Some are inconsistent and switch back and forth.

After reading that I looked for the absolute best video that I have of Molly doing the poles.  It was months ago at and Open Jym and I was lucky enough to get her doing all 12 poles, fast and looking nice.  I thought for sure when I put the video into slow motion, Molly's footwork would be consistent with some type of style.  It was not!  She started off hopping and then went into more of a "walking" way of moving her feet, but really fast.  Not ideal.

We played a little bit in the yard last evening.  I got a lot of enthusiasm out of Molly (and Perri too!) and she seemed to me to be moving her feet in a consistent "one step" pattern (so was Perri.) through the channel.  I will probably keep the channel open this wide for a week or two of sessions and then close it ever so slightly in between.  We will still be trialing of course and going to class, so it will be interesting to see if there are any differences with that in between our practice sessions.

The whole thing has left me feeling my usual mix of "I should know this by now.  Seriously." and determined to make changes in the future.  Time will tell!  


  1. I love channel weaves! 2x2s promote thoughtfulness and the "with confidence comes speed" approach, channels promote speed from the start and I personally love that for dogs who might have a bit lower drive. I've also heard WAMs are great for footwork help and increasing confidence.
    Now owning my first set of weave poles, channel, my plan is to open them up and increase Vito's speed on them. As well as just giving him a heck of a lot of rewards for doing them to get weaves=super cool obstacle love. Good luck on your project as well!

  2. Perri took to the channel straightaway - entrance and all! She is a less confident girl and will only pop out if she is feeling in one of her "blah" moods...

    Molly....she's got tons of confidence and speed and is blowing past those entries and I am excited to get working on 2x2's with her (my instructor is lending me a set...but she keeps forgetting to bring them to class!

    Ugh, what a load of work these weave poles are :)