Guide to Dog Agility Obstacles
The weave poles are probably the hardest obstacle for new agility dogs to learn, primarily because weaving through poles – unlike jumping, running, and climbing – are not natural dog behaviors.
In this sense, teaching a dog to weave is very much like teaching a person how to properly swing a golf club or a tennis racket. At first, the motion is awkward and stilted, and the dog must think about each pole. Over time, the weaving becomes automatic, a kind of “muscle memory” ingrained in the dog which allows him to move faster through the poles.
Compounding the sheer problem of teaching the behavior itself is that regulations for the construction of weave poles differ from agility organization to organization. The poles are generally made of PVC, but that’s where the similarities end. They are set between 18 and 24” apart from each other, in sets of between five and twelve poles, depending on the governing organization. The dog must enter from the right side of the first pole, and continue weaving all the way to the end.
There are a number of weave pole methods that enterprising dog trainers have come up with to teach dogs how to negotiate this obstacle. Among the more popular are:
- Weave-O-Matic – The weave poles are placed at an angle towards the ground so that a “V” is created when looking down the obstacle, and the dog learns to pick up his feet between the poles. Gradually the poles are raised so that he has to dart back and forth.
- Channel Weaves – The weave poles are offset so that a “channel” is formed between the two lines of poles. Initially the dog just goes through the channel, and eventually the channel is closed so that the dog learns the weaving motion.
- Guide Wires – The weave poles are set at normal (competition) standards, but guide wires are attached so that the dog is funneled between the poles by using wires, hoses, or even wire cages so that the dog must continue straight. This is repeated until the behavior is learned.
There are even more methods out there (including endless combinations of the above), and new ones are popping up all the time. But, in our opinion, whatever method is used, repetition, repetition, repetition seems to be the key to learning this very specific and necessary behavior for the mastery of dog agility.
You can learn even more about dog agility by enrolling in agility training classes here at the Zoom Room!