Friday, May 14, 2010

Weave Poles

I mentioned in my last post that I think the Teeter is one of the hardest obstacles for dogs to master. The other one would be the Weave Poles. However, while the Teeter is difficult because it's terrifying, the Weave Poles are not scary at all, instead they are just a very unnatural kind of an obstacle, so dogs have a hard time understanding them. Think about it - our dogs are often jumping, climbing, and going through things in every day life, but they never encounter a situation in which they have to weave left and right like they would through the Weave Poles.

The Weaves are a set of 6 or 12 poles sticking straight up from the ground, about 20-22 inches apart.

The dog must enter from the right side, i.e. with its left shoulder passing by the first pole. Then it must continue weaving left and right through each opening between the poles, similar to a skiing slalom.
Since the number of poles is always even, the dog should come out to the left side, i.e. with its right shoulder passing by the last pole.

The most common number of poles is 12. In AKC, Novice dogs have 6 poles to go through, and move on to 12 for Open and Excellent. In USDAA, there are 12 poles for all levels.

Training a dog to weave is a very slow process, and usually takes the longest of all. There are many methods designed to help the dog understand how it needs to move through the poles. Some of these are the Weave-O-Matic, the channel method, guide wires, brute force muscle memory, as well as the new and upcoming Two-By-Two method. Philip and I stated off with the muscle memory method at first, but quickly moved to the channel method when we changed instructors. I'll cover all of these in as much detail as I can in a future post, but in the end it really comes down to whatever works for you and your dog - each method has people that swear by it, and others that can't stand it.

There are many things that can go wrong with the Weaves - the dog isn't supposed to stop in the middle of weaving, and any wrong direction is counted as a refusal. If the dog weaves backwards several poles (usually 3 or 4), it will be counted as a wrong course. In AKC, refusals don't count on the Weaves at the Novice level, but a back weave will count as a wrong course, which automatically earns an NQ in JWW.

This post finally concludes the obstacle overview series. There are other obstacles in various organizations, but the ones I talked about are the most commonly used, and are the only ones seen in AKC and USDAA, which are the two organizations we compete in.

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