Training In Ten Minutes, Episode #7 – Fun with weave poles
In this episode of the 10-Minute Trainer, we’re going to have some fun with weave poles. I’m going to assume that your dog already knows how to weave, and that, in your 10-minutes today, you’d like to spend some time working on weave poles in a way that’s quick, fun, and productive! So, here are a couple of weaving games you can play, alone, or with a training partner.
This is a weave pole game that you can play with a training partner. If you have more time, you can get even more people and dogs involved and have a really fun time! This game is based off of a basketball came called H.O.R.S.E., in which the first person with the basketball attempts to make a basket. If that person is successful, every other person has to try to make a basket while using the same technique, stance, and location as the first person. As long as you make the basket, there’s no penalty. But, if you miss, you earn an H, or an O, etc. The last person to spell out H.O.R.S.E. is the winner! Applied to the weave poles, you can do the same thing. We’ll spell out W.E.A.V.E. instead of H.O.R.S.E!
Since you’re just working on entries for this game, stick to a set of six weave poles. Whoever goes first determines the approach angle in to, and handling of, the weave poles. So if that person is standing on one foot in a particular spot, asking their dog to weave from a particular spot, so must everybody else. If the dog makes the weave entry and completes all six poles, no penalty is applied. But if the dog misses the weave entry or fails to complete the poles, that handler is assessed a letter (starting with W, and then E, A, V, etc.). When each person has had his or her turn, the round starts over, with the next handler determining the starting location.
This is a fun game because it will force you to attempt the weave poles in ways you might not have thought up! Of course, if you and your dog have trouble with a particular entry, you can put it on your list of things to work on for another time.
Weave Pole Passing
With this game, you’ll want to make sure that you keep the environment safe for all people and dogs, since you’ll be using the motion of other dogs as a distraction. So, you may need to start with more distance between sets of weave poles, or a fence or other temporary barrier.
You’ll need two dog/handler teams for this one – or, if you’re feeling ambitious, two of your own dogs! You’ll also need two sets of six weave poles.
Two dogs will be weaving at the same time. To start with, have both dogs weaving in the same direction, but then, to make it more difficult, have the dogs weaving in opposite directions, to really test your dog’s ability to stay in the poles even with lots of moving distractions. See the figures below for more variations on this game. Figures are shown in increasing level of difficulty, although you may find a different order to be the case for your dog!
If you have two of your own dogs, you can work on weave pole passing on your own; it will be a test of your dogs’ ability to weave, and of your ability to keep your eye on multiple dogs at one time, as you’ll have two dogs you’ll be needing to reward or repeat with! I do this with my own dogs periodically, and it’s great fun.
There’s one more variation on this that I do with my own dogs, that requires twelve weave poles, which is the most fun of all, and is highly motivating for my dogs. Check out Figure 6!
For this one, you’ll have to figure out which dog should go in front – is your dog more distracted knowing there is a dog behind, or in front of him? And, you’ll need to make sure that you space the dogs out so that the dog in the rear doesn’t overtake the dog in front. I have to hold on to my dogs’ collars tightly for this one, as they’re usually screaming to get to the poles, one after another.
One dog, one handler games
If you’ve only got one dog (or only one dog that can weave), here are some games you can play that will challenge your dog to stay in the poles despite your distractions. Most of these capitalize on unusual handler movement and/or location, so be creative and don’t limit yourself here!
- Get your dog weaving, and then cut through the weave poles in front of or behind him.
- Get your dog weaving, and then weave after him for a few poles
- Send your dog to the weave poles, but then, just before he enters, do something unusual: a jumping jack, drop to the ground, bend over to inspect the ground, stand on one leg, clap your hands, make an unusual noise, etc.
- Send your dog to the weave poles and once he’s weaving, turn away from him in a full circle – spin quickly so you can see if he’s popped out of the poles or not!
- Start at opposite ends of the weave poles, and cut across the end of the poles while your dog is weaving
- Start you and your dog at opposite ends of the weave poles, and move toward your dog while he is weaving toward you. Try this on a set of six and twelve poles.
Hopefully, you’ve come away with a few fun games that you can play with multiple dogs, or with a training partner or friend, as well as some silly variations on what you might be doing to pose as a distraction to your dog while he is weaving.
As always, if your dog makes a mistake, make sure that you back off with the level of distraction, and reward him when he gets it right, and then increase the level of distraction again. Make sure you’re having fun!
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