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2x2s and the Experienced Dog

Posted on 12/30/09 9 Comments

This is a question that keeps coming up with dogs learning the 2x2s for the first time but have had previous experience with weaving.

Diagram 1

What often happens with these dogs is that, even though you may establish the Reward Line, when you send the dog from high on the arc the dog often will choose the other end of the weave poles as shown here in the accompanying  diagram 1. This is not at all uncommon. Even though you may have established “value” in the reward line, with a dog that is experienced a weave work they may view the picture differently. You are working against the competing “value” the dog has learned through the weaving he already has done.  In that if the poles were heading out to the right in the diagram rather than to the left (as the reward line dictates) the dog would be correct.

I find the best way to avoid this conflict is to load up the reward line heavily first before going high on the arc. I see this with my own dogs when I am doing a 2 pole demo (with one of my experienced dogs) but it is quickly eliminated if I initially send the dog

Trying to avoid the absoulte middle, build value for the reward line while minimizing confusion for your dog.
Diagram 2. Build value for the reward line while minimizing confusion for your dog.

from a position where there will be less confusion so the dog has  a better chance at choosing correctly. That is, I don’t put the dog “high on the arc” before I have completely established where they the reward line is going (hence the imaginary rest of the poles) as in diagram 2.

Even though I don’t normally like sending a dog from a straight on or easy approach too often (what I refer to as the “thin slice of the pie,” ) I would not move this more experienced but currently confused dog out of the shaded area until he has chosen correctly at least 5 times in a row. ***NOTE: this is not the norm. Repeat, I will only do this with a weaving-savvy dog that is showing confusion.

If the dog is still struggling after you have heavily rewarded the correct “way” on the reward line for your dog, you can try to add a jump at the end as shown in diagram 3.

2x2_dec_2-3I really don’t like to do this because the reward often comes after the jump rather than after the poles but to avoid too many failures (too many is determined by your dog) I can see this option working. It is not something I have ever needed to do with my own dogs or my students dogs, likely because of all of the shaping they have had, but give it a go and let me know if it helps out those of you whose dogs are still struggling.

Today I am grateful for the great group of people we have at our contacts and weaves workshop the last two days. Major breakthroughs with a lot of dogs!


  1. Andrea says:
    Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 6:37pm

    Just to thank you, I am having tons of fun with my 13 month old pup. This method really rocks!!!!



  2. Maria says:
    Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 4:04pm

    Thank you very much for answer on my question!
    Unfortunately I can’t check now how it works, because there is too much snow outside… 🙁


  3. Dogworks says:
    Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 8:28pm

    I had this same issue with a retrain dog and it seemed to be the biggest problem during the entire retraining process (this happened when I added the second set of 2 X 2″s). I had a strong feeling that it had to do with reward line, so I just tried to reinforce that many more times than I had previously done with one set. Yes there were several days when *I* had smoke coming out of my ears (I usually try not to get too much into the head of my BC’s) and absolutely could not figure out what was going on, but as with most things, it did pass 🙂 I am happy to say that today was day 21 for this dog, 38 sessions, and approx. 1 1/2hrs of total training time, and he is doing 12 weaves fast, consistently, with drive, and making some of the most difficult entries I have ever challenged a dog with. Thank you, Susan! My only other comment is that it is too bad that you can’t just “rent” the 2 X 2’s, since you use them for such a short time 🙂


  4. Andrea says:
    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 11:23am

    Thanks for another great workshop! We had a lot of fun and I’m thrilled to have identified a major hole in my weave pole training and to be well on my way to fixing it. Tons and tons of great information and exercises to keep us busy while you’re away in Florida, can’t wait to show off when you get back 🙂


  5. Jodi Altman says:
    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 9:20am

    There is a clever way in which some hunters catch monkeys in India. They cut a hole in a coconut just big enough for a monkey to put its hand through. They will drill 2 smaller holes in the other end, pass a wire through and secure it to the base of a tree. Then they put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey comes down, puts his hand in and takes hold of the banana. The hole is crafted so that the open hand can go in but the clenched fist cannot get out. All the monkey has to do to be free is let go of the banana, but most don’t.
    Susan was in top form as an educator in the last 2 days at her Contact & Weave camp. We were profoundly enlightened to let go of the banana. Thank you Susan Garrett, I believe my grip has slackened.


  6. Marco says:
    Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 8:54am

    If the dog understands our handling system thru shadow handling this wouldn’t be a problem right ? So why not just stopping 2×2 training for a short period of time while training proper shadow handling then go back to the 2×2 training ? I’ve helped a couple of teams to retrain a 2×2 weave pole performance but before starting I’ve always had them to do some shaping as well as some circle work. I don’t know which was the most helpful but until now I’ve not encountered this problem.


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 9:17am

      Excellent idea Marco, I like the way you think!


  7. Jean Emery says:
    Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 9:09pm

    I definitely had this problem trying to improve my experienced dog’s entries from extreme angles. I almost gave up because it really seemed to mess with my dog’s head (which is usually on carnival midway mode anyway). My solution was to do what you suggested–spend a few reps at the beginning of each session starting from an “easy” approach, but I also jumped ahead a couple of steps and added in a second set of 2x2s–Stage 5 I think it is in the DVD. This really seemed to help break through the confusion and yet was still basic enough to improve understanding by working through the training progressions.


  8. Brenda McKague says:
    Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 3:56pm

    I started my young dog weaving using 2 x 2s, and she has not exhibited the problem you mention in today’s posting (yet ).

    However, the problem she does have occurs when we are trying tougher entries with the weave entry on our left hand side. Then she often “wraps” around the first pole to enter with the first pole on her right shoulder – I’m guessing what she’s thinking is that she always needs to “wrap” that first pole; she’s not thinking that the first pole must always be on her left side when she enters the weaves. Is this a common problem with 2 x 2 trained dogs? Other than continually not rewarding/marking the incorrect entry, are there any other suggestions to fix this?


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