2×2 Weave Pole Training Discoveries

Recently I responded to a post on a forum about someone struggling with their 2×2 training and wondering what they did wrong (or perhaps was the method flawed and not appropriate for all dogs). Obviously I feel the method works wonderfully for all dogs but not necessarily for all trainers:). However I was hoping in this case it was just a bit of mis-direction and Steve could be coached through to success.

Here are  a few video clips showing you what Steve had created with his training at that point (you can watch them all or just a sampling of each on to get the idea).

A great idea for your abilities is to get a pen and paper before you watch these clips and see how many errors in training you can catch (before reading on and seeing what I mention).

And here is my response to Steve’s post:

I saw your Youtube videos of your BC training 2x2s and there were many key issues on the DVD that you missed. You can see other examples of how these issues affect training in video clips by doing a search on my blog (www.susangarrettdogagility.com). I am not saying that you can not make any mistakes and still get great results with the 2×2 method-– but when you err in 4 key areas of importance I believe training ANYthing with ANY method would then be a challenge for even an experienced dog trainer.

Here are the areas where I saw you strayed from the DVD;

1)One of the more massively important mistakes you make has to do with the lack of a reward line. You are handing food to your dog from the beginning encouraging your dog to wrap around a pole to look at you during the reinforcement process — thus you are building a connection between going through the 2 poles and seeking out your eyes. When you do start throwing the toy it is rare it lands on the reward line and when it does, it is 30 feet or more away from the poles teaching the dog the most important part of the game is to power out of the poles because your toy will never be anywhere near the end of poles.

Key Reminder #1:

Understand, acknowledge and always be aware of the reward line (in line with the middle of the poles between 6-10′  from the end of the poles. Use it, every repetition!

2) It was stressed at several times throughout the video to be aware of where your dog’s eyes are looking during the training. I mentioned that when I trained Encore she wanted to watch the toy sail from my hand so I had to stick with food for longer at the beginning of her training (however I never handed my dog the food like you are in these clips –which encourages the dog to want to watch you). Once you have built into the process that watching you is an important part of weave training you have made the job of learning to weave incredibly difficult for the dog because he can’t be doing both; look at you while looking ahead for the next set of poles.

Key Reminder #2:

Where are your dog’s eye looking? You want them focused ahead NOT at you!

3) You work the small slice of the pie w-a-y too much thus your dog has learned that weave pole training is about “finding the opening between 2 poles at a gallop and blasting through as fast as you can.” By working high on the arc rather than “straight-on” the dog will learn to collect his stride on approach to the weaves. With a fast, drive dog, I rarely allow a straight on an approach to the weaves early on in the training.

Key Reminder #3

Stay away from the easy entries. Try them only occasionally for confidence building. Work high on your “arc” 95% or more of the time.

4)As the videos states, moving on in your training is critical. Four months at the open pole stage is 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days too long. The longer you stay at one stage the more you are building an association with the dog that weaving is all about “X-Y & Z” For your dog now the sight of the poles has been classically conditioned to mean “weaving is all about running as fast as you can to blast through the big opening while looking at your owner in order to charge 30 feet beyond the end of the poles to chase your toy that you have tracked out of your owner’s hand.”

Key Reminder #4

Move on!

Yes, you want understanding at each stage but the longer you stay at that stage the longer the dog believes that is what his job requires. For example, if you were shaping your dog to go around a chair and you rewarded him for going halfway around for 2 months, why on early would the dog every consider there is more to the exercise than stopping half way?

Yes, the DVD does make it look easy, however following the steps as laid out in the DVD is important. I have found that the people that struggle with this method are the ones that “do it their own way” or use someone else’s suggested “improvement” either on purpose or because they misinterpret the steps — this will be more evident when you see the video clips from my blog.

Once you ignore some of the more critical warnings from the DVD you change 2×2 weave pole training from something that should be accomplished in a few weeks to the frustration both you and your dog are experiencing now. I have received literally hundreds of emails and letters from people all over the world that successfully trained their dogs using the 2x2s and are thrilled with the results.

This IS a method that will work will all dogs of all breeds but ONLY if it is followed at least roughly right. At this stage of your training, I would advise you to do one of two things:

A) Either get your dog on a channel or weave-o-matic set up so he can experience what weaving really should be (knowing by doing this you are likely resigning yourself to the fact that this dog will be a “blaster” while weaving. . . one that will snap off poles as he is already doing (which hard on the body) and he will likely struggle to hit entries throughout his career– your next issue to deal with will likely be him going 1-3 in his entry work.

or

B) Stop working weaving all together for a couple of months and go back and follow the DVD to the letter when you start again paying close attention to;

1) A reward line that extends from the middle of the poles to only 6-10 feet past the end of the last pole.

2) Where are your dog’s eyes looking (during this time off I would recommend you work on some focus forward exercises as well as more body awareness).

3) Work high on the arc 95% of the time — do not allow the dog to blast

4) MOVE ON! Get the dog at the 1 o’clock -7 o’clock stage of this training within 5 sessions once you start up again (personally, I would likely have him there by session 2).

5) Review the video and the sections of my blog I recommended this time with a pen and paper, taking notes. Or better yet, go to my website and purchase the downloadable DVD transcripts. Then just get a highlighter and pen to jot down things necessary to jog your memory while you are training.

The happy ending to this story is that Steve did take my advice and he did take the month off. When he returned he incorporated my suggestions and in no time had his dog weaving as evident below.

Today I am grateful for Steve allow me to use him as the subject of today’s blog. Now here is where the rest of you that have had massive success with your 2×2 training write about YOUR experiences (love to hear the success stories).

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