It’s an amazing feeling when you really find the partnership between dog and human, and achieve something you’ve been working towards for ages.
Since we started learning agility we’ve been steadily working on weaves. First we tried the channel method, then we tried putting the weaves in a V-formation. Nothing really worked for us, and Jaxon didn’t get that the weaves were the objective, not the food in my hands.
We had to over come 2 things: Getting Jaxon to do the weaves as an obstacle and Getting Jaxon to not follow my hand.
Yet another piece of advice led us to a method that was even further from success, but seemed simple at the time. I started rewarding Jaxon for every second weave he did. When we tried this at club one day, although I was getting good success with it, one of our members who is also a judge pointed out that the method I was using throws up yet another couple of barriers.
Firstly, by using my hand or voice to indicate every second weave, this counts as a signal to the dog over and over again. The dog breaks the weaves into 6 obstacles, dependant on my signal for success through the whole obstacle. This means the dog can easily ‘pop out’ of the weaves at any time, likely miss an entry, and will depend on my instruction even as we progress.
Secondly, there is some contention around signalling to your dog and effectively helping them through the weaves in a trial. Some people have received DQ for it due to the unreliable nature of the method.
So back to the drawing board. I’ve already said a number of times that Susan Garrett’s 2×2 weave method is the best out there. While it’s possible to train your dog in 12 days like Susan does in the DVD, it’s more likely to take about a month due to the amount of training time most people actually have.
Once Jaxon understood the reward was in the 2 weave poles, not in waiting for me to tell him what to do, he really started getting the weaves. While I won’t go into great detail here, I will add that it was a case of slowly building on the basics, slowly building to 4 weaves, slowly building to 6 weaves. By the time the dog gets to 6 weaves, they’ve got it. They understand the reward of the poles, and will hit the entry every time.
So, I’m going to add a video this week that shows Jaxon going from the 6 and 6 weaves point, to the full 12 weaves. I can’t express enough how surprised I was at the speed he picked up the full weaves, and how lovely his weaving is. In as short a time as a month, Jaxon has gone from having no clue to doing 12 weaves. And the most exciting thing is he does it WITHOUT A WEAVE COMMAND! Yes, that’s right. no hands, no command – it’s all his work.
Now, I’m not going to say he’s perfect (‘cos I’m not, and we all know agility comes down to the handler!), there is room for improvement, and the biggest thing we need to work on is getting off the transition toy (has food inside it) to a toy. However, I can say that at the novice level I’m pretty confident Jaxon is going to hit the weaves and do them well.
Now all I need to work on is getting his undivided attention from the get-go. In other words – our lead-outs.