Jump to section
If you’ve ever been witness to an agility competition, you may be familiar with some of the staples of the agility course. Things like tunnels and jumps are quite common, but one of the most familiar and recognizable obstacles is the weaving poles. These poles stand upright and allow for a little bit of wobbling as the competing dog weaves in and out of each pole, showing off an incredible amount of speed, control, and intelligence.
Weaving poles require a very specific point of entry and exit and are often placed somewhere in the middle of the course, meaning that the competing dog must not only rocket into them with incredible speed, but also know how to navigate them, and where to go from the exit. This is a difficult trick to learn, but once it’s mastered, it can definitely please any agility competition judge out there.
Learning the weaving poles is a necessity for any dog that is training to compete professionally. However, even if you’re not training for competition, the weaving poles offer an opportunity to practice obedience, speed, and keep your dog mentally engaged while getting exercise and having fun.
The obstacle consists of six poles to begin with, but often have twelve within the typical competition environment. In competition, it’s generally required for the dog to enter from the right side of the first pole and exit to the left of the last. Starting with this configuration can keep your dog from becoming confused later on and is generally recommended. In addition, this type of training is only appropriate once your dog has finished growing. The right age can vary, depending on the breed. Consulting a veterinarian beforehand is important, as repetitive movements before a dog is physically ready for it may cause damage or injury.
Weaving poles can be found at local agility clubs, purchased online, or created yourself, but ensure that you have regular access to them to train every day. Try to keep your setup as close to regulation as possible.
To begin training, grab some of your dog’s favorite treats or a toy that can be used to lure your dog through the course. Figure out what is most appealing to him and can encourage him to perform what you’d like him to. If you’d like a bit more control over your dog’s whereabouts, feel free to use a leash. Training for the poles is best kept short and sweet to avoid overworking your dog’s muscles, but a mastery of the obstacle will come in a few weeks if training is done on a consistent basis.
The Wire Method
Determine the weave pattern
The wire method consists of the creation of wire barriers that both guide your dog through the appropriate weave pattern and block off the unwanted direction.
Set the right wire height
Too low and your dog may be tempted to leap over them, too high and she may ignore them entirely. Be sure that the wire is set right at the center of your dog’s chest to prevent either outcome.
Get your dog comfortable
If she’s timid, offer some treats for positive exploration of the poles. You want her to be excited around them, not fearful.
Lure your dog through
Using the leash or a toy to entice your dog forward, have her enter the pathway you’ve created with the wires, weaving in and out of the poles. Let her take her time and don’t be afraid to try again if she backs out.
Offer a nice reward of treats or playtime every time she completes the pole course. Get her used to the feeling of going through them faster each time.
Remove the wires
Once she’s comfortable doing the poles with the wires in place, try to remove them and see how she does. You can try removing one set of wires at a time to help the transition.
Be sure to regularly practice the weaving poles as it will help your dog build confidence and speed. Take breaks often and never ask your dog to do anything that might hurt or injure her due to overworking.
The WAM Method
Obtain a Weave-A-Matic set
Weave-A-Matic poles, or “WAM” for short, consist of poles that can be angled outwards in alternating directions to slowly get your dog used to weaving by gradually lifting the poles until they’re upright.
Start with an outward tilt
The poles should be almost parallel to the ground to begin with, with the first pole on the left.
Guide your dog through
Use a treat or toy to guide your dog over the center of the poles. Reward when he makes it through.
Gradually raise the poles
Over the course of several training sessions, lift the poles higher and higher, taking your dog through each version of the poles that you set. If he struggles, return the poles to the configuration where he was last successful and try again.
Near the end of your training, the poles should be entirely upright and vertical. Reward for your dog going through the weaves successfully.
Though this may take some time for your dog to adjust to each new setting of the poles, you’ll want to be patient with him throughout. Never force your dog through the poles and give him breaks when he seems tired or unfocused. He’ll get it eventually!
The Channel Method
Set the poles apart
This method requires the poles to be vertical, but set wide apart from each other to begin with, creating a “channel” through the center.
Walk your dog through the channel
Using your lure of choice, help your dog go through the center of the poles at an even pace. Avoid encouraging him to run through them as that makes it more difficult to control his speed as the poles get closer together.
Move the poles closer together
As your dog gains confidence with the initial setup, start moving the poles closer together, encouraging him to start weaving once it’s possible. Remember to start from the right side of the first pole.
Reward as often as possible
With each new setup of the poles, make sure you make the entire process fun and rewarding for your dog. Keep him interested by switching out the lure with something new and use a variety of treats.
Line the poles up
As the poles come closer and closer together, they eventually should end up in a straight line as per a regulation weaving pole course. Continue to practice!
Keep a steady pace
Controlling speed is a large part of the weave poles. Take your time through the weaves with your dog and only work up to quicker paces with practice.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 12/26/2017, edited: 01/08/2021