Tuesday, May 10, 2011

2X2 Weave Poles

Riley is already very proficient at weave poles, but could use more work on entrances.  When entering the weave poles, the dog must pass between poles #1 and #2 with the left shoulder passing next to pole #1.  With a straight approach, Riley has no problems nailing the entrance.  However, approach from a sharper angle (especially perpendicular or 90 degrees) and she will often skip the first two poles or enter from the wrong side. 

In the past, it has been very difficult to explain entrances to my greyhounds.  I think the main difference between training a hound versus a more traditional training breed is that there are some things that take thousands of repetitions for it to make sense to your hound. And it simply is not worth the time, the wear and tear on your dog, or the mental stress or boredom to do that many reps.  Instead, I would resort to trying to give my greyhound the straightest possible approach and sometimes we just could not get it.  However, the 2X2 weave pole training method is brilliant and clearly explains entrances to your dog, so I did some retraining and introduced Riley to this method.

Below, I am going to show you Riley's progress in the 2X2 method in a series of short videos.  I am in no way explaining to you all of the details.  If this method interests you, please get the DVD - click here.

To start, it really helps if your hound enjoys fetching a toy for a treat.  The DVD uses a border collie to illustrate the technique and those silly dogs will do anything for a couple of tugs on a toy.  I have yet to meet a greyhound that will yield much effort for a tugging session.  However, it still works best if you are able to throw something.  Click Here for my series on teaching your greyhound to play retrieve if you need help.

First, set up 2 weave poles and determine which direction you want your dog to go through the poles and reward for only that direction by tossing your toy.  Riley had already done this a time or two so she understands the concept of going through the poles in this clip.  She is not very studious yet and gets silly with her toy, but this improves in future training sessions.  I am trading her the toy with very high value treats (not just my everyday fetching treats).
The goal is to work from all angles so the dog can learn to enter the poles properly with only 2 poles to deal with.  I tell Riley when she is wrong and ask her to repeat.  Again, I am using high value treats so she is encouraged to work through her mistakes.
A second set of 2 weave poles is added.  Initially, the 2nd set is placed right next to the other so that if the dog passes through the first set in the pre-determined direction with enough momentum, she will easy pass through the 2nd set as well.  Right now there is no bending.  Notice I do not give her a lot of help.  I let Riley figure it out.
The 2 sets are gradually lined up to look more like a line of weave poles.  Then a third set of 2 weave poles is added and those sets are gradually lined up.  If the dog understands that she must pass through a set of 2 weave poles in a certain direction, she will have to bend back the opposite direction in order to line up and pass through the next set of 2 weave poles in the same direction.
In the next clip, we have three sets of 2 weave poles again, but this time only the first set is offset slightly.  At this point, Riley has virtually no problems with entrances from all angles except for coming from the direction you just saw and will see in the remaining clips.  It is important to work all angles, but this approach is usually our main focus since it is the toughest for Riley.
Eventually, you add other obstacles so the dog is approaching the weave poles with more speed and momentum.  If Riley makes the same mistake a few times in a row, I will make it a little easier and I reward heavily when she does get it right.  You really cannot be too generous when working on something tedious like this.
I continue to school Riley with the 2X2 method and hope to see tough weave entrances continue to improve.