This brings me to the topic of tonight's blog post. Glenn (the host) had asked me how hard it was to train dogs for agility. I answered saying that most of the obstacles are things dogs do naturally--jump, go through tunnels, climb over things--except for the weave poles. The weaves are the one thing dogs (nor any animal, for that matter) do not do naturally. Training for the weave poles is mainly training muscle memory for the body. Because of this, it's the one thing Mesa hasn't been able to nail down in class.
The past three weeks Mesa has been in "Weave Pole Boot Camp" in the backyard. After the Louisville trial in March, I came home and set up my stick-in-the-ground poles in a thin channel with weave-a-matics (they were staked in at an angle) and ran her through all 12 poles. After a week I was able to put the bases in-line, but kept them at an angle to start teaching her to hop around/over the bases.
Every night we've gone into the backyard and run through the weaves, entering on both the "off-side" and "on-side", as well as with me on both sides. She took to the routine quickly and really enjoys working the weaves. Last week I brought back a jump to add more to the weaves, making her enter the weaves from a 90-degree angle and collect into the weaves. I've even put out a small "puppy" tunnel on one end to use as a discrimination.
She's taken to the poles so naturally, it amazes me. I decided to train her on all 12 weaves, not starting out with six and then adding on after she moves up to Open. I started Dally on only six weaves and it was hard to get her to continue through all 12, so I didn't want that to happen with Mesa. I wanted to start her on all 12, then she would be ready for the transition into Open whenever she earns her Novice titles.
As of now (4/14) the weave poles all almost totally straight, in-line and Mesa is nailing it. Merinda came by tonight to see her in action and was just as excited as I have been, especially to see her doing the "patented two-footed hop" you see most fast small dogs do in the weaves.
I hope to get a video soon of her training in the backyard.
I think I might have to add the wires once the weaves are all straight and in-line, just as an added reassurance to keep her in the weaves. But, I might just wait and see how she does independently.