There are many methods to teach dogs how to weave. Having attended a variety of agility camps and agility seminars, I've seen quite a few of the top handlers present their preferred method of weave training. Their training techniques vary, but the one thing they do have in common, the end result, their dogs all weave fast and efficiently.
The Weave Chute is one method of training weaves. The Weave Chute is a structure where the weave poles pull apart and the dog runs down the middle channel. The weave poles are setup on a base either PVC or metal, the even number poles pull back to the same side and the odd numbered poles pull apart to the same side. The poles are brought closer together, training a chain of sessions, until the weave poles are in a straight line.
To start, the weave poles are about 3 feet apart. Set your dog on a Stay (Sit, Down, or Stand). Leave your dog and go to the other end of the chute or channel. Call your dog, allow them to run as fast as they can through the chute, when they get near you through a toy straight ahead or between your legs. You want them to keep moving past you and not slow up as they get near you.
Move the weaves closer together, try 2 feet for a few sessions, then 1 foot apart for a few sessions. When the weaves are about 1 foot apart your dog will begin to actually begin the weaving behavior, depending on the size of your dog of course. This is the stage to add guide wires. The guide wires help the dog stay on path through the weaves. Your dogs speed will most likely slow a little in this stage. This is all right, he is thinking more and feeling the weaves against him for the first time.
You are still using your Stay at one end of the weaves, leaving your dog and going to the other end of the weaves and calling him through. Make sure your dog is successfully coming to you through the weave path, not jumping over the guide wires and running to you. If this happens replace him. If it happens again, go back and open the weave chute a little more. Practice until he can come to you down the weave chute with 70% to 80% accuracy, not many of us are 100% right in everything we try. Begin moving the weave poles closer together in inches now. Most dogs do well even if the weaves are off set by one inch , but somehow when they are setup in a line, they must look different and training sessions may seem stalled for awhile. Be patient, practice with your weaves offset by one inch then in a straight line, if you encounter problems, go back to the one inch offset. Your dog will soon realize he can weave when the poles are in a straight line.
The next transition is taking off the guide wires. With 12 poles, you use 10 guide wires. The first guide wires I remove are from the middle. The last ones to be removed are the entry and exit guide wires. Weaving is mentally challenging to you and your dog, so be patient with your dog and yourself. Be prepared to put in a few long months of training to get those fast and efficient weaves.
Brad Carlson is a dog trainer at Agility by Carlson. For more training details, visit our website at http://www.carlson-agility.com/