A.K.A. the Living Room Weave Entrance Training 🙂
It took me a while to publish this blog post because it didn’t seem like I did a good job describing the method. In the end I decided that poorly written post is still better than none at all – at least the information is out there and someone might find it useful. I decided to describe the full method rather than just my changes, so that people who haven’t yet started training weave entrances could benefit from it as well.
This post describes using a weave channel to train both entrances and actual weaving. Please refer to previous post Training Weave Entrances to understand why I chose this method and see an example.
A weave channel could be simply a set of stick-in-the-ground poles. It doesn’t need to be fancy.
Teach the dog to run straight through the channel
Start by setting up the weave channel like the blue dots on the diagram below. Note that the left line of dots always starts before the right line. This is very important. It is how the dog eventually learns to enter weaves with the first pole on his left side.
The weave poles should be something like 80cm apart in the beginning. Set a reward 2-3m after the end and restrain the dog 2-3m before the weave channel (at number 6), so all he has to do is run straight to the reward. Have a party! Repeat.
After a successful session at 80cm you can next time close the channel by 10cm and continue like this until you get to 50cm. Then it makes sense to start working on entrances.
I train entrances in my living room using 4 poles.
I would prefer to do this training somewhere with more space and would ideally use 6 poles, but there’s no room for them. I do it in my living room because I have no backyard and it’s hard to get motivated to do several short sessions per day if I need to go to a place and set everything up each time. And in the living room I don’t care if it’s raining or snowing! Training is happening anyway 🙂
Basic description of the method is the same as Silvia’s: start with straight entries and then move a little to the right/left every few successful repetitions. The magic is in the details:
- Train left side and right side entrances in separate sessions at first. This really made a big difference for Ruby and Java. Don’t worry, you will mix them up later. In the mean time, mix up the side on which you stand. So if you’re working entrances from 5 o’clock, sometimes stand on dog’s left side and sometimes on the right side. In the case of 5 o’clock entrance, the left side will be more difficult for the dog, so start with standing on the right side and once the dog can do it, try standing on the left as well.
- Don’t be afraid to start the session with a couple of easier entrances and then make them harder. But do make them harder as soon as possible. If there are no mistakes I usually make every repetition a bit harder.
- Since my living room is small the max starting distance to the weaves is 2m, and often only 1,5m. I think this helps because I can feel whether they are pulling toward correct entrance, but it can also be tricky. If the dog is too close then the weave channel will look very distorted compared to how it looks from 5m. Some distance building is needed once I take it outside.
- Establish a reward line, i.e. rewards should always appear in the same place (I used Manners Minder with Java, thrown toys with Ruby). Do the channel in one direction only (no running back through until the dog understands entrances). With only four poles which are widely spread out it’s easy for the dog to get confused about which way the channel is going and establishing a reward line lessens the confusion.
- Train in short sessions of 5-8 repetitions, first one side, a break from training, then the other side. I start with the side that caused more problems the last time and sometimes I will do two sessions on the “difficult” side to catch up with the “easy” side.
- Work on it every day at first, preferably 2 times per day. Since training is really short (only 20 repetitions in a day) and you’re in your living room that shouldn’t be a problem 😉 If we’re not actively training I find it useful to refresh the knowledge 1-2 times per week.
- In the beginning keep the channel open enough that the dog will stay in easily. When doing entrances from 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock it’s easy for dog to turn too wide when entering. Good footing is important as well (don’t do it on hardwood floor). My living room channel is 50cm wide to help Java from going out. I want her to focus on entrances first apart from staying in the channel. Reward line also helps to keep her in the channel because once she gets in it’s just a straight line to Manners Minder!
- When the dog can confidently do fairly difficult entrances (lets say more difficult than 8 o 4 o’clock) start mixing up left side and right side entrances. By confidently I mean he will nail every entrance in a session, even if the first one you do is already at 4 o’clock.
Perhaps do two entrances from 5 o’clock, two from 7 o’clock, two from 4 o’clock and two from 8 o’clock. If the dog is not successful, make the entrances easier and work more on the side that gives him more problems. Sometimes you will find that the dog is not yet confident with entrances on one side, so you will need to go back to work only that side.
The rest is just common stuff:
- Don’t let the dog pattern by repeating mistakes. If dog makes two mistakes in a row make it easier (and then even easier) until they succeed. Keep the success rate high.
- Do restrain and feel where the dog is pulling. Let go when they’re pulling toward the correct entrance. Don’t help the dog with motion (unless he’s really stuck).
- It often takes the most work to get from straight entrances to 7 o’clock and 5 o’clock and again around 9 o’clock / 3 o’clock. Be patient, move in small increments and set up for success. If the dog is stuck you can help them by shaping their path a little: as you release move with your dog for one step so that he nails the entrance. Do this twice, then check if he can do it on his own, without your movement.
- After a difficult session end with an easy entrance. This is a common psychology trick that works on humans, too. It makes the student feel like this stuff is easy, like they know how to do it. Success is good for confidence and confidence is good for learning.
Have a question? Don’t be afraid to ask! I’m sure I haven’t covered everything.
Next time we’ll look at transferring this knowledge to a set of 12 weave poles.