Our Holiday Card from this year! (note: the green is more robins egg blue, not spearmint!)
More of Murray & Porter’s playcation.
Murray and Porter playing tug, and the aftermath of what happened to Mr. Frog.
Our friend’s dog, Porter, came to spend the day with Murray last week. They had fun
amputating the appendages of various stuffed objects playing tug.
Murray had a little teeter mishap last week (the base collapsed and flattened out with him on it)! We worked today on getting his confidence on the teeter up by basically starting over and increasing the slope of the teeter as he became more confident and independent. By the end of the practice, he was almost up to full height. Good work Murray!
Weaving is supposedly the achilles heel of agility. If you watch any agility on youtube, it seems like it’s the piece of equipment that gives dogs the most trouble. Incidentally, it’s also one of the more portable pieces of agility equipment.
We’ve been taking classes through WLAOTC since April. Because Murray’s a little dude (he’ll be an 8” jumper for life), the equipment like jumps and tire are at his full height, whereas bigger dogs are currently going over 8” jumps and will need to learn how to clear greater heights. However, Murray’s size puts him at a disadvantage for weaving.
We’ve been doing the channel method with guides in class. What this means is that we separated the poles into two rows of 6, that were about 18” apart from each other width-wise. So the dogs first learned to run through the channel and get a treat at the end. Over time in class, we’ve been narrowing the channel, so it’s now about 6” wide. In time, the channel would get thinner and thinner until all 12 poles are in a straight line. As the channel gets narrower, the dog is essentially forced into the weaving position as the only way to get through the channel is to manipulate his/her body.
With the big dogs in class, 6” creates a weaving movement. When I watch Murray’s buddy Milou run through the weaves now in class, it looks like she’s weaving. 6” for Murray, though, is just a straight-through channel.
I’ve built a few jumps and a tire out of PVC pipes and connectors, but knowing how challenging weaving is for dogs (especially since it’s the least intuitive piece of equipment) I decided to buy a set of poles. I ultimately splurged on a set of VersaWeaves from Affordable Agility for the following reasons:
- For a competition-quality set, it was the cheapest set that wasn’t just straight weaves. I’ve heard that weave poles hold a good amount of residual value, so investing in a competition set would be better in the long run than a set made solely of PVC.
- Likewise, the foot feel for Murray will be the same as in class.
- The VersaWeaves break down into 2x2s. This is handy because you can practice the 2x2 training method for entries (or a friend of yours who is using that to teach weaving can use it), but also, it makes the weaves really portable. I live in an apartment so whatever I set up I have to tear down, and we don’t have a yard. Being able to shlep the whole weave bounty in an army surplus bag is extremely handy and easy enough to motivate me to take the Murr to the park daily to practice.
- The whole set is still fairly light (36lbs)
There are a few imperfections on the set:
- The 2x2s attach together by nuts & bolts, but if you are constantly assembling/disassembling the weaves (like I am), this is a really time consuming task to attach all 6 bases to one another. Because Murray is small and doesn’t knock the poles out the way, I can get away with not attaching them to each other, but if you had a border collie you would probably need to attach them. A new attachment system would be helpful.
- Whenever I narrow the channel, I have to unscrew the post, move it in a notch, and rescrew. This is a little more challenging than the sliding posts on the channel weaves that Agility Works sells, but it’s not too arduous.
Overall, I’m very happy with the set - it’s a dream for anyone who has to train their dog outside of their home!
Back to the weaving. We started practicing 3 weeks ago just doing 2x2s. I spent a week making Murray just go through 2 poles lined up at 2 & 7 o’clock, with the “reward line” driving him forward. This is discussed in Susan Garrett’s DVD for 2x2 training. I initially thought I could use her method for all of weaving (12 poles in 12 days - what a pitch!) but my aim and Murray’s drive was not enough to make this method possible. Plus, I have been getting lots of good training on channels in class, so changing the method would make it such that we’d have to do all the training on our own.
After a week of practicing entries (around the clock, so he’d have to enter everywhere from straight on to at a really odd angle), I brought out the channels and we started at about 5”. I’ve been alternating between putting a target plate at the end of the poles (to incentivize him charging forward) and tossing a bait bag. In all of the videos you see the target plate as I can’t shoot a video & toss a bag at the same time! Ultimately I want to remove the plate as you don’t want the dog to stop at the end of the equipment - there’s likely a jump or tunnel coming up. I also practiced entries with the channel - but again, hard to take video of the entries while also handling a dog.
Each day I’d try to bring in the poles one notch (~1/2”-1”). After a minimum of 5 successful runs from various entry points, I’d bring in 2 of the middle poles one notch. Then I’d do 2 more, and finally another 2 (you only have to bring in 6 on one side of the channel to narrow the whole thing). By the middle of the channel, Murray would already have hit his stride so didn’t notice the change in narrowness. By doing this methodically and incrementally, he didn’t seem to struggle or lose speed as I narrowed the channel.
Now that he’s doing 12 in a row, the challenge will be removing the guides. Although he is going too fast to really be guided by them, once they’re removed he’ll be more easily able to jump out of the poles as he wishes. I think I’ll take another incremental approach, starting in the middle and working my way outward.
And hopefully we can get some better videos going!
September 20. Right before we lined the poles perfectly straight (in this video they are offset by the tiniest smidgen… about 1/2 an inch). Last night we were able to line them up in a totally straight line and Murray did it. Unfortunately, by then it was too dark to shoot video, but hopefully I can get a shot of him in action this weekend and also work on removing the guide wires.
Murray weaving on Sunday 9/16. Weave poles here are offset about 2-2.5”. Go Murray!
Also from 9/12. Here you can see more of Murray’s body movement. Still 3” apart.