Pushing on the Last Pole
08 Mar 2009
When there are an even number of weave poles the dog always exits the weaves on the side of the weaves opposite of the side on which they entered. Conversely, when there are an odd number of poles the dog enters and exits the weaves on the same side. The diagram below shows these layouts:
In itself, that is good to know. But there’s more :^)
I believe in all agility venues the dog doesn’t have to move forward and pass the final pole; they usually have to pass between the last two poles in order to complete the obstacle correctly. Consequently, you don’t have to wait for your dog to continue past that final pole before your start directing them to the next obstacle.
That means you can start turning your dog at the next to last pole by Pushing or Pulling as soon as your dog enters the gap for the final pole:
Once your dog has solid weave poles you can take advantage of this fact on course and it can open up additional course handling approaches.
I had setup a course for class that allowed the handler to use a push to their advantage for both sides of the weaves. I created a smaller training course in my backyard for demonstration:
For discussion purposes let’s restrict the opening to dog on left entering the weaves. At the end of the weaves you need to decide which side of the tunnel to be on going to the teeter. If you follow the green path you’ll cross at the end of the weaves (Front or Rear) and you’ll cross again at the end of the tunnel (Front, Rear or Blind). Or, as shown in red below, you can Front or Rear Cross at the end of the weaves and then Rear Cross as your dog enters tunnel; eliminating the cross at the end of the tunnel and the need to race your dog the length of a straight tunnel:
Going from the weaves to jump 8 you either cross on the approach to the weaves or after them.
But if you can push on your dog’s path coming out of the weaves you can run this course without any crosses:
It turns out this handling is easier on the human and makes it clear to the dog where they are going next. On this course there is another advantage of pushing into the tunnel instead of Rear Crossing. The dog always knows which way to turn coming out of the tunnel. If they don’t see your Rear Cross before entering the tunnel your dog is likely to turn left coming out of the tunnel
(for more discussion see: Turning Dogs Out of Straight Tunnels). I’ve also captured this in my video below.
I shot some video showing multiple handling approaches for a six weave pole version of this course in my backyard with Meeker. It was about 25 F (-4C) outside and the ground was frozen hard, so I didn’t dare jump Meeker on it but at least there wasn’t any ice. But you’ll see he isn’t getting great traction on the frozen dirt/grass. In spite of the cold it felt great to do a little agility outside.
I think this is another useful skill to have in your handling repertoire. You might also be interested in my article on wrapping the last weave pole.