(Re)Training Weaves with Guides and 2x2s

18 Jun 2023Steve Schwarz

In this blog post, I’ll explain how to train a dog to weave using 2x2s combined with weave guides, whether they have previous experience or are new to weaving.


I wanted to be able to put weave guides on the weaves for Snap! who sometimes pops the weaves on crosses on weave entry/exit. He was trained with 2x2s and Weave-a-matics (angled weave poles). Most people who use weave guides put them on channel weaves. But, I don’t have any channel weaves. So I thought I’d acclimate him to the guides by putting the guides on a set of 2x2s. Here are some clips of the two training sessions it took to get Snap! fully comfortable with the guides and my thoughts during the experiment.

My main mistake was continuing to use his “get it” verbal (get your toy on the ground) for too long after the 2x2s were rotated so they “looked like weaves” to Snap!. As soon as I started using his verbal “Weave” he stopped offering other behaviors and started weaving and he completely ignored the weave guides.

Starting a Dog Weaving Using Guides and 2x2s

Here are notes on the progression I would use for starting a dog weaving with guides and 2x2s. Spark learned to weave, including exposure to Masters level entries/exits and distance, in about a dozen sessions with this approach.

Step One - Introduce 2x2s and Guides

When I started training Spark to weave I put weave guides on 2x2s and had them in line (so basically an inline set of 4 poles). I then lured him through the poles to get him started. If you watch the video in Step One below you’ll see it was kind of awkward because I was using full height weave poles. Back in the day, we used to use shorter weave poles which made keeping your hand in front of your dog’s nose from the top while in the weaves easy.

Video: Luring - I wouldn’t do this anymore

Instead do what I did at the beginning of the video at the start of this article with Snap!:

  • Put clear weave guides on two 2x2s in a fully open channel. The idea is for the dog to be comfortable seeing the guides and the guides won’t do anything for a while.

  • Work the normal 2x2 progression with the dog finding the entry and moving through the poles - except with weave guides on the poles. This might be what your 3rd or 4th session would look like:

    Weave session 3: you can use guides with 2x2s too. Spark’s already getting the weaving pattern and figured out some entrances. You can see I’m trying to keep myself from being with him as he weaves and reducing luring. I moved the two sets more inline for another minute of training and that was it for today! The frustrating part of watching this video was hearing myself misuse my marker words!
  • As you start to rotate the 2x2s more inline, the guides will start to guide the dog. Always reward successes and don’t reward the others (or if your dog needs more encouragement reward attempts and jackpot successes).

    Spark weaving day 4: cookie toss find the entrance. You can see Spark figuring out the wrapping pole entrance. The 2x2s are almost completely in line now. Snap! felt like he was missing out on his share of the cookies!

Step Two - 4x4s with Guides

  • Add a second set of two 2x2s about 10 ft (3 m) inline with the first set so you can work double the entries/exits. I think some folks call this the 4x4 method. The thinking is two-fold: you want your dog to keep weaving as long as there are poles in front of them and it lets you work twice as many entries.

As you’ll see in the videos below, I switch between one set of 4 and two sets of 4 poles depending on what I’m working on.

Spark weaving day 5. More find the entrance and two sets of four. He’s enjoying the training, but I need cookies that are more visible in the grass. I was better being consistent with my marker words/actions too
Spark weaving day 6: weaving toward/away and motion behind. This was a poorly planned/executed session on my part. I got an alert that the rain was coming so I grabbed some Charlee Bears and Spark and rain out to train before the rain. I really hadn't thought about my session. I was playing around with the cookie toss game and being both behind and in front of him as he entered/exited the poles. I also did some rear crosses behind him as he entered.

Step 3 - Adding Handling and Angled Approaches

  • Keep rotating the four 2x2s inline while working: (counter)motion, distance, all the approach/exit angles, rewarding with treats, toys, and Manners Minder, preceding/following jumps/tunnels, and don’t forget working not taking the weaves unless you cue them (start this as soon as your dog understands your verbal cue).

  • I’ll also work using 6 poles when working crosses after the weaves because it give me more time to execute the cross while my dog is still in the poles.

  • I’ll add my verbal cue “Weave” once my dog seeks out the obstacle and is performing the weaving action. Until, then I just use my generic “Go” verbal.

    Spark weaving day 7: adding approaching jumps and sending to a toy. I set up two jumps so wrapping each end of both jumps gives different on-side and pole-wrapping approaches. Spark loves driving to a toy so this both raises his arousal and his speed. I feel pretty good that I only screwed up by giving his marker to get the toy (get it) in place of his "do the thing" marker (go go) a couple times 🤣
    Spark quick weave training session 8. It was cold, wet, windy, and raw today. 🥶 Thought I’d slide the two sets of four weaves together and see if he understood to keep repeating the sequence (w/o guides connecting them). No problem. You’ll see I’ve already created a weave monster … when we are training he wants to take the weaves to get his toy. It was tough getting him to take the jumps before the weaves. 😝 But, not a big issue. I love training him; he always makes me laugh!!
    Spark weaving sessions 9 & 10. The setup is 4 poles w/guides with one pair of jumps on each end of the poles. One set of jumps is further from the weave entrance to the right/left and also top/bottom. That gives me 16 different weave approaches if I send Spark over each jump wrapping to each side and from the front and the back. In these sessions I'm addressing three things: 1. Only rewarding Spark for taking the weaves when I cue them. 2. Rewarding Spark for taking the cued jumps - including not taking the weaves at all. (the weaves have been so heavily rewarded that he now prefers to take them). 3. Adding more of my motion including crosses before and after the weaves. I put a few interesting parts of the sessions into this video. But, from here on the session will be less interesting for folks to watch so I might not post them. Watching my own training is so enlightening, I've caught myself doing all sorts of dumb stuff!
    Spark weaving session 11: here’s an excerpt showing us working 180 degree soft and wrapped pole entries with some handler motion.
  • Take your “show on the road”: bring your 2x2 weaves with guides to other locations/classes (you may need to take a step back in challenges when working in the new location for your dog to be successful). You don’t want to be that person who says: “But she weaves fine at home”. A new location changes things for the dog.

  • Once the poles are inline start to mix in two sets of 6 poles with guides - still separated. For working all the approaches/handling I haven’t found dogs need to work a full set very often when they are first learning.

  • Eventually work short sets of 12 poles together.

Final Thoughts

I’ve trained a number of dogs to weave and used a different method with each dog, including combining methods as you see here. The main thing is to watch your dog and adapt if you see your dog isn’t progressing. Don’t be afraid to switch to another approach!

Like most training, short sessions are the way to go. Take a big step forward in only a few minutes? Reward and play together and call it a day!

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