Thursday, October 27, 2011

Weave Pole Performance

Studying the still shots taken by professional photographer Michael Loftis from last weekend's trial in Kiln, MS, I've discovered that many dogs have inconsistent stride thru the weaves.  Since the poles are all spaced at 24", you would think over time an experienced dog would establish a stride and maintain it.  But the photos indicate otherwise. 

Here are a group of thumbnails of my own Lucky Lucy, posted with Michael's permission, to illustrate my points.  Lucky is a fairly green dog  who just earned her AX and AXJ titles from AKC in 7.5 months, who can two-step the weaves beautifully in practice but at trials generally slows down to a walk.  Below, she is running, doing a single pass with 3 different ways of maneuvering, all caught by Michael's camera:

Here's a few more dogs with inconsistent stride in a single pass:

Obviously, dogs that can't maintain a consistent stride are slowed down, must often get confused, give up trying to re-balance, pop out, etc.

Now here are 4 shots from a single pass thru those same weaves by my little Papillon, Maxie, who, when he runs instead of walks the weaves, has very consistent "two step" weave pole performance with a "single bounce" stride that is very fast.

On the last photo, it's clear that Maxie completes each pole in a single stride by extending his body.  With these photos confirming his consistency (same degree of lean, same head and tail position, same gaze forward, same shoulder distance from the poles, front feet landing right the same distance back from the pole, outside foot landing first), I now wonder if what makes him walk the weaves sometimes is when he doesn't hit the entry just right and can't hit a consistent stride, and if that's true, how do I train his entry to be at an exact spot?

Here are more examples of the "two-step" stride with different size dogs. Notice their back feet are close together and pushing off simultaneously.

Here are a some examples of dogs using their inside leg to lead in, pushing off with their outside leg, which sometimes (not always) resulting in the coveted behavior known as "one-stepping the weaves":

And shots of dogs using their outside leg to lead in, which has to slow them down and sometimes trip them up as they struggle to cross the new outside leg back in (last photo):

A few trials back, I attempted to video the back ends of a few dogs going thru the weaves, to find out how the back feet are moving.  Viewing each run in slo-mo (50%), turned out the back feet push off mostly simultaneously then hop into the space right behind where the front feet were, even while the front feet are varying as described above.  All the dogs take each pole in a single stride. The larger dogs have to "collect" and land their rear feet farther away from the line of poles, the smaller dogs have to "extend" and work closer to the line of poles to cover the distance. One dog, running with the lady in pink, was "one stepping" on one side of the weaves, and "two stepping" on the other side and mixing up leads, but the back feet were doing just about the same thing all the time.  Watch for that:

(Correction: dogs tend to take each weave in 1 stride, not 2 as stated in the video.)

As to training stride, my hunch now is this: I think we rush to closed weaves.  If we open the channels a bit then give our dogs a lot more time to figure out and develop the muscle memory of a consistent stride, they will eventually be able to do fast and reliable closed weaves.  Problem with that, our club has no 24" channel weaves.  I'll have to use my stick in the ground poles at home, but straight weaves at class.

We should also spend a lot more time doing "around the clock" weave pole entries.

Anyone with other weave stride training suggestions, ideas or comments, please feel free to share.

Upwards and onward!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am struggling to retrain my dog he would walk the weaves while I waved my hand back and forth) using channel weaves. I wonder what the correct time frame is to close them. I seem to get speed or correctness.