Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Study of Weave Performance - Front View

It takes a dog between 3.5 - 6 seconds to run through the weaves, too fast to notice all the fine details of their footwork, especially if you are the handler/trainer. So, last year in Lake Charles I took video snippets of numerous Excellent level dogs taking the weaves at a trial, all running towards me.  I finally got around to compiling them into a slo-mo video to better understand how different dogs take the weaves, how a lack of consistent footwork slows them down and leads to pop-outs, and how even high achieving dogs who complete the weaves are sometimes inconsistent. 

Here's the 6 minute video of 26 Excellent Class dogs in a T2B run, slowed down to 40-50% speed.

Do you know how your dog weaves? 

Several things I noticed:
  • Almost all dogs have the same rear foot action - a two foot hop, regardless what the front feet are doing.
  • A few large one-stepping dogs only put down one back foot also, or barely touch the other foot down.
  • All dogs push out of the last weave with 2 front feet.
  • All dogs head check their handler as they leave the last space unless the handler is already ahead of them.
  • Some dogs push the poles with their head or shoulders, to straighten their line, which probably improves their speed.  They leave the poles all aquiver.  Other dogs don't touch the poles.
Inconsistencies include:
  • Leading into the space with the outside foot sometimes, other times with the inside foot.
  • Both front feet land simultaneous sometimes, other times it's a stutter landing.
  • One footing it sometimes, two footing it other times.
  • One footing it on one side, two footing it on the other side, consistently.
  • Even in consistent two steppers, they sometimes land on the outside foot first and the inside foot other times, or always land on the same foot first no matter which side of the weaves they are on.
  • Some dogs combine all of the above within a single pass through the weaves.
  • An inordinate number of dogs pop out at the 10th weave.  Why is that?
I want to learn how to improve footwork consistency in the dogs I train. Let me know what you think.  I invite discussion.  I've heard various things from various trainers, including
  • Always practice on channel weaves except a week before a trial.
  • Trainers close the channel weaves too quickly, before their dogs commit the performance to muscle memory.
  • I don't care how my dogs weave, as long as they know they have to get through them.
Two stepping and one-stepping are both correct styles in my view.  Each dog will do the style that suits them.  And yet, we should be able to improve consistency and the answer lies in back-chaining and baby steps.  Hitting solid entries.  Susan Garrett's 2 x 2's is one way.  (Our club has a set.  Hardly anybody uses them.  It's hard to teach a class with multiple students on the 2 x 2's.)

Last year I posted a still shot study of the various front foot action, plus a slo-mo video of rear foot weave action.  You can view that study at this post.

Upwards and onward!


Rose said...

Wow. What a great video and such fantastic observations! So far I have taught four dogs to weave. The first three were taught using the channel method. I used a little bit of 2x2 and then luring with the fourth. She learned to weave in two weeks! I abandoned the channel method because my third dog never learned to collect before entering the weaves and I blamed it on my leaving the channel open for too long. However, he is now 9, and I think he just has a basic loathing of collection and it wasn't due to the method I used.

From my first dog, I learned to never, ever pressure the dog while he is in the weaves. His dislike for weaving is one reason we never got beyond novice.

What I strive for with my dogs is independent WP performance. I want them to be able to find the entrance on their own and stay in the weaves until they are complete no matter what I'm doing. I don't care if they hop or single step--that's up to them. But I don't want them carry their heads up high, and I want them to weave not plow through the poles.

I think that a lot of 10th pole popping is due to lack of proofing and/or handler screw-up. (Been there, done that :) I have never used my hands to encourage weaving in and out, but I have used my voice and clapping. For my dogs, clapping is putting on a little too much pressure. And I discovered that I cannot maintain an even vocal rhythm while running, so now I make a "whishing" noise when I want to encourage speed in the weaves. It's like the sound that some people make when sending their herding dogs on an outrun.

Kristen N said...

I wonder if there are multiple factors at play in development of consistent weave pole footwork. Perhaps people may not recognize and correct unwanted habits early in the training process. Dogs are often in a different state of mind at a trial compared to in practice. Their brain is working under super charged conditions and sometimes their bodies can’t keep up and lose balance. That would likely show in weaves. I see that a lot in my young girl. She’ll become excited and try to do something and literally her body “crashes” as if all those neural impulses log-jammed and her muscles give a random response. Perhaps a more experienced dog would be able to weave, but the footwork won’t be as precise as in a practice session.