Weave poles are one of the most popular obstacles in any agility course. It is fun to watch well trained dogs zigzagging their way through a course of 5 to 12 poles as they follow their handler’s command. But as simple as this may seem, this is also one of the more challenging parts of agility training and can take the longest time for a dog and handler team to master.
This obstacle is exactly what its name suggests: a series of poles that are staked into the ground with a set amount of space between them. Regulation poles are sturdy and usually made of ¾” PVC pipe. They are often combined in sets of six poles, but some competitions will double that to twelve. In either case, the poles are generally set 24” apart, are 1” in diameter and between 36” and 48” tall, with striping of a different color than the poles themselves.
The goal of weaving is to send your dog through the set of weave poles in a back and forth pattern in as short an amount of time as possible. It may sound easy, but that can actually be quite difficult to achieve.
Not all dogs take to weaving naturally and that’s because it is not an activity they generally come across in their everyday life. Jumping, tunneling and even running up and down ramps are all things that dogs will take to on instinct, but not so with weaving.
Because it can be such a challenge, there are various training guides that can be used to make it easier on your dog to pick up the idea of weaving. These range from poles that extend out sideways to pole combinations that can be set up in a zigzag pattern. In both of these cases, the guides give your dog a visual and physical example to work from in order to help them learn the zigzag pattern.
Weave poles with these extra training features are usually designed to be gradually converted into a straight set so that your dog is eventually introduced to the kind of straight line pole set-up you will find in regulation competition.
Another way of making the learning process easier is using what is known as the 2x2 method, with sets of two connected poles that can be set up at a time, to provide a slow but steady approach to the longer regulation courses.
There are many manufacturers who make pole sets, with and without training guides. These sets can range in price from $25 up to as much as $100. The amount you invest in your equipment will depend on how serious you are about agility training. If you want your dog to compete successfully at the highest level, then having good quality poles is a must, so that he can get used to the look and feel of competition equipment as soon as possible.
If you’re just picking up agility as a form of exercise or for fun, then you may be able to make do with a cheaper set. You could even construct your own out of PVC pipe. There are many handy instructional videos to be found online that can show you exactly how to construct your poles and set them up for you and your furry friend to work with.
When it comes to dog agility, nothing beats the thrill of successfully completing a course of weave poles, but be ready to work hard in order to get to that point with your dog. When you finally do conquer those poles, the reward will be well worth all that effort!
United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. (USDAA) guide for weave poles.