Online Class Review – “Foundation Weaves, Love Them and Flaunt Them”

My dog Molly hated weave poles in the game of dog agility.   Hated.  Whenever we saw them in training or competition, she blew by them as though they were invisible.   When I recalled her to me and helped her enter them, she would stress down, sniff, sneeze and shake her head – oozing stress.   And if she weaved any slower, she would be moving backwards.

I knew when I saw Julie Daniels’ “Foundation Weaves - Love Them and Flaunt Them” class on Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, that we needed to enroll.  Straight away, I liked that the class material was available for dogs at all levels.   Beginners, in-progress or retraining.  As the class progressed, this was very much true.  The teams enrolled in a working (Gold Level) spot with Julie were from all walks of their agility life and she guided every single one of them with skill.

I also liked how versatile Julie is with the equipment required.   A set of weaves is very spendy, even if you make your own.  The downside of an online classroom is that you need to have more equipment at home, or wherever you will be training.  However, Julie has a wide variety of inexpensive equipment options that teams working in this class can use.   That is a big plus for those on a tight budget!

Molly and I enrolled in a working spot and I was very upfront about our major “weave baggage”.  Not only did Molly have a dramatic stress reaction to the weave poles, so did I.  But the course material made weaves…fun!  Yes, fun!  If I haven’t made it clear yet, this class is very versatile and so are the course materials.  There are many different ways of training weave poles and Julie brings them together, blends them, adds things of her own and then helps teams choose which path will make them most successful.   I love that!   There is nothing I love more than seeing an instructor that can rise to the challenge of acknowledging that different dogs learn in different ways.

Julie brings a lot of enthusiasm and great energy to the class, she wants her students to be successful.   She loves the subject (weave poles!) and it shows in her interaction with her students!  You can’t help but feel happy about weave poles during this class!  The course was 6 weeks long and by the end of it, Molly and I had made significant progress in our attitude about weave poles as well as Molly’s general knowledge of what her job was.   I had a dog who was really loving the obstacle, for the first time in her career.  So if you want to teach weave poles, are struggling to teach weave poles, if you need to re-train weave poles, or if you are like me and hate weave poles with every ounce of your being – check out Julie’s class.  You are going to have a wonderful experience!  (Class information as well as session scheduling can be found here.)

Happy Weaver! credit - Rich Knecht Photography

Happy Weaver! credit – Rich Knecht Photography

K9 DIY: Make some quick & dirty 2×2 weave poles

Project difficulty level: Really easy, especially if you have the hardware store cut your PVC for you. If you can snap some Tinkertoys together, you can do this

Widget and I have been playing around with some backyard agility recently, and she’s been steadily working her way through my motley collection of (mostly homemade) equipment. We’ve been having fun jumping and tunneling and playing with our DIY’ed contact trainer, so recently I started thinking about starting to teach her the weaves. My favorite method of teaching weaves is the 2×2 method that Susan Garrett developed (here’s the link to the video explaining the method, which you can buy or rent on bowwowflix; there are also several good explanatory videos on YouTube). However, doing 2x2s requires a slightly wonky equipment setup that’s a little different than your standard channel or competition weave setup. The only place where I have access to ‘real’ equipment has channel weaves, so if I wanted to teach Widget weaves using 2×2, my choices were a) drop $250 + shipping on a nice 6-pole set of Versaweaves, b) make or buy some stick-in-the-ground weave poles or c) attempt to put something together using PVC in my back yard. Now, if money were no object, I would get the Versaweaves and never look back (those things are awesome!); however, you’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t have $250 just burning a hole in my back pocket, so I relegated that idea to the ‘someday!’ list. Lots of people love option b, the stick-in-the-ground method; however, I live in the desert where the ground is hard as a rock and not amenable to having pointy things stuck in it. Also, one of the things that’s always annoyed me about the stick-in-the-ground method is that it’s hard to keep the spacing between the individual poles consistent, and the idea of having to bust out my hammer and my measuring tape every time I wanted to move a pole seemed a little unfun to me. So that left me with option c!

Before I begin, here are some obligatory caveats:

1) The drawback of using PVC for weave poles is that there’s a piece of PVC running under the dog’s path as they run, which can have a small impact on their gait going through the poles. The weave poles at lot of training clubs are made of a long flat piece of metal that connects the individual poles together; this flat piece of metal sticks up about a 1/4″ off the ground. If you build your poles the way I’ve outlined here, with 1/2″ PVC, the connecting bar will stick up twice as high as the flat metal bar variety. My dogs have not had a problem adjusting to this, but it annoys me. If you’re working outside, one way to get around it is to scoop a little bit of dirt over the center bar to level things out (or alternately, to dig a very shallow channel to set your poles in). But just so you know, it’s a compromise that you make if you’re doing it this way.

2) The weaves aren’t precisely to competition standards, largely because of the center bar thing. This doesn’t really bother me: I know some people like to have precise replicas of competition equipment in their backyard so their dogs never have to adjust to anything different in trial settings, but for me, the most important thing is to have something that I can afford that works pretty well and allows me to train at home. Plus, I figure that equipment varies between clubs anyway and it’s not a bad idea to teach my dogs that the game is the same even if the gear looks a little different.

3) I used 1/2″ PVC here, in part because it was cheaper and in part because I like my poles to be a little springy: however, if you want something a little sturdier and closer to competition size, you should use 3/4″ PVC. Just make sure to get 3/4″ fittings to go along with the larger pipe

4) The directions here are for weaves with 24″ spacing. If you are a hardcore USDAA person, you can adjust this down to 18″ pretty easily. That said, if you’re a hardcore USDAA person, you probably bought Versaweaves as soon as you got your import border collie puppy, and you’re probably sitting there in your Vibrams and Clean Run pants giving me an icy Teutonic glare through the computer screen RIGHT NOW.

So, for the rest of us, here’s how to build some cheapy 2x2s. The materials cost me $22.79 at my little local kind-of-expensive hardware store, and the poles took me 20 minutes to build (and that was including picture-taking time), so even if you are broke and scared of DIY projects, you can do this one, I promise. I recommend having the hardware store cut your PVC for you: unless you have a chop saw, it’s a little annoying, and they can usually knock it out for you in about three seconds at the hardware store (often for free!)

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