Well we're doing it! It's been a really interesting last week as we've worked our way from six weavers to the full twelve. I completed a session using six poles on Saturday (Session 15) and Sonic made one mistake while completing some amazing entries and flying through them. I decided not to go down the path of putting two lots of six together with the space in between as per Susan's DVD as he has already successfully done twelve poles when I did the weave-a-matic training late last year. Sunday (Session 16) afternoon I set up twelve weavers using six 2 x 2’s with all the sets slightly open to help his single striding along. To start off with he was going beautifully and he did some great entries from the off side. However when we got to the near side, although initially successful, he seemed to lose all confidence in doing hard entries from that side and continued going in via the third or fourth poles. By this point he was really mentally and physically buggered so I gave him a couple of easy entries and called it quits as I felt the situation wasn’t going to improve. I’m not sure what the reason was for his loss of confidence. He had been down the beach that morning and was running around for most of the day so was he just tired, was seeing the twelve poles too much for him or is it just something he’s going through? I'm really not sure.
Monday evening after work (Session 17) I set up the same thing with twelve weavers using six 2 x 2’s with all the sets slightly open again. As with the day before his entries on the offside where solid. We did have a brief problem with Sonic going around the first pole and then missing the second entry, however this was quickly resolved by opening the first gate for about four repetitions then moving the gate back. Unfortunately we experienced the same issues as the day before with the near side entries. He was successful if I was close to the first entry but as soon as I moved away and made it in anyway challenging he would enter into the second or third pole. On the up side his single striding is really improving and when he gets his entry he is hammering through them.
Tuesday (Session 18) was back down to the Canine grounds. I felt that the best way to deal with his entry problems was to make things a little easier for him so I set up six poles and focused on near side entries. If it was the 12 poles that were overwhelming him I thought that bringing it back to six might help. I also made the first few entries nice and easy. He still made a few mistakes but by the end of the first session he was back to hitting the hard near side entries. Later on in the evening I set up 12 poles, this time with the first four as 2 x 2’s slightly open, the middle four straight and the last four as 2 x 2’s slightly open. Once again he made quite a few mistakes but he was full of confidence and came bouncing back after each one for another attempt. As generally happens when you change the weaver configuration on them I find their style goes a bit dodgy so I will set up the same four open, four straight, four open again on Wednesday just to help him figure out his footwork. He’s trying to single stride but as I keep changing things on him it’s obviously hard for him to settle into it properly. Am definitely feeling a bit more positive about it.
Wednesday (Session 19) was at the Canine grounds again and as with Tuesday I set up 12 poles, with the first four as 2 x 2’s slightly open, the middle four straight and the last four as 2 x 2’s slightly open. This session was great and his entries were back to being pretty fantastic. He stilled missed a few but came back to me full of confidence to give it another go and by the end of it was hitting some extremely impressive entries. His single striding is really coming on. The first few poles can start a bit messy with his footwork however he sorts himself out on his way through.
Thursday (Session 20) I moved on to first four as 2 x 2’s slightly open and the remaining eight poles straight. I incorporated a jump as well to add to the challenge. I only worked on the near side, as I really wanted to do some other sequences with him for a change. Initially we had some great work but I put a jump at a really hard angle (down near the 10th weaver…) and we hit a bit of a roadblock , as he just couldn’t quite get it. After numerous attempts I decided to give him a couple of easier ones and call it quits, as all the other work was great and I didn’t want to rattle his confidence. With the eight straight poles his stride has gone a bit muddled again and he was doing part single and part double striding through them. As per previous experience that should resolve itself once he has another session. Later on in the evening I decided to work on a challenging sequence that had been set up. The sequence had weavers in it with a very challenging angle on the near side (the jump before was sitting in line with weave pole 5 facing towards the entry). It was quite exciting as it was the first time I have asked Sonic to do the weavers as part of a sequence. The first couple of attempts he went straight between the first two poles and then blasted past all the rest. By the third try he hit them well and manoeuvred himself around to complete the rest. When I came back to have another go about half an hour later he managed them first go with no hesitation. This was a weaver entry, which even the experienced dogs where missing. Needless to say I was rather chuffed!
I'm giving him the next few days break as weaving is so taxing on their bodies. I'm doing some training at Brian's on Monday morning so I think I may do the four 2 x 2's followed by eight straight again and see how we go. If it is solid then I feel we'll be ready to go to 12 straight permanently. Of course we have plenty of proofing to do but at least we can start doing some more interesting sequences.
I have to say that after following through with Susan Garrett's 2 x 2 method I doubt I will ever use anything else. It's simple and easy for the dog to follow provided the dog understands the concept of offering behaviours. If you stick with Susan's principles it remains fun and exciting for the dog while achieving pretty speical results. For anyone contemplating giving it a try I fully recommend that you do!