Friday, February 25, 2011

Teaching the 2x2 weave method....

I've always taught weaves using a shaping/clicker method. Shape the entry, shape the macaroni, shape a second macaroni, etc - tossing the cookie behind the dog to cause forward motion back to the weaves - setting up another success. Then working around the clock and up to six poles, then tossing cookies ahead. I generally don't keep dogs at six poles for very long - after all, the only time dogs see six weaves is in novice - and I don't train (my dogs or my students) for novice. The car goes where your eyes go.

For this session of intermediate agility I decided to try something different - using my five intermediate students as guinea pigs. I've heard raves from the 2x2 camp, I'd seen a couple of 2x2 dogs that had some great success with finding entries - and was amazed that dogs were weaving six poles in a matter of weeks (or days). This group had started weaves via my original method - but without weaves at home the dogs just weren't putting it together and I saw dogs and handlers getting a little frustrated. I proposed trying something new - and asked my "kidz" to be guinea pigs.

The 2x2 method is Susan Garrett's ( method - there's a popular DVD available from Clean Run (and others) that outlines Susan's method. I've also been impressed at Susan's generosity on forums - specifically the Clean Run Yahoo list - to answer questions on her method - even if to tell people that they're spending too much time on the first couple of steps. I've watched Susan's DVD a few times - but I'd never had the impetus to try teaching the method. Murph easily learned via my shaping method - as did Teller - who worked up to a full set of six in a span of about 2 weeks (and a set of 12 the week after). My advantage was that both of my dogs are VERY clicker savvy - they're operant, thinking dogs.

In the April 2009 issue of Clean Run (this issue is available in print as well as via digital back copy here), Mary Ellen Barry published her version of the 2x2 method in an article entitled: A New Twist on Training with 2 x 2 Weaves. It was Mary Ellen's version that I worked through with the intermediate class.

My results using MEB's 2x2 method was as follows:
It seemed like we spent a lot of time at step one - a couple of weeks in short sessions of class time. Some of the kinks we ran into was both speed of reinforcement and placement (throwing) of reinforcement. Cheese would bounce on the floor or handlers had a hard time getting the reinforcement out of their hands in time - dogs got "stuck" looking back for the cookie. For this step we had to work on getting reinforcement SOONER - even going so far as asking handlers to anticipate! We also had a couple of dogs (and I won't name names {GIGGLE}) who were SURE that they were absolutely right and really had to be somewhat restrained so that they didn't offer incorrect behaviors (this is part of the method too). For obvious reasons it's a lot easier to grab a golden's collar than a 10" terrier - but we worked through that too.

At the 4 week mark all five dogs had a break-through. All five dogs are weaving six poles now - making entries with some speed, collecting, putting their heads down and accelerating out of the weaves - last night even making weave entries out of a curved tunnel. The handlers are even able to (successfully) rear-cross the weaves - accidently at first - now reliably - something I haven't seen with beginner weavers using my original shaping method.

The downfall of course is that you need to have sets of 2x2's available. My 24" weaves from affordable agility came in 2x2's (for shipping and transport) - this wasn't a requirement when I purchased them - but it's come in handy for this experiment....I'm convinced enough to try this method with my next class - and I suspect I'll even suggest a few folks go back and re-train 2x2s to improve entry accuracy. Then there's the proof in the pudding - my next puppy - if there's a next puppy - will (at 15 months and not before) learn his (yes HE) weaves via the 2x2 method.

Next up for the intermediate class is to get to a set of 12 poles - one 2x2 at a time :-)

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