training to your strengths (or: why didn’t I do it this way before?)

So, recently I’ve begun really focusing on Lumen’s weaves.

Silvia Trkman basically says: restrain your dog at the entrance, let go and throw a ball (at least, this is how I understood it), then, move around the angles, getting trickier and trickier. If your dog doesn’t like balls, use a food bowl, but like all things, you want FULL SPEED!


Ok, said I. Full speed it is. Combined with my atrocious ball-throwing skills and Lumen’s complete determination to get said ball in spite of all other obstacles, this worked well until we began adding angles. What we then had was: entering on the left side at the 2nd pole, and/or, coming out on the far side of the channel because she’d entered too wide.

Why wasn’t my super clever pup GETTING this? Why weren’t we getting any better? Or, if anything, getting worse?

I read Andreja’s post on how she had been training poles, and so tried it that way a bit… but then thought: you know what, it’s still not right, for me.

Something that an instructor from some classes I’ve been taking with Lumen resonated with me recently, in that Silvia is such an amazing dog trainer that she sometimes can’t consider where other people are coming from, or give them the wrong idea. I’m sure if I asked her about my problem she’d have a suggestion, but I don’t know if it would be the right one for us.

Because you know what I suddenly clicked into? Lumen shapes. Why had I been madly throwing a ball before helping her know what to do? She’s an Aussie. Aussies think, then do. So… I walked to the poles, faced them at a slight angle, and said: “ok!”… and you know what?

She did it.

I rewarded, from hand. Probably a big no-no, whatever. I was building understanding.

I moved a bit further to the side, faced the entrance, and said: “Ok!” ….

She did it again! With more and more angles, she kept doing it. Ok, smarty-pants, think you’re so clever… let’s change it up a bit. I put a bowl at the end of the poles in a straight line, and put one biscuit in (Thanks for the suggestion, Andreja). I set up a fairly easy angle, held her collar and said: “Ok! Go weave!”…

Again! She did it!

Look, it’s not the blitzing flat-out sprint I was getting after a ball BUT… In the 3 sessions I’ve done since, I am now getting wicked angles, and running all the way through the poles. Her speed into the weaves is good, and coming out- not so much- she doesn’t drive at a sprint to food (why would she? she eats with a snail’s pace at home, there’s no competition, why rush?) but, she’s understanding it. She’s figuring out her job. She even knew- the one time she entered wrong and I didn’t click, that she shouldn’t go get her food. She looked at me as if to say: That wasn’t right, huh?


Sometimes I think we get so caught up in ‘the way you have to do things’ (like me trying to train cik/cap when all I maybe needed was some straight jumps first to show her how fun and fast it is, rather than going from a stand-still) that we don’t stop and think of how it works best for our dogs. If agility is just another tricks (and tricks are something Lu loves), then surely I should teach it as another trick…If throwing a ball is making her mad and not think, then she can’t do her job properly. When she knows that job, I’ll begin to throw a ball again. Until then, I’m loving what she’s starting to do now.

Listen to your gut, train to the dog you have.


4 thoughts on “training to your strengths (or: why didn’t I do it this way before?)

  1. Amanda says:

    A very valid point you make ;-). I always think its about gaining understanding first then speed second. Speed will come with understanding IF the dog understands the whole game is about speed. A few times tahli has slowed up a bit but once her understanding of the exercise came through so did her speed :-). Sounds like Lu is going to be a star 😉

    • Em says:

      I’m beginning to think so too, but so much of what Silvia does is about speed first, then fine-tuning, I just don’t know if that works as well with Lumen (or a lot of other dogs I bet), and I understand her point about it ‘changing the picture’ if you add speed later- I saw that with Lumen’s wraps suddenly getting very wide, BUT… with some fine-tuning, they’ve gotten back to being tighter because she already knew how to do that…
      Lu is certainly shaping up to be a fun dog – still a little lazy to start (unless started from a stay, then she’s not too bad!) but once she’s running, she seems to be going quick.

  2. Hi,

    I just got a set of 12 weave poles for practising channel weaves …..I’m not going to train her channel weaves until she is 7 – 8 months of age:)
    What do you think?

    I have a problem with her….ok so I’m training her and she’s happy and all yay can’t wait for the treat….then 2 mins later (of a 4min session) she is scared of me and putting her head low and looking at me ..I try not to look back cause I think that’s not right to but…:/
    What do you think is wrong?

    Lucy is 4 months Sunday this week so I will have a bid up on YouTube of her updates:)

    I also have just finished painting my a-frame 🙂 boy it was tiring to put sand on as we’ll as the paint x2

    • Em says:

      So you said with your problem that you’re training her and then she gets scared- what are you ‘training’ her? eg. are you shaping tricks, running around, getting her to do jumps? Need to know the context. There shouldn’t be any reason for her to ‘get scared’ as you’re obviously not punishing her, so it could be confusion, or possibly she needs more reinforcement sooner… If I could have a video that would help me see. 🙂

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