Topics: Contruction  |  Slats or No Slats?  |  Training  |  Trouble-Shooting


For dogs that bail off the teeter, you should really focus on food rewards at the end of the board to occupy their mind while they ride it down, and use a "get it" command. It's not always a size problem as green large dogs will also bail off when they don't trust the thing yet. It's not something that can be trained in a few sessions. It takes time to get any dog reliable on the teeter. (Katie Greer)

For dogs lacking confidence, first, don't worry about it, and don't make an issue of it. There's plenty of time to put it all together. The most important thing is to keep the dog happy and confident. They may just need a little more time. If they're confident on the dog walk, concentrate on that, keep it upbeat and reward like crazy. Do the things he does well, then give the teeter another shot. They often act quite differently the next time they see what ever it was that unnerved them in a previous class. Go at it with confidence...today we're going to do it! (Katie Greer)

It is not uncommon for a dog to be frightened by a strange teeter. Short of getting half a dozen teeters with different actions and "banging" qualities, there are some things you can do with your teeter at home.

One thing to do is to re-examine your approach to the teeter. Many handlers, when they start having a problem with a piece of equipment, tense up, get frantic and put an edge in their voice, thereby increasing the dog's stress. It's important to stay calm, relaxed, and matter-of-fact.

Set your teeter on concrete or other hard surface to make it as "bangy" as possible. Work your dog on this until he it no longer bothers him. Make sure he succeeds and doesn't have any unpleasant experiences, i.e. falling off, etc. Hold onto him gently and reassuringly if you have to.

When he can handle this without problems, start changing the tip point of the teeter. This can be done by adding weight to one end, or moving the weight around, (a piece of firewood bungied to the teeter works just fine -- necessity is the mother of invention). If you have friends who have other teeters, do as much work on different kinds of teeters as possible.

You also need to teach the "tip" command. In this, you teach the dog "walk up", then "wait" on the tip point, then "tip" (the dog moves forward very slightly then waits again as the teeter comes to the ground, then "walk on" to exit. This again, is done very slowly. (Jo Ann Mather)

It is always a mistake to try to force a dog to perform an agility obstacle, although there are trainers that do this. Force is not the answer, especially on the teeter. Coaxing can be OK, but your dog will lose respect for you if the coaxing is begging.

Teaching the dog the down ramp first will usually avoid a teeter problem. The dog learns the end first, then is slowly moved back towards the beginning of the ramp. When the dog gets to the point where the teeter tips, lower it very slowly, with lots of praise and rewards at the pivot point and the end of the ramp. Over a period of time, allow the teeter to get closer to the ground before you catch it and lower it for the dog.

Despite these precautions, there are some dogs who fear the teeter's movement. There a variety of methods to use for these dogs, depending on the problem and its cause. For example, with some dogs who stop short of the pivot out of uncertainty, manually tip the teeter for the dog the moment the dog stops on the teeter. This is done slowly and with lots of praise and reward when the dog begins to move forward. With some dogs, when they have been able to do the teeter and suddenly balk, you should go back to placing the dog on the down ramp again, working the dog through the steps and rebuilding the dog's confidence. Patience is the name of this game. (Billie Rosen)

With a dog that has developed a serious tetter fear problem, what you need to do is to make the test a bit easier. Start over by training it like you would do with a puppy. Get yourself a large, thick board. Exact size depends on the dog, but the bigger, the better. To start with, just lay it flat on the ground. Let him walk over it, for lots of treats and praise. Do this until he will happily run across the board.

Now put a very, very thin dowel or a pencil under the board. Now when he walks over it, it should very slightly rock under him, but hardly enough to notice. Again, lots of treats and praise, and do this for about a week, or longer if he does show some reluctance.

Once he's doing happy with that, start increasing the size of the dowel. With each increase, let him get completely used to it before going on. You can also start narrowing the plank to get closer to the width of a teeter. Another thing to do with the wider board is to use a ball rather than a dowel, so it completely swings around in different directions. Again, don't move on to quickly, let him get used to each movement of the board.

When you are ready to move to the actual teeter, definitely train it by back-chaining. Have someone else hold it up so it touches the ground, and put a pause table next to the middle of the board. Place a treat at the end of the board, get him up on the table, and let him just walk down the end of the teeter without feeling any movement at all. He should be doing this quite happily before you allow the teeter to move at all.

Once he will race down the teeter, have your helper hold the board just an inch above the ground, so when he steps onto the board, it will move very slightly as he comes down it. Make sure he is happy at each point before you raise the end of the teeter. Eventually, you should be able to hold the board parallel to the ground as he steps on it, and lets it bang to the ground. At this point he should be ready to try the ascent.
(Mary Jo Sminkey)

For dogs that are having teeter problems, dealing with the problem once a week in class isn't usually enough--you need to do some work at home as well. The simplest and cheapest thing to do is to make an investment in a 2"x10"x8' plank. Get a scrap piece of a 2"x4"--you only need a foot long piece--and place it on the ground. Place the plank on top of the scrap and you have your own very mini see-saw. Have the dog go over it several times a day. You may want to associate it with meal times so there's a very big reward. The attitude that you want to encourage is for the dog to go running out to the plank when he knows it's training session time. Once the dog is comfortable, start moving the plank onto strange surfaces (such as concrete) so that the plank makes a lot of noise. As long as the dog is confident, you can also add another piece of 2"x4" or a couple bricks underneath the plank to raise it up a bit more. (Monica Percival)

With a dog that charges up the teeter then freezes at the pivot point, first of all, never assume that because a dog runs to an obstacle that the issue still isn't some sort of fear or discomfort. Many dogs make a mad dash for the obstacle they had a negative encounter with the week before-- sometimes it seems like they head for it so they can it over with and not have to worry about doing it any more. Operate under the assumption that for some reason the dog either doesn't complete understand what is required for performing the see-saw or is uncomfortable with some aspect of the obstacle.

In any event, the most successful cure requires a good helper. If you are working with food, put a reward in the down zone before you start the exercise. Easy Cheese is good on the see-saw because it stays in the same place even when the board tips -- you can also use the Easy Cheese to "glue" any tidbit of food to the see-saw. The handler approaches the see-saw with the dog as usual. The helper should be keeping a low profile but be ready to move into proper position. As the dog starts on the see-saw, the helper moves in behind the dog. BEFORE the dog gets to the point where he freezes, the helper tips the plank for the dog. The idea is to never let the dog get stuck--even if you have to tip the plank after the dog only takes a step. It will take more than one session to see an improvement, but after many repetitions most dogs will be able to work past their "sticky" point and tip the plank on their own. (Monica Percival)

With some dogs, fly-offs are not the result of fear, but rather the lack of it. What you can do is:

  1. go back on-leash
  2. ignore the seesaw for a few weeks
  3. on the dog-walk, work on a solid "WAIT" command. "Wait" here means *stop* all forward motion.

Once the dog seems to understand "wait" and will do it reasonably willingly take him back to the seesaw *on-leash* and with your hand in his collar at first, use exactly the same technique to re-teach "wait" there. Baiting the teeter with treats may help as well. If he gets very excited at a show or match, be aware that he might still fly-off. (Lynda Oleksuk)


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