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January 5, 2018

Looks like I waited TOO LONG to write about our success completely rebuilding Clover's agility teeter-totter training last summer. It was going so well that Clover even did the agility teeter-totter at our group class in early October 2017. Alas, in recent weeks, Clover has gone back to treating the agility teeter-totter like her sworn enemy (again). If nothing else, dog training gives people the chance to practice patience and creativity. Thank goodness I shot some video of what worked last summer so that I can try the same things again. Cute 1-minute video ahead.


Agility Teeter-Totter Training

I should have taken MUCH better notes about what worked, what didn't, and which order I tried to break the process down so that I could more easily repeat the re-training of the agility teeter-totter behavior. 

Honestly, it's VERY discouraging to be teaching this same dog agility obstacle for the THIRD time. Partially it's because the second time went so well that I finally thought I'd cracked the code, but it's also discouraging because I realize that there are NO guarantees I won't have to re-teach it again in the future --- assuming what I do this time works at all. 

agility teeter-totter training

Isolating Agility Teeter-Totter Scary Elements

So, last time, I remember trying to isolate the various elements of the agility teeter-totter that Clover might find scary:

  • Noise
  • Movement
  • Height

Noise is typically taught using what people call "The Bang-It Game" where you reward the dog for jumping on or pulling the teeter-totter down until it makes a noise. You don't ask for anything else, you simply teach dogs that THEY control the noise. Many dogs -- even sound sensitive ones -- find that empowering. 

This works really well for Clover. I can get her to play this game now, even when the rest of her teeter-totter performance has gone to hell. 

She never has been keen on the equipment banging back into place after she leaves the board, but she was learning to cope. In the short video below, you can see her flinch when it drops back into place. 

Movement can typically be taught in smaller chunks by either lowering the agility teeter-totter so that the element of tipping is very small, or if your equipment is like mine and cannot be lowered, then you can use something to prop up the ends which has the same effect. 

Height is a bit harder to deal with if the teeter-totter you have won't lower. We do know, though, that for a LONG time Clover was very scared of our upstairs stairs and upstairs hallway because she could see through the railings. The height definitely bothered her when we first started letting her go upstairs with us. (There is a permanent baby gate at the top of the stairs.)

Last summer, on the advice of a more experienced agility friend, I also used Clover's round wobble board (set on top of our picnic table) to test to see if a combination of height and movement were the issue, but Clover did NOT find that particularly scary, which was good. Our picnic table is about the same height (if not higher) than the middle section of the teeter-totter board. 

In the video below, you can see that Clover had ZERO issues with a board that wobbles in all directions (not just tipping). 

Thank Goodness for Video

I don't always take the time to get video of our training sessions, but last summer (May through early July), I did grab some helpful clips. So, I guess I will try to repeat this process NOW to see if I can once again rebuild Clover's agility teeter-totter training.

Here is a recap (several days of work edited down to about 1 minute and 15 seconds).

About the Author Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related.

I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

  1. She’ll do it. Just thinking, if you guys had space to set it up in the garage or in the house during winter so she could use it all year without a long break might it help?

    1. It takes up a LOT of space and our garage areas are already committed to other things, and it’s big enough I don’t think we’d be able to get it down the narrow stairs to the basement. Unless things are really icy outside, we can usually train outside. I just haven’t been working on that for a while. Honestly, she was doing it so well in Oct / Nov that we were having to teach her NOT to just fly across and leap off of it. So, it’s shocking to have her suddenly be afraid of even getting on it. I wish I understood what changes in her mind. Poor sweetie. We’ll keep chipping away at it. We’re pretty much stuck in the bang-it game stage right now.

  2. Good luck with getting Clover okay with the teeter-totter, hopefully she’ll be okay with it and you won’t need to do it again. Notes are always good, even if you may never need them someone else might struggle with the same problem and you could offer some info of what worked for you.

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