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Training Tips for the See-Saw (i.e. Teeter Totter)...

Verbal commands commonly used in training: Teeter, See-saw

The first teeter exposures are done with the handler either placing their fingers through the collar (fingers toward the nose) or holding the clasp of the lead. A goodie has been placed at the end of the plank with the dog watching the handler do it, and telling the dog to look! Here's your cookie! (Insert appropriate vocabulary) Then they walk to the beginning and prepare to go over it. You will encounter those who just aren't ready to do it the first time they meet it. No matter, there's another day. (Katie Greer)

Teach the see-saw by having the dog first walk over the board while it is simply lying on the ground. This allows the dog to get used to the surface while it is still fairly solid. Combine this with work on a pseudo A-frame that also simulates the dog walk and see-saw. It is the same width as the see-saw and dogwalk planks, but only rises to about 2' in the middle and is a fixed up-and-down configuration like the A-frame.

Going back to the see-saw plank, as the dog gets used to this (and it does rock a little due to the bar in the middle), put the board back on the see-saw base and slowly introduce the dog to it. With the handler on one side and the instructor on the other, slowly walk the dog up to the pivot point (unique to each dog). All the while, use a toy or food as a lure and as a means of keeping the dog's head moving straight ahead. Remember, as soon as a dog turns its head, its body follows and they are apt to walk off the side! For this initial stage, have a helper holding the end of the see-saw. With the dog at the pivot point, and the handler telling it what a good dog it is, the helper holding the end slowly lowers it to the ground and the handler walks the dog off. As the dog gets more comfortable with the obstacle, the instructor can back off, and the helper only guides the end of the see-saw as the dog pushes it down under its own weight.

Of course this does take time. Any dog that has been seriously scared off the see-saw by a fall, etc. should be taken back to square one. You may even want to change the name of the obstacle. To keep the see-saw from banging as it touches the ground, put a foam or rubber backing on it. If it squeaks, get some WD-40 and oil it. (Julie Clarke)

To teach the teeter, use the reverse chaining method taught by Sharon Nelson, which works very well with dogs who have a propensity to race off the board rather than learning to control the board. Reverse chaining involves teaching the dog to do the end of the exercise first, then slowly work back to the beginning, step by step. So start the teeter by putting the dog on the obstacle just above the down contact. With a large dog, lift the front end onto the board, then the rear, being gentle and encouraging. You shouldn't have any dogs that have a problem with being lifted onto the board this way. They are then taught to walk a step or two and to stop and wait at the end of the board.

The other part of Sharon's training method involves targeting. Sharon uses a target such as food on a small plastic plate, places the goodie directly on the down contact at the bottom of the ramp, or has someone other than the handler feed the dog. The treat is something the dog really really likes, and is a very small piece. The dog will quickly pattern to proceed to the end of the ramp and to stop and wait for its goodie, or to pick the goodie off the plate or ramp.

Sharon also teaches the dog to eat and go, not permitting them to stop and shop for more. When the dog is reliably doing the down contact, the dog is slowly placed further back on the board. Only when the dog can reliably do the end from his pivot point does she allow the dog to perform the entire obstacle. The handler catches the teeter for the dog when the dog first does the whole teeter, however, it is important that the handler begin to allow the board to drop partway as soon as possible in order to teach the dog his pivot point, which is what performance of this obstacle is all about.

Since the dog already is very familiar with performing the ramp once it is on the ground, which was taught first, the dog will usually not develop the usual anxieties about the teeter. This method is much safer and produces better results than the other methods used to teach the teeter, especially for very excited or very timid dogs. (Billie Rosen)

This idea for teeter-training is credited to Ken Fairchild, an aerospace engineer (naturally). Ken's idea is for a training teeter-totter that is both easy to construct and VERY gentle for beginning dogs. The idea is to create a "carriage" made of a circle of wood cut in half instead of the usual pivot point. As Ken explains, this transfers the pivot from the board where the dog is located to the ground -- sort of like a rocking chair. This provides a very gentle rocking motion for the dog to get used to the movement of the teeter. Since different sized carriages can be used, with increasing diameters, it is possible to start off with a very low teeter and progress higher. . The circular wood needed to build the rocker part of the teeter can usually be found at a large hardware or lumber store.
(John Ostrowski)

By first determining the pivot point for each individual dog and then baiting *their* spot, you will find that the dogs don't hesitate. They go out to that spot and while they're gobbling the board is moving. Depending on the size of the dog, you may find that you need a rather large piece to make sure he is still chewing during the ride instead of thinking of going on to something else.

It depends upon the reaction the dog had what you do next. Some should return to the dog walk for added confidence before returning to the teeter.

You might help the dog tip the teeter by baiting each step, either from the handler or on the board, with the spotter at the back of the board helping to control the movement of the board. Basically, helping to tip the teeter. For some dogs this helps get them over their initial reaction. They get lots of cookies for completing the obstacle whether they did it on their own or with help. They usually come around quite quickly once they see that nothing horrible is going to happen to them on it. (Katie Greer)

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