Q. My two year old female Apple has a problem on the A-frame. I think she is scared of heights because once she gets to the top, she stops dead and won’t come down. When Apple does descend, she does so very slowly. Is it possible for dogs to have vertigo?

A. Dogs are rarely afraid of heights. They have no problem jumping off the kitchen table when caught cleaning the dinner plates…. Reluctance to descend the A-frame happens for a number of reasons.

The view from the top From this vantage point Apple can see everything that is going on and can scan the horizon for treats. She is savoring the view! Apple relishes looking down on all the people trying to entice her off the A-frame. The harder they try, the more determined she is to remain aloof.

Toenails Apple’s nails may be catching in the a-frame’s slats. Descent is slow and painful. Trim them.

Cooing encouragement Try to tempt Apple down with sweet words and she may think you are praising her for staying on her perch. Don’t pursue this option.

Two Feet On/ Two Feet Off This position is fine for dogs with drive, but demotivating for those that lack confidence. Apple looks down and sees you standing at the bottom of the A-frame. She elects to stay on top rather than face any argument when she hits the ground.

To help eliminate this behavior, retrain the A-frame.

  • Lower the A-frame as far as it will go so it’s easy to cross.
  • Give Apple a reason to get from one end to the other – a bowl of treats or a toy. Put it at the bottom of the A-frame.
  • With Apple on the lead, guide her over the A-frame to her prize. Let her clean up the bowl or give her a game with the toy.
  • When Apple knows the route to her goodies, try a recall. Ask someone to hold her, rev her up or tease her with a toy and call her. She’ll be eager to get to the other side.
  • If Apple is zooming over the A-frame as fast as she can to find her bowl or tug toy, it’s time to try running along the right and left side. Leave Apple in a wait and on your signal make it a race between you to see who gets there first. If Apple lacks confidence or is a bit insecure, try letting her win by getting there first.
  • When you have the speed and drive that you want, it will be time to raise the A-frame gradually to its full height. Do this slowly over a period of time. If at any stage your dog loses her enthusiasm, lower the A0frame again.
  • Vary rewards Sometimes instead of a treat, let Apple do her favorite piece of equipment, or if it’s hot, an ice cream or swim in the stream!

With a little patience, Apple can quickly overcome her ‘fear of heights’, and successfully navigate A-frames.

Used with permission.
From Questions and Answers on Dog Agility Training, by Mary Ann Nester, T.F.H. Publications
Visit Mary Ann at


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1 Comment on “Vertigo?

  1. We never want our dogs to have pain. So the first thing I would do is have the dog checked for Hip Dysplasia. This breed GSD is predisposed to HD. It could simply hurt to come down the A-Frame. There is a mixed message if you encourage or beg the dog to move with your voice. A food lure or toy is OK. However, it is best to be quiet when the dog is not moving and then praise only when moving. Good luck and have fun.