How to Help Dog Agility Teeter Haters

dog agility Teeter terrorsMy dogs hate the teeter. Maybe it’s the bang, maybe it’s the movement, but they just won’t do it.  Any suggestions?

We find that most times a dog refuses an obstacle is because they have not been properly introduced. Not all dogs love the same equipment and they will show a lack of confidence by refusing to perform it. So, first of all we encourage you to keep trying, just look for a better way to build your dog’s confidence with the teeter.

One of the best ways to acclimate your dog to the movement of the teeter is to start with a rocker board.  This will build your dog’s confidence to the movement and texture of the teeter. Start with treating your dog every time they interact with the board, sniffing, touching and gradually placing feet on it and finally walking across the board. If you can’t do that, try working with motion as follows.

We cannot stress enough how important it is for you to build your dog’s confidence with the  teeter and in a slow, unrushed manner. For some dogs that means absolutely NO movement in the beginning. You can either lower your teeter to the ground, work with only the plank or propping the ends up between two stools, blocks, or other objects that can hold the plank and your dog’s movement without falling or shifting. Again, start treating your dog for any interaction with the board gradually moving toward your dog walking across, jumping on and off, running, and even turning around on it.

When your dog is completely confident with the stable board, shift one of the supports so the teeter ‘rocks’ just ever so slightly (1″-2″ maximum). Now is the time to introduce a nice aggressive end position by putting a piece of duct tape on the exit end of the teeter. Then put spray cheese or peanut butter on the tape to encourage your dog to drive to the end of the board for the treat. This is called the ‘bang game’, where the dog learns the reward is at the end of the bang. I would give cookies as well as loads of praise.

Work in short sessions, and do not change the drop more than an inch or two each session. Never increase the distance if your dog shows signs of aversion to the teeter. Go back to a point where your dog will perform it with confidence and stay there a bit longer. In your dog’s time, work your way to a big drop and then remove the supports completely. Depending on the level of aversion your dog had, you will want to make the teeter a rewarding obstacle, so that your dog won’t lose heart.

There are some dogs that are sound sensitive and they need to take time just hearing the noise of the teeter falling. If you think this is your dog you will need to get help to help your dog overcome their dislike of the bang. You can ask your trainer if you and your dog can audit other classes. Keeping your dog at a distance they can easily tolerate the noise. Then reward your dog every time the teeter bangs. If you have a teeter at home you can do the same thing by having a friend “bang” the teeter as you treat your dog. Start at a distance your dog is comfortable and with a low bang. Gradually increase the sound level or decrease the distance from the teeter. Do not do both at the same time and be sure you are treating and praising every time the teeter makes noise.

When your dog is comfortable with the teeter dropping from full height in close proximity you can resume the bang game to acclimate them to the movement of the teeter. Have fun, keep sessions short and upbeat with plenty of rewards and your dog will soon have the confidence they need to perform the teeter.

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