The dogwalk, also known as the balance beam, is made up of three narrow planks and two raised supports. The dog must go up one plank in a specified direction, traverse the raised plank at a height of about four feet and descend the third plank on the other side. There is a contact zone at the bottom of the two end planks, for safety’s sake.
Each of the three planks is about 12 feet long and 12 inches wide. Two of the planks are end ramps, each secured to a tall support on one end and resting on the ground on the other end. Like the A-frame ramps, the dogwalk planks are specially prepared for good traction.
It is not easy to predict what an untrained dog will do, and you don’t want to find out when he is balancing on a narrow plank four feet in the air. Downscaled dogwalks should be practiced before introducing the regulation dogwalk. Some regulation dogwalks are adjustable, which is a great feature for newcomers. Many fine professional models of “baby dogwalks” are also available, most with eight-foot planks rather than 12-foot planks.
Step 1: Start with a ladder laid flat on the ground and set up a twelve-inch-wide plank about 12 inches off the ground. Play clicker games and reward your dog while he’s on the plank and in the ladder.
Step 2: Use a downscaled dogwalk, about two feet high. When your dog begins to love this obstacle, introduce contact criteria, using a clicker and reinforcing every correct position.
Step 3: Use an adjustable regulation dogwalk with the traverse ramp set unevenly, one end two feet high and the other end three feet high. Vary heights at both ends. Work low to high, then high to low. Help your dog take responsibility for contact criteria at speed.
Step 4: Use a regulation dogwalk. Introduce independent contact work at speed and perfect the “Three Ds”: distance, duration and distraction.
Excerpt from the book Enjoying Dog Agility by Julie Daniels with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, an imprint of BowTie Press. Purchase Enjoying Dog Agility here.