One of the favorite obstacles of the spectators, the seesaw or teeter cements the image of an agility course as a big playground. The dog needs an extra measure of balance and patience to do well on this obstacle. He must go up an inclined plank that is 12 feet long, which is secured to a fulcrum about two feet high. The dog must tip the raised end of the seesaw and bring it to the ground, then dismount. The dog must touch the contact zones both ascending and descending. The seesaw is slightly weighted on one end or attached an inch or so off center so it will return itself to the proper position for use from the same direction over and over.
From a dog’s eye view, the seesaw looks much like the dogwalk from the end – a 12-inch-wide inclined board with a contact zone. But halfway up, what a surprise as the plank starts to tip! If the seesaw is not introduced gradually, your dog can develop a lasting distrust of this obstacle. It should be introduced after your dog is secure with the fundamentals and is well balanced and confident on a narrow, bouncy plank.
The seesaw presents three major elements of difficulty: noise, balance and height. This training is designed to separate these elements and build skill and confidence in each. The element of noise is tackled first, because it is such a common source of concern among dogs. Agility is a noisy sport, and the seesaw is an especially noisy obstacle. The element of balance is next, because the seesaw requires more comprehensive balancing skills than the other ramp obstacles. Then the familiar element of height is added last by way of complicating the dog’s command of the other two skills.
Step 1: Introduce a tippy plank and wobble board. Use a clicker to shape investigative and playful behaviors. Reward noise, then balance.
Step 2: Use an adjustable regulation seesaw, fulcrum at eight to 12 inches. Work high to low, then low to high. Raise the fulcrum gradually and introduce contact criteria with guidance. Name the obstacle only if your dog is ready.
Step 3: Introduce the element of height using seesaw table games. Game 1: regulation seesaw at full height with a 24-inch pause table under the high end. Game 2: two pause tables of different heights.
Step 4: Use a regulation seesaw at full height. Name the obstacle. Your dog should gradually take responsibility for contact position.
Step 5: Full contact responsibility. Vary your variables. Introduce 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.