Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Teaching Teeter "Bang It" to a Small Dog

Christina Sander's Papillon, Quasimodo, learns to bang the teeter

One of the toughest tasks in training a toy breed in agility is teaching a fast, safe and reliable teeter performance. 

As was recently illustrated in Bad Dog Agility's comparison of the 26" and 8" winners of the 2013 AKC National Agility Championships, the naturally slower drop of a lightweight toy breed as compared to a larger dog is a matter of sheer physics. 

In agility competition, how fast a little dog is able to drop the teeter can shave or add seconds and can make the difference in who wins or places or possibly even makes time.

Bad Dog Agility shows that teeter drop 
for a little dog can make a big difference.

The best thing we as toy breed handlers can do is to teach the dog to move quickly and confidently to the very end of the teeter and to "stick it" until the teeter hits the ground.

A low body position is essential to help lower the center of gravity and support the drop with downward movement.

Outdated methods that involved having the dog find the teeter's pivot points are fairly useless in training toy breeds since a very light toy dog, such as my barely 5 pound Papillon, Samurai, are so light that the pivot point varies substantially from teeter to teeter. This can be a set up for big problems at trials.

Most light toy breed dogs will need to move right to the end of the teeter to assure that the plank will tip -- and the dog will not be stuck airborne -- even on a properly calibrated teeter.

It's popular to train the "bang it" method to get the dog to energetically move and hold the end position on the teeter. 

I haven't seen many video examples of how to train this process with a toy breed. It's pretty much the same process as training a larger dog, but it requires a little more finesse.

In the video up top, Canada's Christina Sanders does an excellent job demonstrating the "Bang Game" process with her 11-month-old Papillon, "Quasi". 

Teaching the dog to interact with a clicker and target, as well as getting the puppy familiar with various kinds of movement and surfaces would be prerequisites to having a puppy take to the teeter this quickly.

Do you have other ideas or resources for training the teeter? Leave a comment below!

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