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Old 08-26-2013, 09:03 PM
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Default Agility folk: Fear of the teeter

Ok, thought I'd ask for advice/input.

Tonight Mia did the full height teeter the first time but was really leaning back away from the tipping point. The second go, she refused. Would jump on, then jump off. I tried coaxing her to no go. We eventually lowered the teeter down a long ways and got her going on that okay but not super excitedly.

My trainer (bee working with her 3 sessions now so not as familiar with Mia yet) thought it was likely a physical issue considering she used to do it. She suggested shoulders and to go to a chiropractor. She said the teeter can be one of the harder impacts in agility especially for the little dogs. So that's the plan right now, to get an appointment tomorrow. Trainer does know about Mia's knees so that is something we are going to look at as well. Other than the teeter though she's been fine in real life and at agility. Pretty much the same as usual. Did the dog walk, tunnels, jumps with ease. Her tunnels especially are improving a lot. Now, she has been slower since the hot weather hit but she's fast like normal at home so I've chalked it up to heat. Her 'slow' is still faster than most the other dogs in this weather- it's been 90-100 every day we've been out there recently. I've been keeping it in mind but waiting for the cooler weather to hit to see if that changes.

However, I look back and I don't think it's as sudden of a fear as it first seems. And knowing Mia, she is the kind of dog that if something is wrong to her, it is WRONG and she will be afraid of it/dislike it forever. Like.... when she escaped and Rhonda caught her and she decided Rhonda needed to be growled at/hated for over 2 years after. She still hates her. Or when Mia toppled out of my car once when I opened the door and refused to jump in and out of the car for 4 years. I mean... she's sensitive that way.

Looking back, Mia took to the bang game and all that just fine. She took to the teeter well too. Now, last december Mia flew off the end of the teeter. At the time she got back on and it was ok, albeit a little bit more cautious. Then the next week she was cautious but still happy on the teeter. Over time, she's started really flattening herself on it and I've been really really rewarding at the tipping point. But it's worse and worse. Could it all be fallout from flying off the end that one time even if she seemed pretty okay immediately afterwards? It wasn't until a few weeks later that she started showing any anxiety with the teeter. But that anxiety seems to have built up.

Other than the teeter practice went great today.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:17 PM
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Penn flew off the teeter in the early winter when she was about 5 months old (it was set low& she followed Briar over it). She LOVED the teeter before that& loved it until about 2wks later when she realized HOLYSHIT. You can fly off that thing.

It took SO MUCH work to get her to go off it again. She wouldn't even go within 10ft of it. For the longest time, I thought I wouldn't be able to ever trial her her fear was so deep. Then, in March (3 months later), I managed to get her to creep ever so slowlllyyy over it. We used the down table so it wouldn't tip as far& rewarded with liver& chicken hearts. Then, we used the smaller down table. Then, in about June, we managed to get her to tip it down to the ground again on her own without fear. Now, she's still confident on it& we're working on speed. It was a long road ..I am hoping someone here can give you a more successful game plan than mine!
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:27 PM
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It is good to know another dog experienced something similar. I wasn't sure if the 2-3weeks between the fall off the teeter and the start of the issues meant that the fall had nothing to do with the issues. My friend is having teeter troubles with her dog so I know it's pretty common but I think her dog started off afraid of the teeter. Mia thought the teeter was great for the first few months of training. Then it was suddenly HOLYSHIT. But Mia is a dog that really over thinks things and gets worked up easily.

Once we lowered it after coaxing her she went on it a few times. WAY lowered. She also sat up on it at the middle section while we were talking and eventually relaxed. Lots of cookies were involved. I'm really not worried about trialling her much ever or not. Just playing for as long as she wants to and we can. Mostly don't want to get my hopes up since she has some health concerns, but overall she loves playing agility and having fun while I gain some experience for Nextdog. If we have to stop the teeter, we can. Or just backtrack quite a bit.
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Old 08-26-2013, 09:51 PM
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If she got on it again, even just a sit, you're having WAY more success than I did post-teeter trauma. It took me about 2 months after she flew off to even get her to touch it with a paw We had to resort to clicker training paw touches to it.. reliving this is going to give me nightmares LOL!

Let me know how it goes and I wonder if there's an easier way to get over the teeter fear. I'd love to know!
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Old 08-26-2013, 10:00 PM
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Personally, I wouldn't reward at the tip point. I don't want a dog to want to be just at the tip point, as in a trial things often get sloppier than training. I refuse to be the person clapping my hands trying to get my dog beyond the tip.

I'd go back to banging the teeter and rewarding the heck out of it. I might even make a ridiculous practice teeter. Like a piece of pipe as a fulcrum with a long narrowish board and reward the heck for jumping on off all over. (I made one of those) Arson thinks contacts are wicked weird.. So we play ball on it, in it over it...

I like dogs who want to teeter surf. Cider does it, Smudge does not, but hey he's half blind and I only do master jumpers with him now anyhow..


To teach Cider to surf took two people. At first me with her and someone to hold the teeter. Lots of the bang it game ot make her super happy about it, and then letting her run up the teeter that didn't move because the person helping was holding it steady in the air and either they or I had something large to feed. Either a full squirty tube of something good or an entire weiner - Not to feed it all but to make sure they was more than enough reward without stopping, like holding it so they can only get so much of it.. but there is the option for more.

Later once you have the speed and happiness up the teeter all the way to the end.. while feeding the person holding the teeter lightly lifts it up and down slightly. Over time.. slightly becomes more. Eventually you should have a happy dog fine with being at the end of a moving teeter as it was highly rewarded. I could bounce the plank off the ground with Cider on it and she'd likely just roo roo at me. I'm currently working on just moving the teeter up and down slightly like a few inches with Arson currently. For his dislike of contacts, he's doing quite well confidently running to the end while immobile.
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Old 08-26-2013, 10:04 PM
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You think rewarding at the tipping point could have caused more problems? I've noticed over the weeks she's stopping further and further back on the teeter. Originally I was rewarding her on the end but now she runs on then cowers right at the middle. We are definitely going back to a lowered teeter and just interacting with it for now.

I think I am going to make a makeshift teeter. Not sure how yet. Something I could set up in the living room to use her ball with.

Wobbleboard, etc is all fine with her.
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:45 AM
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Every dog is different so it's hard to give anything like universal advice, but for Kim (who is quirky and strange and carries grudges for an eternity and who had a truly horrible teeter introduction), rewarding a lot at the fulcrum just aggravated the problem. Created an additional stress point right there in the middle of the obstacle so now she was thinking about the teeter tipping, a reward (where's my food???) and therefore where I am, etc. all at one time. All I want her thinking is how to get from the down end to the far end as quickly as possible.

We did a couple things that helped her, but use your judgement on whether they will help your dog...

First we did a lot of tippy board work away from agility. There were tippy boards all over the house. Made nighttime walking rather hazardous for the humans, but it seemed to help her realize that movement is not a big deal. Most of these were just a plank from the hardware store with a piece of PVC under it and tipped less than a foot. Simple as it gets.

We did a lot of loud noise work also away from agility. Knocking over metal bowls on a hard floor...that sort of thing. So she learned that loud noises are cool and making them is rewarded. Um...use this with caution lol.

Rewarding only at the end of the plank. All focus is to the end of the plank. The tipping point is just something you run through on the way and is of no particular interest. No cajoling...you either run through or you don't but it's up to you. If not, that's okay but your training session is (in a relaxed and not stressful way) done now because all the other dogs just really want to go over the teeter because hey good stuff happens when the teeter goes...

I switched to as much toy reward as possible since toys tend to keep the dog in move/drive mode. Then followed up the toy with a stellar food rewards -- the toy was just a bridge to keep her moving.

We did some controlled movement things where she stood on the end of the board and I held it (this is easier with a smaller dog...) and rewarded...then she did simple tricks on it like it was a fitpaws peanut...then she did them while I (carefully) moved the board. Fabulous treats, lots of laughter and relaxed expressions.

With Kim is was all about making the teeter a fun thing to do but letting her know at first that it was up to her. She didn't have to do it, but if she didn't she was forfeiting her Fun Time turn. As soon as I start soothing her or rewarding at the tipping point or trying to in any way give her confidence, she decided that clearly there really was something to be afraid of and overcome and the problem would just get worse. Even a particularly giddy party for success makes her go, "Wait, did I just do something scary? Oh **** I better not do that again I could have DIED." lol. So a lot of it was just me being self-disciplined enough to treat it like a tunnel or the weaves or something equally benign.

But then, Kim is weird
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Old 08-27-2013, 06:51 AM
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Thanks for the ideas! Have to run in a sec so I'll keep it short.

My trainer did mention I need to stop rewarding where I do with BOTH dogs. I give Summer a 'wait' and would reward at the tipping point. Lo and behold without that she did fine and kept it going well.

But with Mia I am wondering if it did not inadvertently give her time to worry like you said. The one thing with Mia though is there is NEVER going to be a quick teeter because of her weight. She is definitely a worrier and a dog that is very very aware of potential hazards in a lot of situations (In others though- not at all). Now if I could use a mouse or something like that to reward her with. All her fear goes out the window when something like that is present.

That's making me realize I need a higher value... SOMETHING there. She's still not reliably playing ball at class but I think I could do some work like that at home.
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:22 AM
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It may not ever be a quick teeter due to weight.. but it will be a quicker teeter if she rides the end of the plank down.

I do think rewarding at the tipping point in part has caused some problems as that is not the spot you really want to focus on.

Smudge was having a spell when younger that he was unhappy with the teeter and jumping off sideways and I did get him to wait just past the tip.. It made for a beyond mediocre teeter performance.

I'll go take a pic of my baby teeter later for you. It's totally something you could have in the living room. I you were closer I'd make you one
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Old 08-27-2013, 09:42 AM
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Sounds like you need to go back and reduce the tip to near imperceptible levels. I like rewarding at the contact at the end, either for 4-on or 2o2o depending on your criteria. Then add tip an inch or two at a time over the course of a few weeks. Keep sessions short, fast and fun.

It's pretty normal for dogs to regress with the teeter due to silly mistakes on our part. It sounds like you just pushed her a bit beyond her comfort zone and you're going to have to go back and build her up a bit again. My guess is that it won't take too long for you to get back to where you were.
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