Seesaw Foundation Groundwork
Training Tip 1: Movement is cool!
Before going anywhere near a seesaw, we need to build our dog’s confidence with movement. How happy are they to interact and get on something that is unstable, wobbles, moves? Initially we are looking for any interaction with the object, then one paw, two paws, three and so on. Confidence is truly achieved when you work at your dog’s pace, don’t be in a hurry to get them on the object!
Once they are happily getting onto something that moves, can they turn around on it and perform behaviours? Can they walk along it, run along it? Get creative with what you use. We use things like; Wobble cushions, rocker boards, fit bones, a plank of wood with a wobble cushion underneath at each end, a wheelbarrow, a skateboard, a barrel or bin turned on its side (our dogs climb inside and once confident with that, we move the barrel/bin from side to side).
If you take the time to build the concept of being confident with movement, when it comes to transferring these skills onto seesaw foundation games it’ll be a cinch for your dog!
Training Tip 2: Noise?! Pfft, that doesn’t bother me!
If you think about it, the seesaw is pretty scary for our dogs. It moves AND makes a noise! To perform the seesaw with enthusiasm and speed our dogs have got to have super hero status when it comes to confidence with movement and noise. We tackled movement in tip 1, today we’re looking at noise.
What we tend to see is that people who have challenges with the seesaw want to tackle the seesaw. We get that, you want to help your dog overcome their worry or fear of this piece of equipment. However, as with movement, it’s best to work on the skills and concepts needed away from the seesaw at first, prepping your dog for when you eventually introduce the seesaw.
At home, introduce your dog to the concept of being confident with noise. We reward our dogs when noise happens – this could be a set up training session or as and when a noise occurs! The game is simple: noise = food. We calmly scatter a few pieces on the floor. The ultimate aim is that our dogs don’t acknowledge the sound, we STILL reward, as rewarding for no response is gold…its what we want.
Depending on your dog, it’ll depend on what level you can start with a planned noise work training session. If you have a particularly sensitive dog, you may need to ask someone to help you as we would suggest you start in a different room from where the noise is taking place and gradually over time decrease the distance.
The types of noise work we do at home are; tapping pots and pans, turning the hoover on, dropping spoons/keys, shaking a plastic bag, playing recorded sounds from around the neighbourhood. We also pop items in a cardboard box and scatter some food in the box, then while our dogs hunt for the food the items move while they are pushed around which in turn creates noise as the food is snaffled up.
Play lots of these games, then record the sound of the seesaw making the ‘bang’ noise at your agility class and play the recording at home whilst feeding your dog. Once we have worked a ton on noise work away from the seesaw, we will then move it on to the next level and play the seesaw foundation game: bang games.
Training Tip 3: Body Fit and Aware
Body awareness and conditioning features very heavily in our agility training. Our dogs have got to have good proprioception, balance, strength and flexibility. After all, they are athletes. Before any seesaw foundation work we start with body awareness work. With confidence games and body awareness work we have now prepped our dogs ready for seesaw foundation games.
About the Author: Lauren Langman is responsible for the design and development of all Devon Dogs classes, events and workshops. She competes in Agility at Grade 7, the highest rank of competition in the British agility arena. She regularly competes and wins at top agility events in the UK including Crufts and Olympia, and has represented the UK at World Agility Championship level on many occasions.