Working with your dog on agility training is a valuable bonding opportunity, whether or not you and Alex ever intend to compete. You can improvise some agility obstacles using household items, like propping a broomstick horizontally for him to jump over or arranging objects for him to weave around. But there's no substitute for agility competition like the teeter-totter, which shows off Alex's superb balance and focus.
The Teeter Board
The main piece of the agility teeter-totter is the plank that serves as a walkway. When you build one for Alex to practice on, you might as well make it the same size and dimensions of teeter-totters used in competitions. The Kansas State 4-H manual specifies that the teeter board should be 12 inches wide and either 8, 10 or 12 feet long. The board can be solid or hollow-core.
Sand the ends of your teeter board so they're rounded, then paint the surface with a nonskid paint to keep Alex from slipping when he walks across it. Because the surface will be nonskid, you don't need to apply cross slats. You will, however, need to paint a 2- to 3-inch contact line across the width of the board, 2 feet from the "entry" end of the board. The entry is the end at which your dog will step onto the teeter totter to begin going across. No matter how long the teeter board is, the contact line should be 24 inches from the entry end and painted in a contrasting color from the rest of the board.
One option for making your agility teeter-totter pivot is to construct a base by laminating two 2-by-4s -- each 12 inches long -- together with wood glue, then centering it on the underside of the teeter board and securing it in place with nails or bolts. Drill a hole through the base large enough to accommodate a pipe that will fit into a frame. Position the teeter board in the frame slide the pipe through both the frame and the base on the underside. Another method is to use a steel window well form as the fulcrum. Lay the window well, rounded side up, on a flat board, using nails or bolts to secure them. Attach two 2-inch-by-2-inch-by-12-inch slats to the bottom of the teeter board, parallel to one another but perpendicular to the teeter beam, on either side of the center point so the teeter-totter won't slip from its support.
The height of the fulcrum for an official agility teeter-totter is based on the length of the board: an 12-foot board should be 24 inches above the ground at the center point; a 10-foot board should be 20; an 8-foot board 16. For beginning training purposes, though, dog authority and author Linda Tellington-Jones, in "Getting in Touch With Your Puppy," suggests starting with a teeter-totter 3 inches or lower at the center point.
The entry end of Alex's teeter-totter should be weighted so it's always down when the teeter-totter has no load. Attaching a small weight to the underside of the entry end will cause it to tip back down to the starting position once your dog steps off the exit end. An alternative way to ensure that the agility teeter totter is self-resetting is to make the pivot point off-center, favoring the entry side of the board so it's longer than the exit side.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.