February 13, 2024

Episode 333: Teeter Criteria

In this episode (27:26)

Join us as we discuss the importance of defining and achieving clear criteria for teeter performance. Learn about the challenges unique to the teeter that vary by the breed and weight of a dog, and how to determine exactly which criteria may be best suited to your dog.

You Will Learn

  • The importance of having clear criteria for teeter performances in agility.
  • Common challenges in training the teeter and how they differ from other contact obstacles.
  • Strategies for setting, teaching, and maintaining effective teeter criteria.
  • Judging perspectives on teeter performances and training tips to meet competitive standards.


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I'm Jennifer. I'm Estevan. And I'm Sarah. And this is episode 333. Today's podcast is brought to you by HitItBoard dot com and the new Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter. So you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to HitItBoard dot com for the new Teeter TeachIt and other training tools and toys.

Use discount code BDA 10 to get 10% off your order. That's hit aboard.com. We've got a great topic for this podcast and one that I've been wanting to do for quite some time. It's called Teeter Criteria and I've been wanting to do it because I'm going to make the case that people don't really have very clear criteria for their teeter performances. What do you think,

Jen? Yeah, the number of people that have quote unquote running teeters, and we'll kind of get into some specifics as we go, but I think the Teeter is the least called contact and therefore people don't train it as hard as they do. Dog walks and a-frames, you know, dog walks and a-frames I find at trials have a higher rate of being called.

And so, you know, we train what we get called on and the teeter's just not one that gets called a lot and therefore people are very lax about what they want and maintaining consistency, I think it's kind of both. It's knowing what they want and then maintaining what they want. And when you say getting called, you mean your dog misses the teeter or flies off early but the judge just misses it or,

or, or deliberately chooses to not call it. Yeah, I think for a lot of people with the Teeter, they can quote get away with just kind of running through it because the weight of the dog and even the action of the dog trying to jump off of the teeter will oftentimes slam the teeter down so that they, it is a technically legal performance even though they're,

they, they really haven't established a true criteria for their dog. And I think it's less hindering on the handler's speed and, and how far ahead the dog can Gitchi know a lot of dogs will have some kind of hesitation on the teeter, even if they don't wait for relation to handler have that. So it doesn't tend to affect the next obstacles. Quite as severely as if your dog doesn't hold criteria on a dog walker doesn't hold criteria on an A frame.

The teeter it shorter. And again, there's that hesitation on the dog's part why it tips and so for handlers that, you know, they don't get outta position, it doesn't affect it a refusal or an off course the next obstacle or two. So I think there's a lot of reasons why the Teeter I find to be one, which handlers are very lax on setting criteria and maintaining it.

Absolutely. I think if we take a step back and we look at all the problem areas and typical agility run, for example, start lines, maybe end contact behavior on dog walks. These are not difficult behaviors to teach the dog. These are not difficult things physically for the dog to perform. Right. In my opinion, the hardest obstacle to teach and to physically perform for a dog is the,

the weave poles. Right? But I would argue that we have more issues across the board amongst all dogs at all levels and agility with start lines and contact behavior than you would say necessarily with getting into the weeds and starting weaving very complex, difficult behavior and it has to do with what is legal, right? And so with the contacts, let's say you,

you teach a criteria where the dog has to stop to front feet in the dirt or on the grass, but the back two feet are on the plank in the yellow. And that's how you ensure that your dog is hitting the yellow on the way out, right. Hitting that contact. And so you have the stop contact, but there can be times where your dog gets close to that position and it's legal,

your run is still clean, it's still good. You can qualify and have a perfect run even though your dog has failed to meet the criteria, the standard which you have set, right? Right. And so the start line is the same way, right? You sit your dog, but if your dog starts scooting forward or even stands up or, or walks right up to the jump,

as long as they haven't jumped through the, the darn electronic eyes and triggered the, the clock, right? It's, it's a legal run. And so you're gonna have people essentially let their hugs kind of get away with that, right? Right. And so I think the teeter definitely falls in that category and even worse than start lines and the other two contacts,

maybe even, even the weave poles, it is very difficult to judge with the human eye. Like I personally watching teeters cannot always tell when a flyoff has occurred or not. Right? Right. And I think all of these things factor in and contribute to the teeter being a real problem area that kind of everybody sweeps under the, under the carpet. Right.

And, and there comes a point in many of these obstacles, whether your dog is popping the 10th pole of the weave entry or, or, or the weave poles or whether they're botching the entry every now and then, or they're not getting their dogwalk or A frame or their breaking start lines, they, you reach a point where as a handler you are like,

okay, I I have to fix this because now this is like 20 runs in a row or you're like, your Q rate has really fall into something low. Right? But the teeter is one of those things where if you just have the right judge, the right sequence coming into the teeter, the right exit, like you're, you're gonna get away with it a lot.

Right? Right. And so I think that really impacts how people approach it. Okay. So now that we've kind of given the background of why it happens and, and what's going on there with people, Jen, what are some good alternatives? So let's say I'm a beginner, I'm just starting to teach my dog the Teeter, I haven't finished it yet,

so we're not even full height yet. And now I'm hearing all these concerning things about the Teeter and I want, I want Jennifer Frank's opinion on different criteria. Well do I have different, are there different criteria out there for the Teeter? What are the pros and cons of those criteria? So I think teeters kind of fall into three categories. And it's not to say that there's only three,

but there's kind of like three big ones and then subsets within them. And I think of the one you already mentioned, which is a two on two off. So coming down the board front feet on the ground back, feet on the board waiting for release. And when I say waiting for release, waiting for a release from the handle or whether that's verbal or whether that's a hand cue,

it's not up to the dog to release. The dog doesn't get to make the decision when to go. They come into that two on 12 handler releases. The other one that has gained popularity, I feel like since you know the last 18 to 1 24 months, maybe even a little further back is a four on the board. So this is basically a dog going to the end of the teeter waiting for it to hit the ground.

But when they're waiting for release, they're waiting with all four feet on the board. Now there's like subsets of this, some people will train a sit, some people will train it down, some do a play bow, some allow a sand. But essentially all four feet must stay on the board. And then when the handler decides they will release, these are the two that we teach at Indipa.

It's what I teach for my own dogs. But that third category, and I referenced it earlier is what I often refer to and I know you guys can't see me, but quote unquote running teeters, right? And I always kind of laugh on this because running, we think of running contacts as being like a true acceleration or at at a bare minimum maintaining speed across the contact,

which is impossible for the dog to do on a teeter and still actually meet criteria if they accelerate it or maintain speed up and across it would be a fly off. But I kind of categorize a running Teeter as one in which the dog makes the decision to exit when the board hits the ground. So there is no verbal release, there is no hand signal release.

Basically the dog goes up over the board, they either slow down or pause or hesitate as the board is tipping and when the board hits the ground, that is their cue to go. Now in some cases this is sort of just what the handler has ha allowed to happen. They have a slower dog, it's their first dog, you know, I know my first dog,

I just posted a video of our run this week and it was just like up and over and she went slow enough that when the board hit the ground she just walked off. So it kind of just happens. But I actually know that there are several trainers and people out there that are teaching the dog that the board hitting the ground is the release. So kind of that running contact or that running Teeter I talk about is sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional.

And I think this is the risky one because you're, you're putting it in the control of the dog, you're letting the dog make the decision when to release. I mean yes you are saying that the criteria is when the board hits the ground, but can we correctly convey that to the dog and can we ensure that they don't get anxious and they don't anticipate and they don't leave before the board hits the ground.

It also can be limiting in that if you know your dog is gonna release when that board hits the ground, you better darn well be in position. You better be exactly where you need to be because you don't have the option to let them wait there another quarter second half a second, two seconds to get into position. So the running Teeter is not typically one in which I would advise for the average team.

So for my dogs it's really the the four on versus the two on two off. And I will say I've kind of have different dogs doing different things and have hopped back and forth amongst the two. And a little bit of it is sort of dog dependent, you know, I understand the pros and cons to both, but you know, some of my dogs just want to stay on,

they don't like bringing their forward feet off. And then in the opposite case B was the opposite. She was trained to a four on and she just kept going into a two on off and it was like, you know what, if that's what you want to do, if that's what you're happier with, as long as you're waiting for release. So I actually retrained her to a two on off on the Teeter.

Yeah, like wi fight it at that point. Exactly. And I, I know, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but you know a lot, I I would say like an eight inch dog, I don't think it's even reasonable to do a two on two off because this is a moving obstacle. So unlike the dogwalk where absolutely an eight inch dog can do a two on two off,

you are asking them to now have a fair amount of their very small amount of weight off the board and the back of the board can have some movement, can have some rebound there to it. So I kind of think of like the, definitely the eights and probably most of the twelves as being dogs where you are going to do a four on, you're not going to ask them to hold onto that board.

And then at the 16 inch, that's where you start to kind of have a decision based on like you said, like what's more natural for the dog. It may be dependent on what you do on other contacts. So for instance, when I was doing a two on two off dogwalk, the, the dog just automatically was like, there's a board,

there's a floor, I'm gonna do two on, two off. And it did not make sense to try and convince the dog that this one was different. It actually was helpful to let the dog think that these are two very similar behaviors. And like you said, I started four on because I was using a, like a tip assist type of training tool to do it.

So when the dog was first learning how to do it, the the board was in the air so there was no tool on until off at the beginning part of the process. And I will link in the show notes to we have a, a live where we talk about some of these training methods and you can kind of see a video of what I'm talking about.

But then once the board got all the way to the ground, that's when he was like, ah, I know this picture and would go right into the two on, two off and he did it like three times and I was like, okay, we're gonna go with that. Those are absolutely the two factors that I tell people when they ask me,

how do you know, do I do a four on or do I do a, do I do a, do I do a two on two off? Oh, that's a mouthful and it's dog size. Absolutely what performance you have on the other boards. Yeah. You know, if you have a two on 12 on the dogwalk and or A frame,

a lot of times the two on 12 just makes sense on the teeter, but, and then size, you know, all of the, the little dogs, I'm absolutely gonna recommend a four on because it's, as you said, moving object and bringing that front feet off just doesn't make sense. Yeah. I have a couple of comments and comment number one will be in general,

once you get to say the finals of a big event, AKC nationals, you look at some of the international competitors, eight inch dogs in particular here in the United States being the smallest high class or if you're running a four inch preferred, these dogs, a lot of them are papillons very lightweight. They run all the way up to the end of the board,

right? And and the board is still kind of slammed upwards, right? When they reach the fat reach the the end, that's how fast they're getting to the end and they have to be very patient, they have to ride that board all the way down and they have to, what we call control the board, right? Because there is going to be some,

some balance, right? And that balance can be, can be a little bit precarious for the dog, right? It can throw off a smaller dog. Certainly if they're trying to move into a two on two off position. So if you have an eight inch dog or a very lightweight dog, even if you're jumping 12 or or even 16, if they land and then there's a bounce coming,

but they don't anticipate that bounce, maybe you're at a facility you're not usually at or something, right? The surface is different or, or for whatever reason there's a, there's a big bounce. I think this just happened more with all the wooden teeters, like pure wooden teeters. I think most everything now is like a metal frame. It's like heavier and when it goes down,

it stays down. There's a little bit less bounce. But yeah, you, you need to think in your head, well do I really want that, want to do this two on two off? Right? And with big dogs you can definitely get away with more, right. And if in your head you're thinking, okay, well can I, well let me,

let me just ask you Jen, I, someone would be listening to us and saying, okay, well you know, but I've got a dog and listen, honestly, they're gonna do the teeter, it's gonna take a good two, three, sometimes even four seconds because they're so fearful of the teeter they are walking up the plank, right? And so in,

in that case, would you say there isn't really a a four on because they're never reaching the end of the board, right? Such that the board is kind of pointing upward and they're writing it down, right? They're kind of just walking over the apex and then they reach some point where they take enough of a step to put the board down and it's gonna be legal.

'cause usually it's, you know, in the yellow that paw. But how do they do the, the release? Like how, what, what would you recommend there? Does it make sense to move that dog into a two on two half position? I know I'm kind of putting you both on the spot here. So Jen, first what do you,

what do you think if I've got kind of a dog and I'm already playing with like a three or four second and I'm not trying to make any international teams here, I'm just trying to get through the teeter. Like what is a reasonable criteria? Are people gonna be like, oh, you know, I don't say, you know, four on or two on,

two off. Or are people gonna think I'm a terrible trainer, I don't, I'm gonna pull like a a, a doctor card, I don't have enough information to make a diagnosis, I want further information on this one. Yeah, I mean it's hard to say on that alone, but there are definitely things that I would take into account. So you know,

how old's the dog, maybe it's fearful because it's young and it's only 12 months old. You can't guarantee that at 5, 6, 7 years old it's gonna be fearful. So if we train nothing and we all of a sudden it gets confidence, you know, now we have to retrain right, you know, size. If I'm dealing with a 6-year-old Bernice Mountain dog and the handler is brand new,

it's their first dog. So we're talking a large breed, six years old, brand new, maybe not as you said going out for world teams or going to a national event or not even thinking about getting a mock. Sure. Just kind of let it walk up. Board will tip fast 'cause it's a big dog, right? Sure. So boom,

it's gonna come down. By the time the board hits the ground, the dog's strolling walking, trotting through the yellow. Maybe that works out great. So I definitely have a, you know, a fair number of students who we've had that conversation, you know, maybe it is okay to just kind of go up across, over and off, you know,

for, from the physics standpoint of body emotion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. Yes. You know, you take a dog who doesn't have a ton of momentum and you stop 'em, now you have the whole get up and go. Yeah. Right. Where if we can just kind of keep that momentum going. Great point.

Both from the dog and the handler. So it's hard to say, I think it's an individual basis but I certainly don't think it is an unreasonable kind of answer to say that yeah a dog can just have a in motion. Right? That's why I use that term joke and joke run me, but in, in motion tee a nonstop, that's a good way to put a nonstop teeter,

right? You know, I think you gotta look at the factors, but yeah, that would be a reasonable teeter performance depending on the team, Right? Right. So I think it is very dog dependent. So I wanted to put that out there for people who are listening. Okay. Now what about the people who are like, oh you know,

I've got this young hotshot, border clie, tremendous ground speed that they're jumping, they look good, I'm gonna have a running dogwalk gen, I'm definitely gonna run the A frame. I want to have the fastest teeter possible. So right off the bat, I will tell you in terms of time, if you time it from the time your dog puts their first paw on the teeter and to the time that they are leaving,

right? And their last paw is coming off the teeter, the fastest dogs in the world can do it in about 0.95 seconds to about 1.05 seconds. That is super elite world class. There are many American dogs who can do this and some of them slide into position, some of them slide into a two on two off position. Some of them are kind of slide into a a four on,

usually with dogs that fast, there is some kind of sliding and weight shift that you can see happening. And typically the plank is like not even parallel to the ground. It, it's generally pointing upwards by the time the dog starts to move into the yellow zone, that's how quickly they're getting there. Right. And generally these are gonna be larger dogs.

When I say larger, they're typically going to be 20 inches or higher or 35 pounds. I I think 35 kind of right around the minimum. I think once you're like under 30, it's really hard to get down like one second under one second. The 0.9 fives that I see are all the larger border colleagues, right. You're never gonna see a Papillon put up a 0.95

teeter and it's just physics, right? You can run the experiments yourself, put weights. In fact I think Sarah did that years and years ago. Put different weights at the end of the four, you know, five pound, 10 pound, 15, 20 and just measured how long it it took to drop. Right? And, and I think,

and now I'm you're, I'm on the spot. So I'm doing this for memory and hopefully Jen can validate, but I believe that like the standard for the teeter itself is a three pound weight falls in three seconds. Is that right? Yes, you are correct. Yes. Okay, so I don't know what a Papillon weighs, do you know what a Papillon weighs?

I don't Dunno. I some of them are very, I I have seen four pound Papillons right now. Yeah. So then you were like, like literally the standard says it's going to take three seconds for that board to Fall. Right? Right. And it was such a big deal because this all came out of a side by side comparison that we did between two outstanding dogs,

dogs of legend probably more than 10 years ago. It was a very fast Papillon and a border Collie and they were running the same course in the AKC national final and the dogs were essentially identical like stride for stride, just not stride for stride but like yard for yard. They, they were just really killing this course. And the, the small dog was absolutely as fast as the big dog Except,

Except for the teeter, right? Because it takes the small dog so much longer. So the, the large dog was always going to win that. Right. And it, it had nothing to do in my opinion, with the skill of the dog or the trainer. It was pure physics. Right. It was Math. I hear this discussion a lot in the eight inch class when comparing pros and cons to Papillon versus Corgi.

So your corgi still in the eight inch class, but they can be like 20, 25, 30 pound corgi. Yeah. And they have such an advantage on the teeter, right? And so I I, I hear a lot of the smaller eight in shocks, the Papillon, the Pomeranians who will be worried, concerned, threatened, I don't know how you wanna say it,

you know about, oh the, the corgis got such an advantage because their body weight is gonna push that teeter down so much faster. So even within the same jump height, you know, less less of an issue when you're talking your twenties and your 20 fours who are a little bit more comparable. But yeah body weight, body mass on that teeter in those smaller classes for sure becomes a factor.

Okay, well I think that's pretty interesting. Very good discussion there. Okay. And I think probably the last point that we have here for this podcast, Jen, with the Teeter, are you using for people who would like to do it a, a release word if they're four on or two on too off? Or does the dog get to self-release as soon as they hit that and then you mark it and go,

do you understand the, do you understand my question? Is it more like a winning contact or more like the classic stop contact where hey you stop and you stay there and if I don't say anything for 20 seconds you stay there for 20 seconds. Yeah, yeah I understand. And I think this actually brings us into a great, the last point that I really wanted to make was the pros and cons versus the two on versus the four on two on off versus four on.

Because for years it was two on off, two on 12 and people wanted that sliding teeter. And yes we started to see more of a shift to the for on and the first dog I taught the for on, you know, I had tons of people, well why the for on what's the advantage of for on why are we switching to this? So I think it's important to understand that the reason that there was a big shift to for on,

or at least in my mind and and from educational purposes, my understanding for most people who are teaching it is that you get to release quicker. So this gets back to your release part release quicker without breaking criteria. So what I mean by that is, you know, think you're at a national event, you're at AKC nationals, it's coming up right around the corner and you know the moment that board hits the ground you are releasing and going,

if your criteria is a two on two off, then as soon as the board hits, if your dog is not yet in a two on two off, which unless they have that sliding teeter, they won't be you release, you have essentially broken criteria. You have done what I would refer to as an early release, which is different than a quick release.

You have done an early release. So it's in events like that that our criteria tends to break down and break down and break down and over time we kind of muddy the water. But if your criteria is a four on then when the board hits the ground, your dog is four on. Therefore when you release at AKC nationals in the finals, you have not broken criteria and therefore are able to better maintain your criteria on the long term.

So that's been the big reason why I think the shift to the four on is because again, you can maintain criteria easier for the big events. So I think a lot of it depends on how many big events are you going to, are you only doing one a year AKC national or are you filling it with cups and classics and regionals and nationals of three different organizations.

The flip side of that, in my experience is what I have found is the end position for the four on is then harder to maintain. Two on off is black and white, front feet on the ground back, feet on the board period into of discussion four on, and this is coming from a small dog person, you know, I have shelties,

I run small dogs more than the large dogs. So I think the border colly people and border Col instructors have a different perspective. Is that, what do you define as four on, you know, I think we can say on the surface it's, oh my dog driving all the way to the end. Well define the end. Okay if the end starts out is okay,

the dog has to be four inches from the end. What happens when they stop six inches and then 10 inches and then 12 inches. And this was essentially a, a factor in why after doing a dog as a four on, I switched back to the two on, two off is she started stopping on the board earlier and earlier and earlier and she wasn't driving to the end because she's like,

look, I'm four on, I'm waiting here. And so when I was trying to build that independence, especially her driving ahead of me across the teeter, when B drives ahead of me, she knows she has to drive ahead until she hits the ground. 'cause that's where the front feet need to be. But with the four on, I was struggling to get them to go as far and I know I I I'm a smart enough trainer,

I know there's things I could have done to work around that and tools and whatnot. I'm, I'm not trying to blame the, the method but it's pros and cons. So four on you get to maintain criteria with quick releases but it's harder to define what is the end and two on two off, it's easier to define the end. But when you get to big events,

you're releasing quickly both of those. And I have again dogs doing both things. Always, always, always should wait for my release, which was your question. I do not have any dogs who are trained to release on environmental cues. So they should not release on the teeter banging, they should not release on the board hitting ground. They should not release on a judge's noise of hollering five and fast.

It is the, the cue of the next obstacle. So tunnel jump weave, even if I look back at my dog and say good dog, they should hold position whatever position that is. So I do not have any running contacts that are trained that way and taught that way. Arguably if you watch any of my runs at AKC Nationals here in a few weeks,

don't hold me to that 'cause it's a big event and we'll be pushing and it might happen, but hopefully we're only letting that happen every once in a while. Alright, well great discussion. So I think we've kind of covered everything now. This podcast was not about training the Teeter and and how to TeachIt. It was just a discussion about criteria and I think a much needed one.

So thank you to Jen and Sarah for your perspectives and that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to thank our sponsor, hit a board.com. Happy training. Fabulous. That was good. That's good. Yeah, I think it was great. That's got information without anything too detailed. Yeah, Yeah. Love it. Perfect. Yeah. Perfect. It was good.

All we're gonna go get Hannah. Go. Enjoy. See guys see.


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