The TDAA Teeter

Because the TDAA teeter is so different from the teeters used in the big dog venues it looms as an obstacle that can erode the dog’s confidence in the moving plank. It is the handler and dog trainer’s responsibility to make an introduction of the obstacle to the dog.


The TDAA allows equipment familiarization. And when I’m out in the world with my little dog I am very careful to get her on the teeter because all teeters are different. I will gentle it down for her a time or two until she feels the tip point. I want her to understand that it’s not her practice teeter. Sometime the steward in the ring will say something daffy like “you’re only supposed to do it once”… but I always ignore the steward, because she’s wrong.

Note that a tip point for a small dog on a teeter is beyond the tipping point for a big dog.

In big dog venues I pay special attention to the teeter the first time or two we see it, using handler initiative to slow my dog to the tipping point (indeed, when I walk the course I’ll slam down the teeter every time I pass it to get a feel for myself what it’s tip-rate might be). Later in the weekend I must give my dog credit for having tagged that obstacle and coming to an understanding of its performance.

In the very beginning we crafted rules for performance on the teeter in a rational manner taking into account the small dog. No other agility organization in this country has a bit of appreciation for the tiny little guys. Part of the problem with the definition of the performance in the big dog venues is that by their very rules the small dog is required to ride the board all the way down and take whatever violence the board offers in its recoil or bounce.

The TDAA Judge’s Guidelines say this:


Fly-off (teeter) – 5 faults. Leaving the plank after the plank has begun to move shall be deemed a fly-off only if the downside ramp does not touch the ground. In other word, even if the dog pushes off before the plank settles the performance will not be faulted if the plank touches. The judge should exercise rational judgment for the tiniest of dogs (consider the three pound Yorkshire Terrier). If the dog waited patiently for the plank to tip, and then jumps off, the judge might award the performance even if the dog’s slight weight was not enough to allow the plank to hit the ground.


I should also, as a judge, approach the time-keeper and scribe after the dog’s performance and advise them to deduct however many seconds that the faulty teeter might have cost the dog’s performance, IMHO.

Now that being said, it might be true that we have not been ardent in our specification for construction.

The TDAA Rules, in Section 4, says this:


  • A three-pound weight placed at the upper edge of the contact zone must drop the teeter in less than three seconds but not so quickly as to create a safety issue for dogs.


There seems to be considerable confusion about where is the “upper edge”. I reckon it’s all the way at the end of the plank, since it was me who wrote the spec for the TDAA.

We’ve also overlooked any specification that might clue a dog to be able to differentiate the ramp as a teeter by requiring a visual demonstration of the brace or support used as the fulcrum of the teeter. This might be problematic.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at


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