Introduction: Dog Agility Teeter Totter

About: Scientist, photographer, writer, cyclist, tinkerer.

I’ve been taking my dog to agility class, which has been much more fun than I thought, but part of the fun has been building various home-made agility obstacles for the back yard out of materials I have lying about (see my other dog agility instructables). There are many ways one could approach such a build, but part of the challenge to myself has been to create each apparatus for as little cost as possible. For example, fiberglass electric fence poles make great weave poles when stuck in the ground at the correct distances. For the teeter totter, I decided to make the base from a log. For the walkway I used an old board which had been a bed rail in its previous life. I had only to remove a couple of small brackets.

Materials; log, 2” x 10” x 8’ board, PVC pipe, plumber’s tape, screws, carpet

Tools: chainsaw, screwdriver, staple gun

Step 1: ​The Base

A stable base is essential for the proper function of a teeter totter. I figured I could make one by chainsawing a large log into the proper shape. As I cut about 6 cords of wood a year, I am reasonably competent with a chainsaw, though far from a sculptor. Assess your skills accordingly. First I measured the width of board that was to form the walkway of the teeter. I chose the best log out of a small selection of oak I had not yet stacked. I recut one end of the log to make it more square and shortening it to about 16”. I measured across the top of the log, chose the widest diameter, about 13”. I laid the board perpendicular to this diameter, centered on the log, and marked lines slightly wider than the board. I made the first two cuts straight down these lines to a depth that would provide enough clearance, about 5”. I made a plunge cut to connect the first two cuts and removed the resulting block of wood, which would go on to become firewood. A plunge cut is a bit tricky if you’ve never done one before. You might want to practice a few first. It’s called a plunge cut because you must plunge the nose of the bar straight into the wood rather than placing the long edge of the bar against it. Disclaimer time:

***WARNING: A chainsaw is arguably the most dangerous device you can buy off the shelf***

During a plunge cut, the saw is more likely to jam or worse, kick back. A kick back is virtually impossible to hold onto, and the blade may strike you, perhaps cutting your carotid artery, whereupon you will bleed out and die. Are you taking this seriously yet? Good. Let’s proceed. Imagine a line connecting the bottom of the two previous cuts, which ideally are at the same depth, though it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit different. Plunge the nose into the center of this line and push it out to the other side of the log. Work in one direction to connect with one cut, then back in the opposite direction to connect with the other. Be careful when connecting the cuts not to cut into the ear on the far side, where you can’t see.

Step 2: ​Make the Pivot

The result is a log with a chunk missing from the middle of one end, or what I like to call a stump with ears. Next I drilled a hole in each ear to accommodate some ½ inch PVC pipe, which would form the pivot of the apparatus. I cut two pieces of plumber’s tape and loosely screwed them to the board to hold the pipe at the center of the board. I slid the pipe out, positioned the board between the ears, and slid the pipe through one ear, through the plumber’s tape, and through the other ear. Obviously, the pipe must be slightly longer than the width of the log.

Step 3: ​Finishing Touches

I had planned to coat the top of the board with epoxy and a sprinkling of sand to give it a grippy surface, but a friend gave me a piece of indoor/outdoor carpet. I cut the carpet so that it would just wrap around the board to the bottom side, except in the center near the pivot, and attached it with a staple gun. Like my A frame, this obstacle is not sized to a regulation teeter totter, which would be much larger, but it is perfectly adequate for training purposes. The teeter is one of the trickiest obstacles to learn, as the dog can be spooked when the end of the board hits the floor. The carpet helps to cushion the impact, and my standard schnauzer Isabel, though very shy, has learned it without much difficulty.

Animal Innovations Contest

Participated in the
Animal Innovations Contest