Of all the dog agility equipment the see-saw is probably the most difficult
to make. I've had a go and it really is hard to get it right.
I didn't go for a garden sized see-saw as this is one area where I think
it's important to train on the full sized equipment.
I know most people are happy to train on the equipment
at their classes and this is fine if your dog is working well.
The reason I wanted a see-saw was because Sasha had a big problem with it. Of course Sasha tried to talk me out of making the
"You really don't have to bother on my account. I'm quite happy
"Look missus," I said, "I'll make a see-saw and
we'll give it good shot at home. I promise you'll love it and I'll
never let you feel scared."
I bought the wood from
the local DIY shop and there I had my first shock. The DIY SHOP IS
CLOSING DOWN! It was my second home and it was going. Aaagh!
What am I going to do? Anyway, the men were very helpful and they
cut the plywood for the top of the see-saw into three bits measuring
four feet by 12 inches. (The Kennel Club still worked in feet and inches.)
The best bit was when the girl in the DIY shop asked what I was making.
"A see-saw for the dog."
The poor girl's
jaw dropped and she gave sideways glance to make sure that help was at
hand in case I turned peculiar.
"Um....are you going in
for a talent contest?" she asked tentatively.
"No, I said. "The dog does agility and they have
to jump over things and go over a see-saw."
"I see," she
said and hurriedly gave me the bill.
I also took home a substantial amount of bits of wood that I thought I
could join together to make a see-saw. I was wrong. Here's the first
tip. The see-saw has to be rock solid and this means that you can't get
away with flimsy timber. You need the good chunky stuff. In the end I
used 4 x 2 (100mm x 50mm) Planed all round timber for the base. The
picture on the right shows the final design for the base. The two
uprights are 24" high and the long pieces used at the bottom of the base
are 40" long. This is big enough to make the see-saw stable.
I did originally use smaller timber for the long base pieces and made them
only 30" long but it wasn't stable enough and it wobbled. This is no good for a scaredy dog.
Eventually we finished the base and I made the plank for the see-saw. It was hopeless. The wood for the framing was far too small and
it wobbled. In fact it not only wobbled, it bounced. I worried about it. Sasha was going to be even more scared if I trained her on
that thing but I'd already spent a fair amount on timber. I couldn't go back for more or Bernie would have a fit. Then fate stepped in.
Our thing that we call a loggia that isn't really a loggia but stops a rambling rose from cuddling us on the way to the dustbin,
collapsed and died of old age. The loggia thing also supported the gate to the dustbin area. It had to be replaced but this would mean
ordering a fair amount of substantial timber and it would need to be delivered. Bingo! Two small bits of timber 4.2 metres long would
I went along to the new DIY/building things place to try them out and lo and behold they
turned out to be the parent company of the DIY shop. Everything
would eventually be moved there lock stock and barrel including the
staff. This was a huge relief. The staff they already had in
the new shop weren't half so much fun.
"What do you need the wood for?" asked the man in the timber yard
when I questioned it's strength.
"A see-saw for the dog," I said.
"Oh in that case it needs to be built to specific dimensions. You
do know it has to be the right width?"
The wood was delivered the next day. Dead straight, planed square
edge (I'd ordered planed all round). The two pieces were 75mm x
50mm and chunky enough to build a strong frame to take the plywood.
It was quite easy to make a simple frame. I used the trestles for
the garden dog walk to balance the wood while I cut it to length (12
feet) and I cut some smaller bits from the excess to make up the
the thing had to be put together. I made some holes in the
uprights and the sides of the plank with an ancient brace and bit so that I could thread a rod right
through. The rod I used was 12mm threaded. I've also used a
couple of nuts on either side of the upright.
I'm not convinced this is the best way to make a fulcrum. Most of
the plans I've seen use some form of rod or pole in this way but it is
quite difficult to put the thing together. For the time
being this is suitable.
One thing that caused a problem was weighting. The first see-saw
was heavily weighted so that it didn't tip too quickly, however, it did
fall back with quite a crash. When I went in the agility ring I
tipped the club see-saw and was surprised to find how light it felt.
It tipped very quickly. I spoke to one or two people about it and
they thought the see-saws they used in training were heavier, however,
they pointed out that some dogs were scared by the sudden bang as the
see-saw fell back.
They suggested that I make the see-saw lighter as it would be less
noisy. In the end I opted for making the framing such that one end
was heavy enough to fall back but not so heavy that it would go back
with a crash.
The other thing that needs consideration is fixing the base. You
can add angle brackets and peg it down with very big tent heavy duty pegs. I've made our
base so that I can sandbag it. This is an easy way to secure the
base and I can use my tent pegs back for the tunnel.
All that remains now is for me to paint the rest of the thing and there
isn't half a lot of it to paint!
After all the DIY it was time to get Sasha.
"I'm not going on that!"
"You made it."
"Flipping cheek. It's really safe. You can stay on the
"I don't want to do it."
And so we spent a happy time going over some jumps. Eventually I
persuaded Sasha to sit fairly close to the see-saw while I tipped it and
let it fall back. Finally she was brave enough to approach the
thing on her own and eat some food from the contact area. It's a
start. I'm not sure that leading her onto the see-saw at this
stage will serve any useful purpose. She has to get used to the
noise of it crashing down and falling back.
At the time of writing I have only just made the see-saw. Getting
a dog over a major fear such as going on a see-saw is really a subject
for another article. The best thing is to keep a diary so that you
can check on progress. I did this once when taming a wild horse
that everyone said couldn't be caught. Oh yes, she could.
With any animal you just need masses of patience. The diary kept
me going and showed what progress I'd made.
If the thought of building a see-saw is too daunting you can buy the
garden sized equipment quite easily from somewhere like ebay. If you want competition
standard equipment you'll need to go to someone like Premier or Adams
but they are expensive.
Update: 14th July 2011. Several people have suggested that
I train Sasha on a wobble board. They are quite easy to make and I
can't wait to go down to the DIY shop before it closes for good.
If the girl doesn't see me coming and run away (it has happened in
builders merchants) I foresee such an interesting
conversation......watch this space.
Update 24th July 2011. We made a wobble board
and we've had a lot of fun with it. I made it very cheaply and
just about anyone could do this. Have a
look at our effort.
Update 25th March 2015. I did teach Sasha to go on the
see-saw and to become less afraid of it but I stopped asking her to do
the agility classes at shows. She's gets over excited and as she
suffers from border collie collapse there is a danger that she may
become wobbly and fall off the agility contact equipment. She has
happily competed in jumping classes and steeplechases.
'Jilly can do the flipping contacts,' she said. 'She must
be bonkers but if she likes it then it's not going to waste is it?'