Teeter Whip and Base Hop

14 May 2009Steve Schwarz

I was at a trial a while back and the club was using a new teeter in one of the rings. If I recall correctly it was a two piece 1/2 plywood top with square aluminum tubing underneath. Turns out it was one of the “whippiest” teeter I’ve seen. When I mentioned this to a couple people afterwards they hadn’t heard the term “whip” before so I thought I’d put together a little video and commentary.

Just so we are all speaking the same language, a couple definitions:

The amount of flex in the teeter board along its length. The more flex the more "whip".
Movement of the teeter base. One piece teeter bases can move along the ground. Adjustable height bases can also move only part of the base. So the height of the teeter may be affected when one end of the base moves further than the other end of the base.

Before discussing it further it take a look at the trial video and my teeter at home:

You might also take a look at Whitney’s pup Rumor’s handling of that teeter (he tried to hold his 2o2o with his butt a foot in the air at 0:30 secs and again at 3:50 and 5:00).

Since this article I’ve written another article in which I modified my teeter to make it stiffer and have less whip.

Analysis of Video

In the trial video you can see how much the board flexes as it hits the ground and you can see the vibration travel from the up end of the board back to the down end. Since the base is heavily weighted that vibration is not dissipated by the base and causes the board to rebound from the ground. You can see poor Meeker got a good wack in the lower jaw when the board came back up and hit him just as he was stepping forward in to 2o2o position. The little guy bit his tongue and it was bleeding a little.

In the two segments I videotaped at home, the first one was with sandbags on the base and you can see my teeter is a little stiffer than the one at the trial. It has some whip and that vibration is also transmitted back down to the down end of the teeter and gives a slight bounce to the down end.

In the final segments at home I removed the sandbags to allow the base to “hop”. As you can see the hopping of the base almost completely dissipates the rebound of the whip action of the board and there is almost no bounce of the down end. Of course now the teeter is slightly higher than it should be and this would be a potentially dangerous situation at a trial.

What the Pros Think

This experience reminded me of an excellent study CleanRun did a few years ago about the speed and whip of several teeter designs. They have kindly posted it on their website. It looks like the videos of my teeter gave the same results as their study:

Finally, the degree to which a seesaw obstacle is anchored to the ground is no small matter. The more rigid the fixation of the seesaw to the surface, the more energy stays in the board, enhancing 'board whip' catapulting. When the seesaw base is less firmly fixed, lifting of the base dissipates board energy. Hopping of the obstacle can be a byproduct. In one design (Premier), internal movement of the base components enabled the dissipation of board energy while virtually eliminating base hopping.

It looks like stiff boards and teeter bases with mechanisms to dissipate the board whip are the ultimate solution to this problem. The Premier teeter appears to allow the vertical support to move up and down in its horizontal base to dissipate the vibration without causing the base to hop. But I’ve never seen one here in the US.

Testing Teeters in the "Field"

First a short story. Many years ago when the first aluminum frame teeters were being introduced there were some very, very lightweight teeters whose fulcrum (the rotation point) was set so they dropped very fast. So during the first walk through I would always tip the teeter part way down with my hands and literally get a feel for how easy they were to tip. I still do it today and you can feel a difference between heavy, slow tipping teeters and fast ones. But be very careful not to raise a teeter up into you fellow competitors walking with you!

So I just dreampt up this unscientific test for whip you can perform at home, class and possibly at a trial. Lift the front (normally down) end of the teeter up a foot and push it quickly and firmly back down to the ground (you don’t need to be too crazy) and try to hold the end down. The teeter board will flex and push back up on your hand. You’ll literally get a feel for the amount of whip by how much force you feel pushing up on your hand and how much vibration you feel. You might also get a sense of how loud the teeter is. So once you’ve tested a few teeters and compare them to how they look when dogs run on them you should be able to correlate your hands on test with how your dog reacts.

I don’t know if I should propose this… but you are all smart readers. You could also do this during a walk through but be careful of other competitors. Even though you are only moving the already down end one foot you might startle someone or even hit someone with the up end of the board if they are crossing the end when you push down on the other end. Unlikely, but let’s not hurt anyone in the interest of science. I usually help build courses so I could play with the teeter during the build out (another reason to volunteer!).

Coping With Teeter Whip

There are only a few strategies you can take if you encounter a similar situation:

  • Approach the club and see if they have another teeter they might substitute.
  • If you think the teeter is actually unsafe ask the judge to look at the teeter.
  • Pull your dog from the runs with the teeter.
  • In a class where you choose your own course (Gamblers and to a lesser extent Snooker) plan your course to avoid/limit the use of the teeter. I was surprised to see people running Gamblers courses using this teeter twice. It was so whippy that the front edge was still almost a foot in the air when some fast dogs came back around for their second pass.
  • Train don't complain. While this was certainly an unusual situation, if you thought you might encounter this teeter again you could try to get time on it via classes or ring rental from the club or even buy one. I've trained with Dana Pike for a number of years and she (like other top level trainers) likes to get varied types of equipment, especially if she is likely to encounter it in competition. So (before the tornado) I benefited by training dogs on her very fast and very slow dropping teeters.

The good news is the club has vowed to get this teeter stiffened up before they use it in future trials.

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