A New Frame of Reference (Written 3/4/21)
It took a while, but the dogs and I have finally gotten our Christmas
present. It was a very big-box item, and it's homemade, thanks to my
dad. So it was a bit of a process. But it's here, and we have been
The item in question is something I have wanted to add to our training
repertoire for quite a long time. We don't actually train for the sport
of agility, but some of the obstacles used on the agility course are
fantastic additions to a dog-training fanatic's front yard. I
technically want two of them, and the first one we've received is the
As its name implies, the A-frame essentially looks like the pitched roof
of a house. It's hinged at the top where the two sections join, one
section sloping up, the other sloping down, and the steepness of the
slope can be adjusted.
This is a wonderful tool for teaching balance and coordination, and as a
huge bonus, it instills major confidence in a dog as well. When raised
to its full height, the apex of the frame is a good six feet above
ground. Add to that the height of the scrambling dog, and head height
can be roughly eight feet up in the air. There's something about
climbing hard, fast, and high that boosts the confidence of just about
any dog. And I want my dogs to be confident.
Another plus is that, because my house is only on one level, my dogs
don't often get exposed to steps. Whenever possible, I do try to find
flights of stairs for them to practice. But it doesn't happen often. So
having a built-in climbing obstacle right in our yard will at least
teach them the general concept of navigating steep up and down surfaces.
Most of my older dogs have been around agility equipment in the past.
But the four younger kids -- Cinder, Tassie, Banner, and Scotch -- have
never seen anything like an A-frame before. I love introducing my dogs
to brand-new things. It's healthy for them, and it's fascinating for me.
Even dogs you think you know very well can surprise you in a new and
Tassie, who is sort of the star student around here, was one that I
thought would stride right up and over. But not quite. She did fine on
the upward climb, then reached the top, and suddenly realized just how
high she really was. After I had convinced her that bounding off over
the side was not a good option, she skidded along the downward ramp and
made it to solid ground without any trouble. But even after two or three
repeats, she still wasn't quite sure about that apex moment.
Next it was Scotch's turn. On an average day, Scotch is less confident
than Tassie, and I had expected him to be a little balky about even
attempting the upward ramp. I had been prepared to physically pick him
up and place him on the downward side to show him it was doable. But
instead, he went right up the first half, eagerly following the handful
of chicken I popped under his nose. Like Tassie, he did have a moment of
hesitation at the very top of the frame and considered baling. But once
he figured out that there was a downward ramp, and that the chicken was
going in that direction, he scrambled to the bottom without a problem.
And after two or three more reps, he was all in and loving this new
Cinder, though, was the one who really aced it. I love it when the
little, nontraditional breed shows up the more predictable contestants.
Tail quirking, mustaches flying, and his little legs flashing, Cinder
scampered up, over and down without a backward glance. The little dog
acting like a big dog. Beautiful.
Next up, I want a teeter-totter. But until then, we'll have fun with
this new toy. Good job, everybody!
Reyna is an author, hobby farmer, and dog trainer who lost her sight when she was a toddler. She lives independently in the Kansas Flint Hills. Discover more about her at: www.reynawrites.com and @reynabradfordauthor on Facebook.