Agility is a fast and furious activity for you and your canine companion and is becoming increasingly popular, mainly down to the fun we see the dogs having each year at Crufts.
The course is made up of several obstacles that your dog needs to jump over, run through, balance on and weave in and out of in the fastest time possible. Not only does agility test the speed and fitness of your pooch, it also shows your ability as a trainer and handler to direct them around the course correctly.
Of course, you can buy dog agility equipment in stores and online, but if you want to save a few pennies, you may decide to make your own dog walk and seesaw in your back yard.
The good news: it’s relatively simple to do with some PVC pipes, bits of wood and a few pop-up laundry baskets, it may not be up to the American kennel club standard, but it will be fun.
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So let’s get started; you never know you might have a future champion on your hands.
What You Need to Create an Obstacle Course for Dogs
Jumps are the staple of any DIY dog agility course; there are three types of dog jumps that you can use: the high jump, hoop jump and long jump.
If you are training your dogs at home, whether big, small, young or experienced, or whatever, you should always purchase or make a jump with adjustable height. Ideal if you have a small dog and you can always adjust the jump to your dog’s capabilities as they grow.
Dog agility tunnels are among the most complicated pieces of equipment for a dog to learn how to use. Learning how to use this obstacle properly will require trust, speed, and balance. Your dog will be entering an object through which they cannot always see the other side.
Have someone guide your pooch in one end as you stand at the other; as your dog runs through, you can be at the other end enticing them with a treat or toy!
Again, you can get a dog agility tunnel for about £20 and up on Amazon. Why not take a look at the best agility toys for dogs.
Ramps are very common in all dog agility courses. The idea behind the ramp is first and foremost to test a dog’s balance. It can be pretty difficult for them to master at first, especially if they are going full speed around the rest of the course!
If you are training your dog to participate in a dog agility competition, you will also have to teach them how to stay between the correct lines and stop in the right areas.
Although you could build your own ramp or A-frame in the back yard, they do take up quite a bit of space; you must make sure they are safe and can’t be easily broken.
The poles are among the best and cheapest things to buy for your dog agility course! You will have to teach your dog how to weave in and out of the poles without missing any.
Theoretically, you could use just about anything instead of poles when making your own agility course as long as they are well defined and at the proper distance from one another. You could use cones, plant pots, or a length of PVC pipe sawn into equal sections.
Although it may seem a little odd, the pause box is an essential part of any complete dog agility course. This is where your dog should to told to stop and stay and not move until they have been instructed to do otherwise. It is a great test of your bond with your dog, their intelligence, and their obedience.
On professional agility courses, they use pause tables, which are elevated from the ground. A pause table is one of the easiest things to construct; you just need a sturdy box or even a square marked on the ground.
DIY Dog Agility Courses
A dog agility course can be quite expensive to complete as-is, and it is, in some cases, better to just make the obstacles yourself, with a bit of time, patience, and cheap materials. Here’s a quick guide on setting up your own obstacles to keep your dog agile, which won’t break the bank.
How to Make Jumps
In order to make your own DIY dog agility jumps, you will need a few PVC tubes, a few connectors, and some PVC cutters.
Making a jumping frame should be pretty self-explanatory. The main thing to remember is to make something stable and at the right height for your dog.
At the very least, you will need three PVC pipes – two of which should be placed at a perpendicular angle to the third PVC piece to stabilize it. You will need at least 2 connectors to hold them all together.
These three pieces will make a very low dog agility jumping hurdle, and so you will need at least two other long pieces of PVC (to mount on top of the balancing ones)
PVC pipe is usually relatively cheap, and this kind of obstacle is usually straightforward to make.
How to Make a Tunnel
One way of making an agility tunnel is by using collapsable laundry hampers. Simply cut out the bottom rings from the baskets so that your dog can easily move through them, and sew the laundry hampers together.
You can start by using one laundry hamper and adding to it over time with extra sewn-on hampers. The best thing about using collapsable laundry hampers is that they come built with metal rings to help them to keep their shape.
This will save you from providing a different kind of support for the inside of the tunnel, which is necessary for your dog to use properly.
You could also use empty cardboard boxes, which you may already have lying around the house. Make sure to use them on a dry surface, and you can either use super glue or strong tape to hold the different boxes together.
How to Make Weave Poles
If you have any PVC tubes left over from the dog jump, then you can simply repurpose them by using them as your own dog agility weave poles or weaving obstacles. You will need a minimum of six weave poles, but the more, the better.
Instead of long PVC poles, you could also use a cheap set of cones (which could also be used for the hurdle jump), empty plastic plant pots that you may already have laying around your garden, plastic water bottles (filled), etc.
Be sure to measure a distance of at least 24 inches apart from one another. This should provide ample room for most dogs to weave in and out of them without hurting themselves.
Weave poles are the easiest dog agility obstacle to make and should be a part of any agility course!
How to Make Ramps
When making ramps, you will need to be sure to use safe and stable materials to withstand your dog running up and down.
At the very least, you will need two large pieces of wood, wide enough for your dog to walk across and long enough to make them reach a decent height. Both pieces will need to be at precisely the same length. Both parts of wood should also be covered in an anti-slip material in order for your dog to avoid slipping as they climb and descend the obstacle.
Finally, you will also need at least two small pieces of wood attached on either side of the two large pieces, holding them together at an angle. Then, you will need a middle segment of wood that measures the same length at the two large pieces to connect the two smaller pieces right through the middle. You may also want to add two thick PVC poles at either side of the planks as extra support for your dog’s size and weight.
How to Make a Pause Box
Aside from the weaving poles, the pause box is also one of the easiest dog agility obstacles to make by oneself. All you really need is a large piece of cardboard on which you can paint a large square. The square simply needs to be long enough for your dog to fit in it. Remember that being cardboard, it is best to keep it on dry land or inside, as it will quickly get wet and disintegrate.
For a more permanent and more substantial piece of equipment, you could also nail four equally measured pieces of wood together, but be car tire of splinters that could come off and harm your dog as their move quickly on and off of the pause box!
More Advanced Equipment You Can Make at Home
There are, of course, other pieces of dog agility equipment that you can make for your DIY agility course, all of which would be ideal for training your pup. These are not essential but will help to complete your course. For example, a seesaw for dog agility is a popular choice.
When building more complex agility course features, always take care and have someone on hand to help you.
You can make an A-frame for your DIY dog agility course in a similar fashion to ramps. All you will need is a few pieces of wood and some anti-slip coverings. Again, always be sure that these frames are completely stable, as they can easily collapse underneath the weight of a dog!
Seesaws require quite a bit of engineering to get right but can indeed be made at home. They are great obstacles for training a dog’s balance, trust, and intelligence. You don’t need an extensive list of materials, just some planks of wood, anti-slip paint, and a sturdy stand to balance both the see saw and your dog’s weight.
Let’s move on from beginner jumps to tire jumps. Thankfully, the tire jump is very easy to make and is a staple of any DIY project involving dog training. In fact, you could very easily use your pre-existing jump hurdle mechanism with the PVC pipes and simply attach either a large tire or a hula hoop in the middle. The hula hoop would be cheaper, lighter, and easier to connect to the PVC pipe!
Walkways should be made, again, much in the same way as ramps or see saw. The main thing to consider is the weight of the dog. Otherwise, all you will need is three planks of wood, one long one for the middle, and two shorter ones, of equal length, for the climb and descent. Remember the anti-slip coverings, too!
How to Start Dog Agility Training
If you are using a DIY dog agility course, then it is best to start your pup on lower and smaller obstacles for them to get used to the course. The best way to introduce any dog to a canine obstacle course is to take things slowly, encourage them by placing treats on the obstacles, guiding them slowly across walks, etc.
You could start easily with your own weave poles, a dog walk, small tunnel obstacles (such as children’s play tunnels), a pause table, a simple ramp, etc.
Over time, you could introduce your furry friend to jumping obstacles such as a tire jump, a seesaw, etc.
You can even make other obstacles to mix it up a bit; why not have Fido retrieve a floating toy from a paddling pool or sit on a balance board?
For your dog’s safety, be sure to have enough room for them to navigate the course.
A doggy obstacle course is great for training your pup on how to respond to certain basic commands.
You should always start by teaching them how to sit and stay. This will help them in the pause box and teach them how to listen to you and remain calm, even when they are in the heat of the course. Show them your hand open and facing them and use the word ‘stay’. Consistent verbal commands are important to both you and Rover.
Teaching them to come to you and listen to you even when they are distracted is also very important. For that, you can use simple hand gestures like snapping, pointing, etc.
When it comes to vocal commands and hand commands, the more basic, the better; there are many things that your dog will have to learn, so being able to differentiate quick and straightforward commands will help. If you are really struggling, you can always consider dog agility training for beginners.
Do agility dogs make money?
In certain competitions, champion dog agility participants do win money. Suppose a dog is exceptionally well-trained, and its owner is adept at doing the training. In that case, they can both earn money by providing lessons for beginners or training sessions for competitors.
When should a dog start agility training?
A dog should only start agility training between 12 and 18 months old. This, of course, depends largely on the breed of the dog, their size, weight, and current health conditions. You must always check with your vet before starting your dog on an agility course.
How do I build a simple dog agility course in my back garden?
In order to create your own dog agility course in your back garden, all you will need is a few of the key obstacles, such as a tunnel, a bar jump (high and/or long), weaving poles, a pause box, etc. You can easily purchase a dog agility course kit online or in any pet store.
To create a dog obstacle course for your dog training, you do not necessarily need the best equipment on sale at the highest prices. Simply using your own back yard with household items such as a cardboard box, lightweight poles, a collapsible tunnel, and a few things from the garden like PVC pipes will go a long way.
Moreover, by designing your own canine obstacle course, you get to choose the desired height of your objects and get to use enough space for the training to be fun and safe for your dog. Here is a list of agility dog equipment and it’s always best to know where to start.
Whether you plan to enter agility competitions with small dogs or big dogs, dog agility training is fantastic for mental stimulation and body awareness. It is, above all, a great, fun way to connect with them. Many dogs love taking on a jumping obstacle or two!