If you are considering starting agility training with your dog, the price of all the equipment can be daunting, but the good news is; making an obstacle course for your dog can be achieved with many odds and ends you have around the home.
In this article, we look at.
- How to make a dog agility tunnel
- We delve into the sports history
- How to train Fido to master the tunnel
- What to look for when joining a club
Dog Agility is a lot of fun for both dog and owner and needn’t break the bank.
Can You Make Your Own Dog Agility Course?
Yes, you can, and we even have a full guide on beginner dog agility training as well to get you started.
There are plenty of obstacles that are easy to create with bits and pieces you might have lying around the house and in the garden. All you really need is a dedicated space and some imagination.
The main obstacles in a dog agility course can include:
You can use plenty of cheap materials and things that you already have to create these obstacles. For example, you could replace actual weaving poles with plant pots, PVC pipes, or even pool noodles! All of them will do the trick just fine, as long as they are at an equal distance from one another. A PVC pipe is also ideal to make small hurdles.
Instead of a pause table, you could easily make a pause box using one side of a cardboard box, some tape and some paint! As long as it builds an area that your dog can discern from the others, then it will do.
Finally, for the classic tire jumps, you could use a rubber ring, a large enough tyre if you have one, or a tube rolled into a circular shape that you can suspend from a swing set, from a tree, or a frame.
What is An Agility Tunnel?
An agility tunnel is a fundamental obstacle in a dog agility course. They are usually made of vinyl material and have wire bands covering them to help the tunnel keep its shape.
The idea is to make your dog run through it as fast as possible and to make it to the other side without you helping them.
Agility tunnels are a great test of speed, intelligence, and trust between you and your dog.
Most agility courses have straight tunnels that go on for between 10 ft and 20 ft. Some tunnels are long enough to be put into an ‘S’ shape, making them more challenging for the dog to conquer.
Agility Tunnel Dimensions
Agility tunnels usually measure between 10 ft and 20 ft and are 24 inches in diameter. If you are starting your dog in agility training, you will need smaller tunnels, to begin with. The easier they can see the other side, the more confident they’ll be in tackling the tunnel.
Making your Own Agility Tunnel
Making your own dog agility tunnel is actually very easy. You can create one out of general objects you may already have or buy a few extra cheap items such as a parachute tube or bungee cord.
You could use any of the following to set up a tunnel as part of an obstacle course for your furry friend:
This might seem like a bit of an odd list but stick with us. You’ll need to find the desired position in your garden – plan out plenty of space if you want predetermined ramps, too. The more space your dog runs around in, the more confident they’ll become!
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make your own dog agility tunnel. All you need is time, patience, and some re-usable items from the local shop or your very own garden. However, there is no denying that some of these options may not last very long and should be built with care.
Do also consider setting up fabric stakes and PVC pipes for stability – and break out that tape measure to ensure your DIY project has enough space – and that your dog sees either end of your tunnel!
Use sand-filled containers connected by a bungee cord to secure the ends of your tunnel, or purchase a few tent pegs to keep it from blowing away in the breeze.
If you really want to get deeper into building your own agility equipment, consider investing in a rivet gun, parachute fabric and a bungee cord or two. There’s more information on how to set up the perfect training area (including a crawl tunnel) in our complete guide.
Training Your Pup to Go Through an Agility Tunnel
Dog agility training for beginners can take some time and will take a lot of patience, but the process is really rewarding. You’ll give your dog some amazing mental stimulation as well as tons of fun. There are a few things that you can do to help them get through the tunnel easily:
- Start with a straight tunnel. It’s not a natural thing for a dog to go through this kind of space, and not seeing the other side may scare them. Curved, long tunnels are for experienced dogs only. Start your dog off on a small, straight tunnel if you’re building your own agility course.
- Ask for help. A great way of getting your pup started is by getting someone to hold them on the lead and send them in at one end while you call them from the other side. Then, call them enthusiastically and maybe start by offering them a treat at the end to make them want to get there quicker.
- Gradually increase the length of the tunnel. Do not go from one extreme to the other! Instead, gently grow the tunnel until you reach a point where your dog can go in one end and meet you at the other on their own.
What to look for when Choosing Dog Agility Courses
If you’ve read up on how to make a dog agility tunnel but want to try your pup out on a full obstacle course, you should start looking for local dog agility trials. Finding a dog agility club in the UK is actually fairly simple – all you need to do is head to the Kennel Club website, or AgilityNet, to find the nearest to you.
First of all, check the entry requirements of the club and make sure that your dog meets them. Most clubs will accept any dog over one year old, but some may ask for your pup to be a little older.
Then, you will need to find a suitable class for your pup. The agility clubs have to separate dogs based on their size to ensure that the obstacles are at the right height. For that, you will need to measure your dog or, depending on the club, have them officially measured by a professional.
Look at the dog agility training equipment when you arrive and make sure they are all up to standard. Are they clean? Are they steady? Make sure that there are no splintered or degrading areas that could hurt your pup on the course.
The History of Dog Agility
Dog agility began at Crufts in 1977. Crufts is a major organizational body considered the world leader in dog shows. The original idea was to have dogs run around an agility course, such as a horse on a jumping course. It was initially set up to entertain the crowds during the intermission of the show.
Since its beginning, dog agility competitions have been genuine spectacles – they are now an established part of dog shows worldwide, including being an essential part of the Crufts dog show.
When it comes to dog agility, Border Collies tend to be the most common winners. They are speedy, loyal, intelligent and have been used as working dogs for centuries. They are now being bred, in some cases, specifically to compete in dog agility courses. No dog obstacle is too tricky for a Collie.
As you might imagine – even great agility dogs can act daft sometimes, and all that mental stimulation and physical exercise can create some hilarious moments! Here’s a few from Crufts back in 2017.
Can Any Dog Be an Agility Champion?
In short, yes, any dog can be an agility champion. From small dogs to large breeds, they all have something to bring to this sport and can really give it their all!
The most successful dog breeds in dog agility have been Border Collies due to their incredible speed and intelligence. That being said, there are plenty of mixed breeds that have done exceptionally well, especially in recent years. Some of the most famous dog agility mixed breed champions are names that you will already know, such as Pudsey from Britain’s Got Talent!
Fox Terriers, Labradors, even Poodles – all are great at dog agility. However, the best pups on the agility course or obstacle course tend to tick the following boxes, regardless of breed!
A dog’s physical health is absolutely crucial when it comes to an obstacle course and agility training. It is an intense exercise for them, and you need to be sure that they can keep up without hurting themselves.
For example, if your dog naturally has trouble breathing, as is the case with many bulldogs and pugs, then agility training could be hazardous for them. This could lead to heart problems. Not all dogs are predisposed to take on a dog obstacle course – so be careful and put their health first. As responsible dog owners, we need to look out for them!
Although many might assume dog agility is just a physical challenge, it is very much a mental challenge, too.
A dog agility champion needs to be pretty sharp – and we’re not talking about the dog’s nails here.. Being able to balance themselves, understand and pay attention to each command, and ignore all of the distractions surrounding them isn’t easy! If Fido is confused about what you want him to do, it will be frustrating for you both.
Remember – you cannot make a dog take to an obstacle course by force. Be patient while training!
Speed is, of course, key to success on any obstacle course – and while your dog may know its way around the agility equipment, can they set a good time?
A dog that is a bit lazy or held back by its weight will not become a champion. Of course, good health has a lot to do with their speed, but it also requires the dog to be motivated enough to move as fast as they can!
Balance and poise are key, too. Sporting dogs that rattle along a multi-sided dog walk may risk falling off! Herding dogs tend to be great all-rounders here.
Eager to Please
Again, you can’t make a dog take to obstacle courses by force – there has to be willing!
A bright, fast, and healthy dog is likely to do excellently on any obstacle course – unless they do not care about what their owner is doing. If they are not eager to please you, they will eventually do want they want and end up attacking the course completely wrong (see the video above)!
An eager to please dog will pay attention to its owner and care about doing its best for them! It’s all the more reason to set up your own DIY dog agility track.
As you know, dog shows are rife with big crowds and lots of other animals! For your dog to do well in the show and the environment in general, they will need to be well socialised before joining the competition.
Going from training in a crawl tunnel in the back garden to hearing thousands of different voices and types of barks could very easily overwhelm them, leaving them incapable of competing.
If they are not used to focusing on you in busy and loud places, then the chances are that they will not be able to listen to you on the course.
Age is critical when it comes to dog agility. They need to be of a minimum age to participate, but that does not mean that it is necessarily the right time for them to start. On the other hand, you should not wait for it to be too late in their lives to start!
A good rule of thumb is to ensure that they are no longer at an age where their bodies are developing. Starting them off too early could permanently damage their bones and joints.
Starting them off in their late senior years could be causing them an immense amount of pain that will need significant time for recovery If they can indeed recover.
How long is an agility tunnel?
The size of the agility tunnel in competitions depends on the size of the course and the competitors’ experience. Most agility tunnels accepted by major organizational bodies measure between 10 ft and 20 ft in length, and between 22 and 26 inches in diameter, on a professional dog agility course. Be sure to start with the desired length ideal for your pup at home.
How do I make an agility course for my dog?
To make your own dog agility course at home, you will need a dedicated space in which you can place a dog tunnel made of durable nylon material, a pause box, weave poles, a dog walk, and a high jump. Many of these can be handmade with materials found in one’s home or bought online.
What’s a collapsed tunnel?
A collapsed tunnel is a tunnel sometimes used in competitions; they are harder to master than an open tunnel as the dog can’t see the other end; you could make one of these with some pop-up hampers and an old duvet cover
How old does my puppy have to be to start agility training?
Puppies should only start agility training between 15 months and 18 months old. That being said, this will largely depend on your dog’s breed and current health state. To ensure that they are perfectly able to participate in agility training, check with your vet before starting them on any course.
How do I get my dog to go through an agility tunnel?
Getting your dog through an agility tunnel will take some time and patience. First, ask someone to help your dog enter through one end while you call them from the other end with a treat. Then, start by using a small, straight tunnel so that your puppy can see through to the other side.
Now you know a bit more about how to make a dog agility tunnel, it’s time to put your creative skills to the test.
Tunnels are some of the most common staples of agility trials and dog obstacle courses. However, you must always make sure you consider your dog’s size, dog’s height and activity level before you start. After all, it really is a full-body workout for both you and your pet!
Most dogs will love tackling different obstacles in any training area – and it’s great fun for you, too. You’ll want to invest in a tire jump, weave poles, raised platforms and even a human track to build the perfect course.
More exercise for your pet is always good – and this is a fun way to get them moving – but safety first! Keep away from rough or sharp edges, and be patient when your pup tries to negotiate obstacles for the first time.
From weave poles to a crawl tunnel! There’s no need to head to pet stores if you’ve got a few bits and pieces to hand; you can construct tunnels your dog runs through, a vertically mounted tire for smaller dogs, or jumps made from PVC pipes.
Feel free to check out out other agility guides and more about agility equipment.