Here's How to Build a DIY Dog Agility Course in Your Own Backyard
Those dogs gracefully leaping over hurdles. The ones confidently zooming through a tunnel. Even the pups who daringly navigate a balance beam! Maybe you and your dog have admired the skills and teamwork that other dog-owner pairs show in agility training. If you've been curious about this sport ("Is my dog smart enough for this? Am I??"), getting started is incredibly easy. Building a DIY dog agility course at home is simple and the payoff is huge.
Your pup gets to enjoy a fun sport that provides physical and mental exercise. The two of you build a sense of teamwork. It can even help anxious dogs become more self-assured, says Andy Hartman, vice president and agility judge for the United States Dog Agility Association.
"Dogs that are on the shier side have been known to blossom into confident, happy dogs through training in agility," he reports. "A dog that may be timid will learn to overcome their fear by conquering each obstacle."
Whether you're getting serious about dabbling in agility competitions or just want to find a new fun activity to do together, here's how to create an obstacle course for your canine athlete at home.
DIY Dog Agility Course Equipment You'll Need to Get Started
Dog agility courses have between 14 and 20 obstacles, says the American Kennel Club. You can purchase all the agility course equipment of course, but homemade obstacles work well too. If your pooch is just starting out, stick to the more basic obstacles—they're easier for you and your pup to master without the help of a trainer.
"Dogs love to jump, so that's a good obstacle to begin with," Hartman says. "You can teach your dog a lot using just one or two jumps in your backyard." After your pup gains confidence on jumps, add a tunnel and then weave poles.
To make those three types of obstacles, gather the following household items:
How to Make a DIY Dog Agility Course at Home
You don't need to spend a lot of money to get started with dog agility training. Just use the household items you collected to put together a beginner's course.
Get your dog used to jumping over a bar by creating a simple hurdle. Balance a broomstick across two buckets (or flower pots or piles of books). This setup allows the stick to fall off if your dog runs into it and keeps your pup from getting hurt. Learn how to teach your dog to go over a jump obstacle.
Crawling through a tunnel takes a bit of practice, but setting one up couldn't be easier. Cut the ends off of a large cardboard box to make a tunnel, or drape a blanket over a couple of kitchen chairs. Watch a video to see how to teach your dog to go through a tunnel.
Now that your dog is a pro at jumps and tunnels, it's time to move up to weave poles. Put garden stakes in the ground in a straight line, with each stake 24 inches from the next. If you'd like, you can place PVC pipe over the stakes to cover them. Find out how to get your dog to weave in and out of the poles.
Public Dog Agility Courses
Training at home is great, but there's nothing like being in a community of like-minded people. If you'd like to train with others (and get tips from them too!), search for dog agility clubs or training facilities near you. They usually offer dog agility courses similar to what you'd experience during competitions and are a great place to practice. When you feel ready, you can test your dog's skills at a competition. Search for dog agility trials in your area.
Making obstacles and creating a homemade dog agility course is easy and free. And it's a unique way to spend time with your four-legged friend, who will be ecstatic to tackle the challenges with you by his side.