We all remember Wonder dogs on TV, now you can recreate that at home with your own dog! This DIY agility course is a great option if you do not have a dog park nearby or your dog can be a bit prone to stage fright! A homemade course can give your dogs an opportunity to explore new stimuli, solve problems, and get some beneficial exercise. Plus, agility courses can be scaled and tailored for dogs of all ages, shapes, sizes, and breeds.
When you launch into this project you can choose how much you want to spend, of course you can go out and buy all the stuff you need already made up (to be fair then you will look just like the TV show!) but like most of us that is a bit outside the budget. No worries, we have some great ways you can put your own ramp, jumps and weave poles together with things you have at home or inexpensive bits you can pick up at the hardware store, recycling center or second hand shop.
Agility courses usually consist of several different types of obstacles, including:
Standard jumps are essential for agility and can be the easiest obstacle to design and build.
Get two things that are the same height- concrete blocks, crates, chairs (dog size dependent!) and place a length of PVC pipe or a broom handle across the top of them.
Start low and make the jumps higher as your dog gets the hang of it. You may choose to get something with adjustable heights if it looks like your dog is headed for agility greatness and you are wanting something on the lawn that doesn’t involve your kitchen chairs!
Tire jumps are a great way to build confidence in you dog. To build you own tire jump you will need two reasonably strong poles (PVC pipe, waratahs or wooden stakes), a round object (hula hoop, bike tire or flexible tubing) and some long cable ties or wire to attach it all together. Take the poles and stick them in the ground and attach the tire in between them with the ties.
Start with your tire close to the ground to make it easy and less scary for your dog when you get started. As your dog gets more confident and they grow their skills you can make the size of the tire smaller and the height higher. Some dogs will be hesitant to jump through a hoop so make sure you are on the other side with some Radical Dog Biscuits to lure them through and reward them when they succeed.
You can use just about anything to make your tunnel, a bed sheet over a folding table can make a great start point, remember the larger the tunnel the more successful you will be at getting your pet through. In the beginning, make your tunnel short enough that your dog feels comfortable passing all the way through, and reward handsomely with praise and Radical Dog treats at each success. As your pets grow more confident with the concept of passing through tunnels, a wide variety of inexpensive agility tunnels of varying sizes, lengths, and styles are available- there are some great collapsible options on the market.
Weave poles can be easily made by putting PVC pipe (or you can use bamboo for a more environmentally-friendly approach) in the ground. Or, for indoors or on patios, small plastic sports cones will do the trick. Start with six poles and increase that number as your dogs become more accustomed to weaving in and out of them. The distance between poles should range from 50cm to 65cm.-We recommend you start with 65cm to begin. An easy way to get your dog started in weaving is to lure him through the poles using a radical Dog biscuit as a reward - and lots of praise, of course!
Dog Walk Planks:
Use some wooden boards to make your own dog walking plank. Walking along planks can be one of the more challenging agility tasks so begin with wide boards on the ground or only a little way up until your dog gets the hang of walking across them. You could jazz up your boards by painting them, which will make them more visible but also make them look good in your garden too!
You can use a wide variety of materials to build a base for your planks, just be sure it is solid, sturdy, and can hold at least twice your dog’s weight without moving, bending, or wobbling. As your dog’s confidence grows, make the planks narrower until your dog can successfully walk across a 150mm wide plank without hesitation.
Without a doubt, the teeterboard is the most difficult agility element for the majority of dogs to master. If your dog is a beginner, you may want to master some other elements including walk planks before taking on the seesaw. There are some great tutorials online on how to build your seesaw- we haven’t gone into detail here as the blog would be very long (we might do that in a later blog- let us know if you would like to see it). To get your dog started you can place a piece of OVC pipe under a board directly on the ground so that your dog gets used to the feeling of the board moving. Then move onto your seesaw.
Making an A Frame is pretty easy if you are handy with a power drill, all you need is two rectangle pieces of plywood of equal size, we used 800mm wide and 1200mm long (you want to go at least 18mm think so that it will hold your dog’s weight), some battens the width of your plywood (in our case 800mm long), 2 door hinges, screws and some paint.
Attach your battens with screws at even spacing along the plywood, they need to be about 15cm apart. Make your A Frame by attaching the two plywood sheets together at the top with the door hinges on the underside. Paint you’re a Frame and encourage your dog over up one side and down the other with Radical Dog treats.
Building a backyard obstacle or agility course needn’t be expensive or time-consuming - there are lots of ways you can keep your dogs active, increase confidence, and support their health with materials you can find around the house.