Whether you are looking to keep them entertained between walks or are simply looking for fun and creative ways to exercise your dog, then you may want to consider doing some agility training. Before we get into the detail, it's also worth noting that if your dog has joint stiffness, to take it easy or to avoid certain high impact exercises below, particularly those that focus jumping.
Agility training not only adds variety and extra agility challenges to outdoor exercise sessions but also provides mental stimulation for your pooch. In this guide, we show you how to make a dog agility course in your garden - think doggy hurdles, walk-through tunnels, weaving posts and tyre jumps!
And the best part is, you may have the materials and equipment to build your DIY agility course laying around the house already, so there’s no stopping you and your furry friend! You could be on your way to crufts in no time…
What is an agility course?
Dog agility is a competitive sport where a dog is directed through an obstacle course. You may have seen dog agility courses featured in Crufts, for example. The aim is for your pooch to complete the course as accurately and as quickly as possible. A dog agility course is an obstacle course of sorts, designed to test your dogs agility with various challenges - from jumping through tires to weaving through posts.
Preparation is key
There are a few things to bear in mind before you begin creating your own agility course. You will need to make sure that you have enough space for each section of the course - and extra space surrounding it - for your dog to complete the trick. Anything you build, doggy hurdles for example, should be easily broken down so that your dog doesn’t strain or injure themselves while practising. Be sure to use lightweight materials when creating jumps, just in case, and you may want to stock up on treats to reward a good session.
If your dog is new to agility training, then jumping is a great first activity to teach them. Dogs sometimes jump when they play or may occasionally enjoy jumping up on the sofa, so this is a fun way to expand on something they already know how to do physically, but training their minds as well.
You can create a jumping obstacle course using almost anything within the home, as long as the obstacles are soft and collapsible. You want to look for something like a curtain pole, a sweeping brush or PVC piping, which can be placed on top of boxes or slotted into a laundry basket to create beginner jumps for your pooch.
Perhaps you have a hula hoop laying around that the kids aren’t playing with? Simply hold the hoop at the desired height and signal your dog to jump through the other side. You may need treats for extra persuasion during the early stages of training!
The best way to set up a jumping obstacle is with adjustable rungs and levels, so that you can easily lower or raise the height at whichever level your dog is learning.
Ramp it up
If you enjoy watching Crufts, one of the agility course features you will have seen before is doggy ramps. Ramps can be a great source of fun for your dog, which also tests their agility too! You can create your own ramp at home with old wood and a sturdy base. Some large plywood and a couple of cinder blocks can make a simple ramp for your dog to race up and down. It goes without saying that you should ensure that the ramp is safe, sturdy and can withstand your dogs weight before using it.
There are many options for creating a tunnel with household items. Do your children have play tunnels they've since outgrown? Or maybe you have an empty cardboard box which you could cut the ends from to create a tunnel?
If your dog is new to agility training, then tunnels may be quite daunting. As when teaching your dog any new trick, the key is to be encouraging. Try getting on your hands and knees and go through the tunnel yourself. Once your dog sees that the tunnel is not threatening in any way, they will follow suit. You could also try placing treats throughout the tunnel to encourage your canine to pass through.
Another feature you can add to your agility course is weaving obstacles. These are a great way to provide mental and physical stimulation for your dog. Plus, this is one of the easiest sections to make at home.
From football training cones and excess PVC poles from a plumbing project, to old shoes or a seaside bucket - you can use anything to create your weaving course, as long as this is lightweight and won’t fall over whilst your dog is passing through.
Training cones would make a perfect weaving activity for your dog obstacle course. Simply set the cones up the way you'd set them up for football practice. For lightweight poles, simply plant them in the ground (ensure that they are sturdy) in a snake-like pattern so that your dog understands the weaving motion to pass through those obstacles.
You could practice weaving with your dog by walking them through the course on a lead first, rewarding them when they complete the task. Or you could hold out a treat for them as you walk through the course yourself, encouraging them verbally to follow the treat through the obstacles. Be sure to use consistent verbal or hand commands when training so that your pooch will associate your commands with the actions you are asking of them.
Want to make things a little more fun? Be sure to change up the obstacle course as your dog gets used to the activities and perfects them. This will continue to encourage them to think, respond and learn. Why not add in extra features to your canine obstacle course, such as a paddling pool which your dog has to retrieve a floating toy from?
So there you have it, a few quick and easy ways to set up an agility course at home. However you decide to set up your course, your dog will enjoy the fun and challenging elements, as well as the extra time bonding with their owner. Looking for more fun and creative ways to exercise your dog? We’ve got you covered.