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Create a Dog Agility Obstacle Course at Home

Sandy Wallace
Sept. 14, 2015

Dog agility training is a great way to bond with your four-legged friend. Save money by creating your own dog agility course at home using these tips.

Dog agility training is a great way to bond with your pup and have some fun while teaching him some fantastic tricks. Practice for timed agility events or just play together with a backyard dog agility course you create yourself.

"Any positive, humane training can be fun for dogs," says Alana Stevenson, a New England-based animal behaviorist and the author of two books on dog training and behavior modification. "It's important that dogs are rewarded frequently enough and for each and every desired behavior that they perform." Use a mix of excited praise, toys and food as rewards, and never push dogs to learn a new obstacle until they're ready.

Set your dog up to succeed by keep things enjoyable. "The agility practice should never be stressful," says Laura Linn, a central Virginia-based pet trainer, veterinary assistant and behaviorist, who is also a dog coordinator with the Humane Society for Campbell County. She notes that bored dogs or those with separation anxiety find the course a good outlet. "It's great to help shy dogs overcome fears or anxiety -- a huge confidence builder," she says.

Tips For Creating a DIY Dog Agility Course
Start slowly and address each obstacle while holding your dog by the leash and holding a treat in front of her. Offer lots of praise. "A mistake many people make when training dogs is expecting them to perform a myriad of behaviors with just a little praise and a treat at the end," says Stevenson.

Here are some ideas for creating your course:
 

  1. Use a Card Table

    Set up a card table as your dog's pause table -- an obstacle on which your dog has to literally pause for up to five seconds -- and arrange the other equipment around the table. Remember that repetition is the key to teaching each obstacle, while praise and treats will keep your dog engaged. Start with the legs folded down until your dog learns to jump onto the table. Give a treat when he succeeds, gradually increasing the amount of time your dogs sits on the table to five seconds.
     
  2. Set up a Tunnel

    Create an open tunnel from a child's play tunnel. Introduce your dog to the tunnel on a long leash while you wait at the open end with a treat, and then coax her through, offering lots of praise with the treat.
     
  3. Hang a Hoop

    An old tire or hula hoop suspended from a PVC pipe frame makes a great hoop for your dog to jump through. Start with the hoop lowered to the ground and guide your dog through the opening. Walk beside her as she goes through, and then gradually increase the height of the tire.
     
  4. Make a Dog Walk

    Create a dog walk by balancing a 2" by 12" board on sawhorses. Start with the board on the ground until your pup can walk across. As you raise the board higher, walk beside it with a helper on the other side as a spotter."Teach dogs behaviors in little steps and reward them instantly -- the moment they perform each correct behavior," advises Stevenson.
     
  5. Build a Seesaw

    Find plans to build a seesaw. Try the tips from Agility Bits. Once your pup masters the dog walk, enlist a friend to help guide your dog on one side of the seesaw while you help on the other. Keep her leash tight as she nears the center, and slowly lower the board to the ground.
     
  6. Set Up a Jump

    Start with a bamboo pole on the ground and walk your dog across, praising him and giving a treat when he finishes. Raise the height of the jump bar by placing the pole on increasingly taller bricks or chairs.
     
  7. Close a Tunnel

    Create a closed tunnel using an open-ended box with a tarp over one end. You can also use a table covered with a tarp. Let a helper hold your dog by the leash at the open end while you coax her through the closed end.
     
  8. Create a Window Jump

    Make a window jump using children's large cardboard blocks. Start slowly, offering your dog treats and praise, and he'll soon be soaring over the jump.
     
  9. Set Up Hurdles

    Create a series of hurdles of varying heights. Coax your dog over each hurdle with a treat, and gradually move the hurdles closer as she learns to jump over them in sequence.
     
  10. Use Cones For Weave Poles

    Create weave poles using orange cones or bamboo sticks stuck in the ground. Begin with the cones or poles far apart and guide your dog through the path. Gradually move them closer as skills increase.
     

"Most dogs love agility -- even dogs who aren't fast," notes Linn. "They stay motivated, not only because it's fun for them, but also because their human partners keep it fresh and reward-based." Bonus? You'll get some exercise, too!

For more training ideas, check out these 5 DIY Dog Training Tips.
 

Sandy Wallace enjoys family life, photography and writing. Sandy's first doggy love was her grandparents' Cocker Spaniel. Follow Sandy on Twitter and make memories with your two- and four-legged babies.

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