These days, many of us are stuck at home. If you’re in a rut, your dog might be too. If you want to have some fun and stimulate your dog through obedience training, a backyard dog agility course might be right for you.
Keep Your Dog Safe
When working on your dog’s obstacle course, be sure to keep safety in mind. Yes, you want to work your dog hard to stimulate the body and mind, but you should always remember that there is a possibility of harm when using an obstacle course.
The first thing to consider is your dog’s overall health and size when you start. If your dog is large, you’re going to have to make sure you accommodate their size. Obviously, you wouldn’t make the same course for a ten-pound dog as you would for an 80-pound dog.
Second, consider your dog’s health. If they are a young healthy dog, you can probably push them a little harder. If your dog is an overweight adult, you should start slow. A dog who is used to less activity is probably going to be less willing to work hard. Pushing them too hard or too fast is going to discourage them.
Also, be sure to remember that an agility course takes training. Your dog is not going to understand immediately what you want from them. It’s your job to show them and teach them what to do. Always make sure you are rewarding them when they do what you want. You need to make sure you are patient as well. Never yell at or punish your dog when they don’t perform. You want your dog to work with you and yelling at them will only make things worse.
How to Set Up a Backyard Dog Agility Course
There are a number of different obstacles for you and your dog to work on. We’re going to give you some ideas of how you can make your own course below.
Weave poles are upright poles that your dog will be weaving a narrow path through. This obstacle helps to work your dog mentally as they figure out the best path through it.
All you have to do is set up a line of sticks that are about three or four feet tall. You can use lawn decorations, PVC pipes in the ground, or even orange cones if you don’t want to put holes in your lawn. Try to space each obstacle about a foot apart or more if you have a larger dog.
A tunnel helps teach your dog special awareness and to better use their depth perception. And it can be very easy to set up. The easiest way to set up a tunnel is to grab a child’s play tunnel. These are usually large enough to be easy for your dog to pass through and can be folded away when not in use. You may also consider cutting the bottom off a hamper or even throwing towels over a hula hoop to make a small tunnel.
Jumps are great for your dog’s agility and obedience. It also helps keep their body and joints in great shape. As dogs age, they lose mobility in their joints. Your dog keeps mobile by frequently jumping. You should also remember that as a dog ages, they may not have the same bounce that a young pup would have, so plan their jumps accordingly.
To start with jumps, you’ll want to set your course to be 1/8th of r dog’s height. Measure from their paw to their shoulder and divide that by eight. So a dog that’s 22 inches tall should start with a jump that is just below three inches.
You can help your dog work their balance, focus, and stability while using a seesaw. If you don’t already have a seesaw or don’t want to buy one for the dog, a simple A-frame ramp works as well. If you’re handy, you can easily build a small ramp out of a sheet of plywood. Otherwise, most pet stores will have an affordable option.
Make Your Own Course
Making your own makeshift course at home can be a great way to work your dog, but you can even build a course with real materials that’s just for them. An agility course can easily be made for cheap using PVC. You only need the upright poles to be about 40 inches, and you can connect each upright using a T connection.
Each upright should be spaced about a foot and a half apart. At the end of the line, put a two-foot section that sits on the ground and 90 degrees from the run. At the opposite end of the run, add the same two-foot section using a 90-degree angle but set it in the opposite direction of the other end. This will make sure your upright bars stay upright and don’t fall over.
You can use small screws through the T connections and 90-degree connections to keep everything together. This allows you to take the agility course apart when you are done.
Try combining these different elements to make a great agility course in your backyard and give your dog a great workout!