Dogs absolutely love agility courses! And it’s actually fairly easy to make one using what you have on hand. Globalvet has lots of ideas for how to create a fun agility course using materials you already have at home.
WHY MAKE AN AGILITY COURSE?
There are plenty of reasons why an agility course is beneficial for your dog!
- To satisfy the amount of exercise your dog needs depending on the breed. Not all dogs need the same amount of exercise, but they all need at least some. How many times a day your dog needs to go for a walk and the intensity depends on your dog’s breed, age, physical condition, and personality.
- To keep your dog’s mind active. Agility isn’t just about dogs running through tunnels and jumping through tires! Your dog needs to be taught how to do these things. They need to use their brain to obey commands and complete the obstacles.
- To improve their overall health. Physical activity has many positive effects on health—it can improve your dog’s concentration, help them sleep better, stay in shape, be less prone to illness and injury, recover faster from injury, and maintain their weight, to name a few! The same goes for humans, so when you take your dog out to get some exercise, everybody wins!
- For the mental well-being it provides. Ever heard of endorphins? Your body releases chemicals called endorphins when you exercise, and the same goes for your dog.
- To strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Dogs that are given the chance to burn off energy are usually calmer around the house and more attentive to commands. An obedient dog is good for your morale too! Happy dog + happy owner = a great relationship!
- For fun. Plain and simple! It’s probably one of the main reasons you adopted a dog in the first place, and dog agility courses are so much of fun!
BUILDING A DOG AGILITY COURSE
Can you really build a dog agility course for your pup using materials you have around your home? You sure can! Here’s how to build various obstacles you might find in a dog agility course.
- Get a broom handle or pool noodle.
- Take two cardboard boxes, pails, or storage bins and set them down a short distance apart from one another.
- Balance the broom handle or pool noodle on top of them and tape it down so it stays in place.
- If you’re using a broom handle and cardboard boxes, you could also cut holes in the boxes and fit the handle through. You can cut a few holes at different heights to see how high your dog can jump!
- Place some plastic Tupperware, empty yogurt containers, or plastic cups on the floor in a row, fairly close together.
- You may need to space them out a bit more depending on the size of your dog—the bigger the dog, the farther apart you’ll need to place the containers.
- Once you have the spacing right, tape the plastic containers or cups to the floor.
- Find some cardboard boxes that are the same size and cut the ends off.
- Attach the boxes together in a row to make a tunnel.
- Note: It’s best to start with a short tunnel so your dog can get used to going through it. You can gradually add more boxes one at a time to make the tunnel longer.
- You could also take a cloth bag you’re not using anymore and cut out the bottom to make a tunnel.
- Another option is to place two chairs a few feet apart and drape a sheet over them so it touches the floor. You can gradually move the chairs farther apart to make the tunnel longer.
- Inflate an inner tube or grab a hula hoop.
- Use PVC pipes or boards to make a frame.
- Use tape or string to attach the inner tube or hula hoop to the frame.
- An even simpler option: Use two chairs to support the ring instead of building a frame.
HOW TO INTRODUCE YOUR DOG TO THE COURSE
So now that you’ve built your agility course, how do you get your dog to run through it? With lots of motivation and by gradually increasing the difficulty! That means using treats or toys to encourage your pup to complete the obstacles and encouraging them verbally. Don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do. Let them gradually work up to it and make it fun! It’s also important to make it easy for your dog at the beginning, for example by setting the jump pole low to the ground, starting with only a few containers to weave through, making a short tunnel, or placing the tire close to the ground. After that, you can gradually raise the jump pole, add more containers, build a longer tunnel, and raise the tire higher off the ground, a few centimetres at a time.
The goal is to break up the task into simple actions at the start if your dog isn’t used to doing this kind of activity. For example, if you want your dog to jump through a tire but they don’t want to, start by offering them a treat if they approach the tire. Then you can place a treat on the tire so your dog has to put their head through to eat it. Next, hold a treat a little bit farther away so your dog has to put a paw through the tire to get the treat. Keep doing this until your dog is stepping through the tire to get the treat.
Grab your cardboard boxes and your treats, and you and your dog will be having a blast in no time!