Are you looking for some fun new ways to exercise and spend some quality time with your dog? If you’ve got a big enough backyard and are willing to invest some time and energy into training your dog to follow new commands, consider building Fido his very own agility course!
For pet owners who plan to enter their dogs in competitions, it’s probably worth splurging on some high-quality agility equipment for training purposes. If you’re just doing it for fun, though, there are plenty of ways to build your own backyard agility course on a budget.
What is an Agility Course?
Simply put, an agility course is an obstacle course for dogs. The rules for official agility courses can vary depending on the specific organization, but the gist of the activity is that your dog runs, jumps, weaves, and crawls through various obstacles while you run alongside him giving hand signals and verbal commands.
In agility competitions, dogs are judged based on how quickly and effectively they can get through the course—this means no knocking over obstacles, getting stuck, or having to skip one.
Of course, if you’re just doing it as a fun form of exercise, the rules are a lot more casual… as in, you get to make your own! You can even get creative with an indoor agility course to keep your dog entertained on a rainy day, or make a winter agility course out of snow.
Benefits of Agility Courses for Dogs
Dogs need their fair share of exercise. While one or two daily walks are sufficient for some dogs, other dogs need as much physical activity as they can get! After all, pent-up energy can lead to stress and anxiety (hence the adage that a tired dog is a happy, well-behaved dog).
An agility course is a great way to simultaneously exercise your dog’s body and mind. (Plus, you’ll also get some exercise as you run alongside your pooch!)
In addition to providing mental and physical stimulation, agility courses can also benefit your dog by:
Improving the bond between pet and owner as you train together and enhance your communication skills.
Boosting your dog’s confidence. Agility courses are a great way to allow your dog to show off his abilities and soak up all of the attention and positive reinforcement he can get.
Teaching your dog to control his impulses. Instead of sprinting from one spot to the next, he’ll need to learn how to slow down and be strategic about how he navigates each obstacle.
Of course, we can’t forget one of the best benefits of agility courses for dogs: they’re fun!
DIY Agility Obstacles
While the layout of each individual agility course can vary, they typically contain the same basic obstacles. Some of our favorites that are relatively easy to DIY include:
As the name suggests, weave poles are a row of upright poles that your dog needs to weave through, working his joints and muscles.
Stick some PVC pipes into the ground, or look around the house or shed for other objects you can use. For example, soccer cones, heavy gallon jugs, or bamboo garden stakes can just as easily do the trick.
Jumping can be a great form of exercise for some dogs, as it works their leg muscles. That said, be aware of your dog’s limitations. If he has joint issues, you may want to stay away from jumping obstacles.
Homemade jump hurdles can be made with lots of different materials: the handle of a broom or shovel secured onto two chairs; a pool noodle; a hula hoop.., you get the gist.
Just make sure the bar isn’t raised too high for your pup to avoid the risk of injury.
We’re using a very loose definition of the word “tunnel” here. Basically, you want something that allows your dog to zoom through a narrow area while being mindful of his posture and placement.
You can purchase a foldable tunnel for dogs, or even a child’s play tunnel. If you’re set on DIY, though, try draping a sheet or tablecloth over pushed-together tables. You can also get creative with a row of hula hoops or pool noodles secured in a semicircle.
Whether you call it a teeter-totter or a seesaw, the concept is the same: your dog runs up one side of a plank, waits for his weight to make it pivot, and then runs down.
A stable plank of wood secured onto a solid foundation is your best bet here. We recommend bolting it onto a large log (flattened on the bottom so it doesn’t roll) or creating a stable box-like foundation out of PVC pipes.
For dogs who are prone to joint and mobility problems, there are still plenty of ways to exercise outside of that daily walk. For ideas, check out our blog on low-impact exercises for dogs with joint issues.
Pet Honesty’s Joint Support+ Chews are vet-recommended to provide maximum support to your dog’s joints, mobility, and flexibility. With powerful ingredients like glucosamine, fish oil, and vitamins, these tasty chews can help to ease discomfort related to daily activities, training, and competition.