Disclaimer: Please be sure to follow all safety precautions and instructions. CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets is not liable for injury due to the construction or use of a dog agility course.
Nothing is cuter or more impressive than watching a corgi move its fast little legs through a dog agility course. The way it follows its handler’s slightest commands almost imperceptibly as it dashes through obstacles is astonishing. And of course, seeing it bob and weave impressively through poles or jump over a hurdle that’s twice its height is amazing and exciting!
While watching agility training, you may glance over at your pooch snoring on the couch next to you and wonder if you could get them to look that well-trained on an agility course. So, you start to look up nearby agility courses and classes, only to realize they’re too far away, too expensive, or just not possible with your work schedule. Now what?
Here at CVCA, we understand how important it is to keep your pet mentally and physically healthy. Cardio training and exercise are both important factors, so why shouldn’t your dog have access to agility equipment? Instead of going out and spending too much money, we’ve put together a list of how you can build your own dog agility course equipment instead!
What Is a Dog Agility Course?
First things first—what exactly is a dog agility course?
To put it simply, agility is a competitive sport for dogs and their handlers, where the handler must guide their pet through a series of obstacles in a pre-determined order. A dog agility course is where these competitions take place and typically consist of 14 to 20 obstacles. The obstacles are used to train, or just as a means to exercise and bond with your dog.
If you’re looking to compete in agility, know that it’s going to take a lot of patience and dedicated training from both you and your pooch. There is a list of set rules and equipment standards that have been put into place by the American Kennel Club (AKC) that make it even more challenging. Luckily, we’re here to help you get a backyard agility course up and running so you can start that training ASAP.
What Goes Into a Dog Agility Course?
A dog agility course can consist of many different obstacles. There are a total of 15 various obstacles recognized by the AKC that can be used in competitions, but we’re only going to discuss a few of the easier ones that you can build at home.
With a quick internet search, you can find a lot of instructions on how to build your own course, but these can sometimes be too costly or time-consuming. CVCA understands how important quality time with your pet is, so we wanted to put together a list of what we see as the least time-consuming obstacles to build.
Before you get started, make sure you have a pull saw, a drill with varying bit sizes, a spade bit, a hammer, a measuring tape, a woodblock, and a lot of PVC piping and connectors.
The bar jump is probably one of the simplest obstacles to build. Depending on the size of your dog and whether or not you intend to train them for competition, you’ll have to follow the AKC’s height standards for the jumps.
If you’re creating the bars for the benefit of your dog’s exercise (these are great for building up muscles in their haunches—especially for breeds that face hip problems as they age), you can configure it at whatever height works best for your pet. We found that these DIY instructions worked best for us when measuring out PVC lengths.
One of the most impressive obstacles to watch dogs go through is probably the weave poles. They’re also one of the most challenging to learn, so having a set at home is almost a necessity. Luckily, they’re easy to put together!
This obstacle will require patience with your pooch, but it is excellent for helping their overall agility and balance. We love this setup and thought it was easier to build than most other instructions we found out there!
Next up, we have an easy DIY dog-agility seesaw. Once again, you’ll need PVC pipe cut at specific lengths (we used this video to build ours), as well as a wooden plank to create the actual seesaw. It’s essential to follow the instructions for this particular obstacle since you want your dog’s safety to come first.
Also, this is an excellent obstacle for improving your dog’s balance and confidence. If you can get through this part of a course, you’ll feel much more confident during the rest of it.
For this dog agility course obstacle, we don’t even feel the need to link you to a set of instructions (but here they are just in case) since it’s so simple to create. All you need is a 36-inch square of wood with a non-slip surface that’s 3-inches in height. You can always use wood glue and stack a few layers of plywood together to get the proper height.
Once you have that, determine the height class your dog is in and build a solid base that is proportional to their height. In competitions, the standard heights are 8, 12, 16, 20, and 24 inches. If your pooch already knows the “stay” command, this obstacle will be a piece of cake.
Why Build Your Dog an Agility Course?
If you’re still unsure about constructing your own dog agility course, remember that it’s not just for fun or competition. Taking the time to do agility training with your pet is an excellent way for both you and your dog to get exercise, as well as bond together.
A dog agility course will help build up various muscles in your pooch, allowing them to maintain a healthy weight. It’s also a great way for them to learn better obedience!
Are Agility Classes Right for Your Dog?
Not every dog is built for agility training. Even with practice, some dogs may prefer going on a walk or lying on the couch to following your commands. And that’s okay! You have to do what’s best for both you and your pet in the long run.
If your pooch is a bit older, you may also want to check with your primary care veterinarian whether agility movements will be beneficial or more harmful to your dog. Most of the time, any exercise will be good exercise, but there are health conditions your pet may have that may call for less intense workouts.
When your pet has a heart condition, our experts at CVCA will help you decide if agility training is within the realm of your pet’s abilities. Some diseases make your furry friend intolerant to strenuous exercises, so it’s best to check with us first.