At Home Agility Fun

Dec 12, 2018   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Homemade agility courses are rapidly gaining in popularity and for good reason. Agility is a fun form of physical exercise, strengthens the bond with our pets and builds confidence!  The wonderful thing about agility courses is all breeds can learn and benefit from agility training. Comfort at Home Pet Services recommends attending an AKC agility center ir class before setting up an at-home agility course to ensure your pets are safe and equipment is used properly to avoid injury. 

When making a new course, please be aware of all safety concerns. All poles, such as those for a standard jump, should be made to be easily knocked over to prevent a possible injury to your pet by getting their leg hung up on them.  It's also important to take into consideration your pet's size and weight when making an agility course. A Pug won't be able to jump through a hoop or tire made to a Labrador's height and a golden retriever shouldn't be on a teeter made for a corgi's weight.   Forcing your pet into a course not designed for their size and weight could result in serious injury. 

Before setting up your agility course, make sure the area is free of debris that could possibly injure your pet – pick up all sticks, rocks, and children's toys from the area. If the pet has never done agility allow the pet to walk around the area and investigate the course before running it. 

Agility courses don't have to be sprawling or expensive to provide countless hours of exercise and fun for your pet. Courses can be made from every day household items and still provide hours of fun. Some of the obstacles will require some construction. Please visit DIY: How to Make Your Own Dog Agility Course for exact measurements and instructions.

The standard jump, or hurdle, can be made with PVC pipes but if you are looking for something easier to put together and take down, pretty much anything can be used to make a hurdle. Broomsticks can be set over cinder blocks or even flower pots.  For a higher jump, put 2 identical height chairs, back facing back with about 3 feet in between and balance a broom or stick in the top rungs of the chairs. 

A tire jump can be made with PVC, chain link, bungee cords and perforated drain pipe made into a circle. The circle must be secured on the top and both sides to prevent swaying and moving. According to regulations, tire jumps must have an interior opening of 20 inches and the tire itself must have a 4 inch wall. A less permanent method is a hula hoop hung from a tree branch, or tied sideways between 2 chairs. Tie tightly so that the circle or hoop doesn't fall onto your dog as it jumps. Hula hoops can even be used while holding the hula hoop in your hand. 

The weave obstacle, the type of obstacle the dog has to weave through, can be made from just about anything - PVC pipe, orange cones, bamboo poles, sticks, stacks of books and even ski poles! If you utilize one of the pole methods, as opposed to books, make sure the poles are NOT driven far into the ground. The farther the pole is pushed into the ground, the more rigid is becomes and could be a risk to your dog.  

The easiest way to add a tunnel to the course is a children's play tunnel. Be aware if you are using a play tunnel, it will need to be anchored to the ground to prevent rolling and movement while the dog is maneuvering in the tunnel. An even easier alternative to the play tunnel is lining up chairs and draping a sheet over it. 

A low level dog walk can be made with cinder blocks and a strip of plywood for the dog that is getting used to the course or a smaller dog. A children's table or a cheap thrift store coffee table can easily be repurposed into a pause table. A low level teeter can be easily made by laying a piece of plywood over a PVC pipe to get your pet used to the teeter movement.  The thicker the PVC pipe, the higher the teeter will be. 

Agility courses build your pet's confidence, allow you time to bond with your pet, and provide plenty of fun physical activity.  The most important point of consideration is your pet's safety and comfort level. Never force your pet to do something the pet may not be ready to do. Provide on-going, positive reinforcement and work together with your pet as a team. 

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