For the sixth installment of our agility for beginners series, we’ll discuss the agility dog walk! This behavior entails walking up an incline, basically a ramp, across a platform, and down the other side. You can use a variety of different commands to accomplish this behavior, but we use “climb.”
Our guide will take you through the most common issues and fixes, as well as how to create your own and when to buy pieces of equipment. Whether you’re practicing agility inside or outside, enjoy building your equipment, or just want to buy stuff, we have a solution for everyone.
In case you missed our agility guide for beginners, here’s our link! Check out our blog for additional how-to guides as we go through the most common equipment for agility training!
Learning the behavior
Some notes before getting started
Before we get started with using an agility dog walk, let’s review some important information.
If at all possible, we recommend trying to have any equipment on a rug or carpet instead of slick vinyl or tile, if it’s inside. Outside is less of an issue, but try to stay away from slick surfaces, uneven ground, or any object that would be unpleasant if your dog ran into it.
As always, proceed carefully before starting any physical activity with your dog. If you need clarification on if your dog is ready to start a behavior, consult your veterinarian or another relevant professional. We are providing this guide for informational purposes only, based on our own experiences and what works for our pups.
Teaching the behavior
As far as agility behaviors go, this is (generally) an easier & safer place to start than some of the other equipment. First, make sure that your ramp configuration is stable and safe. We recommend trying to limit any side-to-side or vertical movement of the ramp as much as possible. In our experience, these instabilities tend to be what makes most pups uncomfortable, especially when learning the behavior.
To start teaching your dog how to use an agility dog walk, grab a good lure and simply move toward the ramp with your pup. If you’re lucky and have a food-motivated pup, they may naturally make their way onto the ramp. If not, collect something that your dog loves and entice them to walk up the ramp. That’s it! Walking up the ramp portion should be a relatively natural movement for your pup. If required, a second person can make this easier during the learning stages by either keeping your dog from moving away from the obstacle or by adding extra excitement at the end of the ramp.
If you’re having issues with your pup being unwilling to participate and there aren’t any health issues that would be relevant, check out our Not Wanting to Climb the Ramp and Trying to Go Around the Ramp troubleshooting sections for some help resolving these issues.
If your dog is visibly sore from performing any activity, give him rest for a few days and evaluate how he or she is doing at that point. The primary goal of beginner agility is to have fun, and we’re trying to avoid any negative associations or results from the activity.
If your dog has no real activity level at the moment, we’d recommend not doing any of the higher-impact activities until he or she is used to being more active. Imagine how your muscles and joints would feel if you hadn’t run in years and tried to do hurdles. It’s the same for your dog.
An agility dog walk is one of the obstacles that we recommend starting with due to the low-impact movement for your dog, as long as your dog is comfortable on a ramp. It’s a much better place to start for an older or less active dog than jumping over obstacles or through hoops.
With elevated obstacles, like this one, we recommend using equipment with side rails, to help your dog not accidentally step off while they are learning the behavior. Long term, you can make your own decision, but if your pup isn’t used to climbing narrower obstacles, it’ll make the experience safer for your pup.
Again, we recommend consulting with an expert (veterinarian, trainer, or other relevant professional) if you’re not sure of your dog’s ability to handle any new activity.
Equipment options for an agility dog walk
For an agility dog walk, we don’t have quite as many options as some other obstacles. With a little effort and creativity, we can come up with a few different options that should be able to work for most situations.
If you can get one, a piece of untreated 2×12 makes a great ramp option for a temporary agility dog walk. The length of the piece is determined by the height of your platform section, but something like 3 ft long for every ft of height is usually a great place to start.
We recommend sanding down whatever you are using so your pup won’t get splinters, but something like this 2x12x8 from Lowe’s is a great place to start and is less than $15 dollars for more than you would need for a 2 ft tall platform. Most common hardware stores will cut it to the length you need, which is great if you don’t have tools or a larger vehicle. In our experience, most vehicles will fit an 8 ft length board, even in a car, as long as your backseat folds down.
We’re partial to putting side rails or grip tape on anything that takes our pups off the ground, at least while your pup is learning the behavior and preferably after. Whichever way you go, some grip tape (Amazon) goes a long way and makes it much safer for your pup. We use the one we linked for our own pups, and it works great to help increase traction. We thought it was a little rough, but it doesn’t scratch our dogs’ feet up at all.
For the platform portion, we recommend using whatever you have around. Our dogs love using an ottoman or one of our decks as a platform, which is great for us since we don’t have to move much around when setting up. If space is an issue for you, we use a one-ramp setup with our couch and it works great, too. Lean the ramp against the couch and then have your pup turn around on the couch and head down the same way they went up.
If you have a smaller dog, you can probably get by with a 2×8 or even a 1 inch board. Our dogs are heavier and that isn’t an option for us, but we did want to mention it.
Beginner option – inside
This is our favorite option for an agility dog walk. We purchased a ramp a while ago (this one from Chewy) for Prim when we got a taller vehicle to help her get in. Turns out she’s fine with jumping into our taller vehicle, so we ended up with a ramp that we didn’t really need.
We use the aforementioned dog ramp in combination with a solid ottoman to make our typical indoor setup. It works great, is extremely easy to set up, and is quite stable.
We generally use a 1 ramp setup instead of 2, primarily because it takes up a large chunk of our living room if we do 2 ramps. If you have the room or a long hallway, the 2 ramp setup works great and is more accurate model for a traditional agility dog walk. You can substitute anything else that’s a safe platform for an ottoman if that works better for your situation. Some of our favorites are plyo boxes (if you have one), workout benches, couches, or even beds (if yours isn’t too high).
If you have a sufficiently large or sure-footed pup, turning around generally isn’t much of an issue. If you’re having issue with going around the ramp, a hallway can help a ton and is easier to block off.
Beginner option – outside
For an outside agility dog walk, we use a modification of our indoor option. It works great, is easy to move, and prevents us from having multiple supplies for the same activity. Our dogs love it and it keeps our storage issues to a minimum!
We’ll need a dog ramp (Amazon, Chewy) (or two if you want to make a traditional one) as well as a platform or any other elevated, stable surface that’s large enough for your dog to stand on. We generally use a deck and place the ramp over the stairs. This is our favorite configuration due to the safety and ease of use.
If that isn’t an option for you, outdoor furniture, workout benches, elevated workout platforms, or even buckets from your hardware store are great options. Just make sure whatever you are using is stable. We have a longer sidewalk in our backyard we use for this sort of activity and it works perfectly for that and helps keep Prim from slipping when she launches herself around.
As a note, we generally only use one ramp at a time since we’re doing this for fun, not competition. If your dog isn’t great at turning around on objects, we recommend using a larger platform or a second ramp so it eliminates the issue.
DIY agility dog walk
This is a little different than our typical build-your-own obstacles, primarily due to the need for your obstacle to be well-built since your pup will be on it. We recommend you buy 2 ramps and then build the table, for a few different reasons.
First, it’ll be much more likely to be safe. Second, it’ll be much lighter than creating it out of wood. Finally, it’ll be about the same price and save you a lot of time. Plywood is expensive and we wouldn’t recommend anything lighter or cheaper to bear your dog’s weight. If you have a smaller dog, you can generally get away with cheaper materials, but we like to overdesign our equipment.
If you have a smaller dog, you can scale this as needed. For example, if you get a smaller ramp, your platform can be lower and smaller. We planned this design for a 60-80 lb dog since that’s what both of ours are.
This is the same platform that we made for the pause table. We like to reuse equipment where possible, as we don’t have a ton of storage space, at least not enough for 2 of these platforms
To construct the platform, here is a list of the supplies you’ll need:
- 1 post, 3”x3”x6’ ( we recommend treated if you intend to use it outside)
- 1 piece of plywood, 2’x3’x0.5” (the material doesn’t matter as much, but should be sanded to avoid splinters)
- 3 pieces of lumber, 1”x3”x8’
- Screws (<50), longer than 1”
If you don’t have these tools, you may need to acquire or borrow some:
- Drill driver
- Drill bits
- Saw (to cut posts and lumber)
First, cut all the wood you’ll need for the project to the following sizes:
- 23” x 36” plywood
- (4) 15” 3x3s
- (2) 23” 1x3s
- (1) 24.5” 1×3
- (4) 36” 1x3s
- (2) pieces of scraps that are less than 31”
Now that the cutting is out of the way, start by making the main part of the structure. Grab the (4) 36” 1x3s, (4) 15” 3x3s, and (1) 24.5” 1×3. Attach the 3x3s to each end of (2) 36” 1x3s. Stand the structures on the legs and attach the 24.5” board on the short side on the ground. This will help hold everything upright while working. Finally, attach the remaining 2 boards on the ground to help hold everything together. The final product should look like the next image.
Next, we need to make the supports for the plywood. Grab (2) 23” 1x3s and the scrap wood. The scrap wood can be in as many pieces as you need to and doesn’t have to cover the entire length. First, grab the 23” boards and place each corner on top of the 3x3s & 1x3s we installed before. Screw these in and then do the same to fill in the gap on top of the 1x3s on top of the 3x3s. This will give us a nice flat base to sit the plywood on.
Finally, place the plywood on top of the rectangle we made and screw it in.
And it’s done! If you want, this can double as a dog bed holder. We added some more 1x3s to frame the platform and prevent the bed from slipping. Our pups love looking out the window from it when it’s not being used for agility.
If you want to make your dog a perfect DIY dog bed to use when you’re not using this platform, check out our article How to Make a DIY Dog Bed!
Thoughts on a pre-made dog walk
Unless you’re doing competition agility, I have a tough time justifying purchasing pre-made options here. A quick search on Amazon for “agility dog walk” will leave you in some stage of shock. With the odd exception or two, you’re looking at $1,000 plus. The brand we usually like for affordable agility equipment, Trixie, seems to be hit or miss with their dog walk. We’re not willing to pay that much just to (maybe) have it look a little prettier than our beginner setup.
If you don’t have any of the supplies, you can get 2 dog ramps (Amazon, Chewy) and an affordable ottoman for less than even the cheapest of the available options. We’d strongly recommend that route unless you’re doing agility competitively.
We typically only run into two issues when trying to teach this behavior, which are the pup being unwilling to go up the ramp portion or around it. Fortunately, these are easy to fix as long as you have a dog ramp or can adjust the height of the agility dog walk.
Not wanting to climb the ramp
Even though this behavior is typically simple to learn, every pup is different! Conveniently, there are ways to modify the difficulty and encourage the behavior we want. We’ll be performing a similar process as detailed in our review of our favorite dog ramp. It is a great place to start and we’ll be adapting it for an agility dog walk here.
If your pup is hesitant to climb the ramp, he or she may just not be used to the ramp. That’s normal since it can be a bit scary to dogs who aren’t used to performing a similar behavior. If possible, lowering the height of the ramp portion would be the first step. This will make it easier to climb the ramp at a more shallow angle. As your pup gets more comfortable, you can increase the angle by elevating one end until it reaches your desired height.
If this isn’t possible with your setup, we would recommend configuring an adjustable temporary setup until your dog gets more comfortable with the ramp. A dog ramp is always a great tool to have, and they are extremely cheap used. You can use it for what you need and resell it, if you need to and probably break even.
We recommend combining this method with a lure if needed. Find whatever your dog loves and use it to help them get past their hesitation of the ramp. Phase out the lure as they get more comfortable with the behavior. We do not recommend forcing your dog to perform the behavior against their will. This will make it much more difficult for you in the long run and will result in a negative association for your dog.
Trying to go around the ramp
The other most common issue we run into with an agility dog walk is the pup trying to go around the equipment instead of using the ramp portion. To limit this, we’ll be setting up the equipment so that it is harder for your pup to fail.
We recommend turning the entrance for the agility dog walk into a funnel for beginner pups. We find this to be more effective than a normal perpendicular barrier since it’s a more gradual process and has some depth to the barrier.
This is generally easy to change, but if you need some help with ideas, moving your equipment toward a wall or deck is a great place to start. If that’s not an option, dog beds make great funnel edges since they are lightweight and easy to move around. Dog beds or chairs are our go-to materials, but we have an excessive amount of chairs in our backyard.
Creating equipment and practicing agility can be both affordable and rewarding for both you and your pup! We recommend trying the cheaper options (temporary or beginner) first, so you can determine whether you and your dog enjoy an agility dog walk before creating a DIY walk or purchasing a piece of (expensive) equipment. You can always transition to more permanent setups later if you enjoy it!
We’d love to see your success with agility dog walks (or any other equipment)! Share your photos of your dog trying out what you made with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.