Have you ever seen other dogs doing agility work and wondered how to get started with it? At first glance, it may seem daunting. Where can you find obstacles to allow your dog to even try it out? How do I start my dog in agility training? Are there even options for creating your own DIY dog agility course?
There are a bunch of rules and regulations for competitive agility training, but if you’re just having fun with your dog, they honestly don’t matter. Just be consistent with your patience, training, commands, and expectations, and you and your dog will have a hoot.
That’s what we’re here to show you! It’s not nearly as hard as it seems at first glance, and it can be a lot cheaper than you’d think, as well. There are a bunch of different options to create a similar experience by either making do with props, building your own, or purchasing them pre-made.
We’ll be doing a series where we detail different options for creating or acquiring equipment for all of these obstacles, including variations for ones that don’t take up too much space.
There are a whole slew of benefits to doing agility work with your dog, even if you have no intention of competing in events.
For starters, it’s a great form of obedience work that doubles as an exercise for your pup. Running around and flying over obstacles is a great way to burn some energy, even if it’s rainy or cold outside.
It’s also good for strengthening the bond between you and your dog and building up your dog’s confidence. As your pup learns the behavior that is expected, he or she will have fun completing it. It’s another enriching experience that you can enjoy with them.
Finally, doing agility with your dog pushes you to have more active time, as well! It’s great to be able to watch your dog soar over jumps and crawl through tunnels, all the while increasing your bond with your best friend.
Equipment Options for creating a DIY dog agility course
We’ll keep this higher level with more ideas than specific how-to steps, as we’re trying to keep this article suitable for a DIY dog agility course for beginners. We have links to our individual guides if you’d like to try one yourself!
May as well start with the easiest one, first. Jumps! All you need is any item that can act as a barrier or obstacle.
Initially, we recommend using an item that is covered and relatively short. This is due to your dog not understanding the “over” command or action, yet. It removes the option to go underneath and “tunnel” through it. We used a rigid dog bed to block a doorway initially.
After your pup generally understands the command, remove the barrier and turn it into a bar. Place a broom between two chairs, make one out of PVC, or tape some poles together. We’ve even used a ladder golf set with only one rung on the ladder! It doesn’t really matter if it’s ugly, your pup won’t care!
If you’re looking for more information on creating a DIY dog agility course jump, here‘s an in-depth guide
This is one of our recommendations for the first obstacles for a DIY dog agility course! You can grab anything that’s circular or square, for example, a hula hoop, and hold it in the air. If you have access to an outside area, you can tie a hoop to a branch, porch, or similar structure. You may already have something you can use for this at home!
Here‘s some more information about making hoops for agility training.
We have a few easy options for creating a tunnel for your dog to crawl through. We can use either a kid’s play tunnel that’s big enough for your pup or a collapsible hamper that you cut the bottom out of. If you don’t have a ton of room, you can enclose the sides of a coffee table (or regular table, depending on the size of your dog) and still have them go through it. We have and use this option from Chewy if you want to buy your own. It works great for us!
In our guide on dog agility tunnels, we discuss teaching your dog tunnel and our favorite tunnels.
Reflective driveway markers work great for this and are an extremely cheap option for your DIY dog agility course. They’re also easy to store. The main con is that they need to go in the ground, so if you don’t have access to an outdoor area, they won’t work very well.
An option, if you’re feeling crafty, is making a PVC setup where you make a cross on the floor and then connect as much together as you want your dog to do. If you don’t glue them, you can take them apart easily and modify them as you wish.
Here’s some more info on making Prim’s favorite obstacle, DIY dog agility poles!
This is another easy one to replicate. You can place an elevated dog bed or ottoman wherever you need. If you don’t have access to either of those, you could build something or get more creative with something like a chair or bed, if your dog is able to make it up onto one.
Creating your own obstacle is a little more difficult, so here‘s an article to help!
Dog Walks (Ramp)
Dog walks (up an incline) are a little more difficult. If you happen to have a ramp for your dog, that’s perfect for this. Just place the high end on a couch arm, ottoman, steps, etc. for your dog to walk up. Most of the time, we use one of these and then have our pup turn around on whatever we had her walk onto and exit the way she came.
If you have more room, you can DIY something. We’ll have an example of this in another article. In this case, unless you’re making it permanent, we recommend keeping it short so you can use small pieces of wood. This will keep it lighter and cheaper and your dog will still understand the concept.
This is another obstacle that is a little more challenging, so we wrote a guide to help!
A cavaletti is an easy option to make a DIY agility course. One of our favorite pieces of equipment, you can make a cavaletti set out of various supplies you already have in your house. We like using brooms, mops, and similar objects as the poles and using fitness equipment to adjust the height.
If you’re willing to make something more permament, our two favorite options involve wood and reflector poles or PVC, plastic cones, and velcro. Before we started doing agility with our dogs, we used a wood and reflector pole setup during Goomba’s recovery from CCL surgery. Cavaletti was a recommended activity to help speed up his recovery and increase his muscle mass in his rear half.
Creating a DIY cavaletti for dogs is a great option to get started with agility due to the low impact and ease of making a set.
There are countless other obstacles for agility work, but some are much more involved to make. If you’re feeling creative and have the space, a see-saw or an a-frame would be our next recommendation. It’s important to be careful when constructing these types of obstacles since they can have moving parts and a few different things could go wrong. Purchasing pre-built or “assembly required” is always an option, but they tend to be rather expensive for a DIY dog agility course. Most of the other obstacles aren’t great for beginner dog agility training.
Agility is a fun hobby for any pup and their human, not just for the most athletic of breeds and professional trainers. It’s a healthy way to build the bond between pup and parent, and it’s quite easy to set up a DIY dog agility course with limited resources, which can even be used inside.
We’d love to see your success with a DIY dog agility course! Share your photos of your dog trying out agility with us on Instagram by tagging @therulybully.