Agility training — fun for you and your dog!

Yorkshire Terrier leaps over hurdle in canine competitionIs your dog rambunctious? Does he or she love toys? Chasing a ball? Consider setting up a cheap & easy agility course for your dog. It will increase your bond with each other — and give you both more fun, more laughs, and more exercise.

However, if you have a lazy dog that just wants to sleep and snuggle — this probably won’t work. I have one of each type dog and my snuggle dog STEPS over the jump — he’s not willing to jump even for treats(!) My other dog LOVES the jumps.

Note you do NOT have to be able to physically run like the following video shows to have fun in this sport! If you set it up in your garage (photos at the end) you barely have to move at all. It’s your choice how much exercise you get — fun is the #1 goal!) 

Wikipedia has a great overview of the sport, showing each type of equipment used. You can spend hundreds of dollars getting professional equipment — or you can recreate almost all of it yourself for under $100.

For a fun, short video of a Corgi running the course at the AKC national championships, see here:

Here’s how you can set up your own training course — either in one side of your garage (for those of us who endure snowy winters) or outside. (See pix at the end for my garage setup.) Pick and choose what equipment you want to add. Start with what’s easy & cheap and if you both enjoy it — expand your fun!

Jumps: You can buy an adjustable professional jump for as low as $36. Or you can place some bricks or concrete blocks under each side of a pole. Here are the AKC regulations for how high the jump should be for your dog:

  • 8″ For dogs 10″ and under at the withers
  • 12″ for dogs 10-14″ under the withers
  • 16″ for dogs 14-18″ at the withers
  • 20″ for dogs 18-22″ at the withers
  • 24″ for dogs over 22″ at the withers
  • (Note: a dog’s withers are the highest point of his/her shoulders.)

Tire Jumps: I bought a tire jump for my dog (they’re about $75 and are adjustable in height) because I thought it might be a more intimidating jump for her. But it really isn’t. If you’re just planning fun, you can skip this.

Tunnels: You’ll definitely want to get this — my dog enjoys it second most of all the equipment. You can get a professional 6′ tunnel for $65 or a 9′ for $90. Or…  you can buy a 6′ kids tunnel at for $19. AND the kids tunnel squishes up to a flat circle for storing.

You’ll want to put a bend in the tunnel, so you’ll need weights to hold the two ends in place and to push the tunnel into a bend. You can use bricks or concrete blocks, as you don’t want the tunnel to roll on dogs as it might scare them.

Chutes: This is my dog’s favorite apparatus. It looks like a tunnel on one end, but the other is collapsed flat to the floor. The dog runs through and pushes his/her nose lifting the end until they are out of it. It takes only a couple of tries for them to get the hang of it. You leave them at the open end (someone else to hold them there is a real plus!), raise up the flat end a tiny bit, and wave a treat inside that the dog can see (food or toy).

I don’t know how to make this equipment, but fortunately you can buy a cheap training version for $40. Another tip — at first roll the flat end back to the open end so it’s only half the length. Soon you can expand it to the full length. You’ll also need bricks or blocks to keep the opening circle steady.

SeeSaw: This seemed like too much trouble for me, so I haven’t created one. You can buy a sturdy base for $99, but you have to get your own board (the dimensions are at either of the companies listed as resources below). You’ll need to paint it and (if it’s outside) you’ll want a sanded paint so it’s not slippery in wet weather. You could skip the base purchase if you have a smooth round log and you brace it so it can’t roll with bricks or (depending on height) concrete blocks.

It is a good piece to train with as dogs are initially wary of the high side as it tips down and hits the ground. Dogs have to stay on it until it hits (a safety issue so they don’t jump while it’s moving).

Weave poles: These are the hardest for a dog to learn — and the hardest for you to teach your dog. It’s much easier if there are two of you — one to hold the dog at the start and one to wave a treat at the end. But… it can be done alone. If I can do it (and I did), you certainly can! And both the dog and you will feel a huge accomplishment!

If you are outside, you only need to stick at least 6 poles in the ground, in a straight line, 24″ apart. But they need to be stuck pretty good as the dog is bound to brush against them — and having one fall on the dog will cause a learning setback(!)

The cheapest “for sale” weave poles I’ve found are $60 for 6 poles. You will also want the optional wires for training — for another $38. It guides the dog in the correct direction. Never let the dog step over the wire. If s/he does, make a short “eh” noise, pick up the dog and put them back at the start. It took my dog about 2 weeks to learn the poles reliably with the wires. Then you leave up the wire at each end, and push the wires in the middle down to the floor. Once they can do that (another week for me), you push all the wires to the floor. Then, pretty quickly (a couple of days for me), you can remove the wires entirely. At the risk of anthropomorphizing, my dog seemed (and still seems today) very proud of herself each time she runs through them.

Dog agility resources:

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Dog Agility (this is the book I got and I found it very informative)
  • Local training: Check your yellow pages (or for local agility trainers. There is likely to be one in even smallish towns — and you can have fun with others also training their dogs.

Agility setup pix (for one bay of a 2-car garage)

The first picture shows the front of my garage bay, with two jumps on the left, the weave poles on the right and in the back right the entrance to the chute. The second picture is the back of that side of the garage, showing the chute, the tunnel and the back part of the weave poles.

Agility Front

Agility Back

Author bio
Jen008_smallMarlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.

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