Hoping to train your dog for an agility competition? Want to provide your four-legged companion with more physical and mental stimulation? Backyard obstacle courses are a great way to build trust with your dog, provide exercise, and prevent boredom.
But you don’t have to shell out a lot of money for state-of-the-art equipment. You can construct a safe and fun course for dogs of any size with a few inexpensive supplies — or even things you already have in your home.
Let’s look at three common types of obstacles — jumps, tunnels, and weave poles — that you can set up for your dog. Remember, safety is the most important feature of any obstacle course, so keep your dog’s well-being in mind while setting everything up.
What to watch out for: When you’re building or buying a jump obstacle, ensure the bar can easily be knocked down so your dog doesn’t hit something solid and injure himself if he doesn’t jump high enough.
How to set them up: You can build one entirely out of inexpensive PVC pipes. Just be sure you’re setting up cups (the holders for the bar) at different increments along your upright so you can adjust the height for your dog. Download these in-depth set of instructions to get started.
If you decide to purchase bar jumps, keep the jump’s height and width in mind — leave enough room for your dog to comfortably jump between the uprights and over the bar. You should also look for lightweight and portable bars that you can easily deconstruct and move around in case you decide to rearrange your obstacle course or take your dog to a different outdoor space.
What to watch out for: Going through an enclosed dark space can be scary for your dog the first few times, and you need to make the experience as positive as possible. The tunnel you set up should be wide enough for your dog to comfortably pass through and sturdy enough that it won’t collapse while your dog is inside it. You’ll also want to look for a sturdy tunnel material that your dog’s nails won’t tear to shreds.
How to set them up: Although it is possible to create an obstacle course tunnel from scratch, a lot of people find that it’s easier and a lot less time-consuming just to repurpose an existing play tunnel. A flexible children’s play tunnel makes a great obstacle, and you can find one at most department stores as well as furniture outlets for around $20 to $30. The tunnel you choose should be lightweight, but also heavy enough that it won’t move when your dog runs through it.
What to watch out for: As with your bar jump, avoid hard and immovable materials that could injure your dog if he misjudges the distance between poles. However, you’ll also want to secure your poles so they don’t fall over every time your dog runs through them.
How to set them up: You can easily create your own weave poles by sticking lengths of PVC pipe into the ground with enough space in between for your dog to safely walk or run through.
Don’t want to PVC pipes popping out all over your yard? You can also buy orange traffic cones and space them out at a safe distance. Traffic cones are bulkier than the weave poles used in agility competitions, but if you’re just casually training your dog on an agility course, they’ll work just fine. If you are training your dog for an agility competition, large orange cones can also benefit them because they present more of a challenge than standard weave poles.
Wherever you set up your agility course, ensure that your dog has enough room to run around and that there are no hidden dangers around the course. For example, look out for divots or holes in the yard. As long as you put your dog’s safety first, you should have no trouble putting together an obstacle course that’s entertaining and engaging for both of you.
Do you have an obstacle course in your backyard? How did you do it? Tell us all about in the comments!