After hours of research, shopping, and testing items, here are 6 obstacles to consider when building a DIY agility course for dogs. Many of the items were easily found in our home, others required a trip to a dollar store or hardware store. Most online plans require tools and many, many PVC segments, so we aimed to keep our obstacles more basic for beginners. Most are inexpensive and need very little setup time.
The most important thing to keep in mind with all items and heights when creating a DIY agility course for dogs is safety. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog is ready for agility training. If you choose to prepare your dog for agility competitions, there are specific obstacle height and width regulations depending on the size and breed. The American Kennel Club has more about agility regulations.
#4 Weave Poles
#5 Dog Walk
#6 Pause Table
There are two main types of jumps used in agility courses for dogs. The first is a standard pole hurdle jump and the second is a jump through a suspended tire or hoop. Both jumps can be created from an inexpensive stop at a dollar store.
Supplies used: broomstick or pool noodle, 1 hula-hoop, 2 laundry baskets, 2 bathroom plungers, and packaging tape.
To create a hurdle jump, place the laundry baskets a few feet apart. Slide a broomstick or pool noodle between the two baskets at the appropriate height for your dog. (Start low, or on the ground, and work your way to higher jumps.)
Pro Tip: When your dog has mastered the jump, set up a second and third jump a few feet apart for back-to-back hurdle happiness!
To create a hoop jump, stand the two plungers up and space them the width of the hula-hoop. Using packaging tape, attach the hula-hoop to the stick of the plunger. Tape the second plunger stick to the opposite side of the hula-hoop. Stand the plungers up so the hula-hoop is vertical.
Pro Tip: Talk to your vet about when your puppy’s growing body might be ready for jumps and agility courses.
While many tunnels can be bought inexpensively, it’s also easy to create a small tunnel for beginning agility training.
Supplies: 1-3 small patio side tables or similar objects appropriate for your dog’s size, and a blanket or sheet.
Line the plastic patio side tables up next to each other. Place the blanket or sheet over the line of tables to create a tunnel effect.
Pro Tip: Make sure there are no rough or sharp edges and don’t force your dog through the tunnel.
This obstacle is a challenge for both the dog to learn and the dog owner to create! There are plenty of PVC designs for building a seesaw, but we decided to showcase a simpler design for beginners.
Supplies: 6ft wooden board (choose the thickness and width that fits your dog’s size), 4”-6” diameter pipe section that matches the width of the board, 2 carriage bolts, 2 nuts, and 2 washers.
First drill two holes in the pipe, across from each other, about 2 inches from each side. (The size of the drill bit will depend on the size of the bolts you are using.) Next, draw a line in the center of your board. Place the pipe on the center line and draw holes on the board that aligns the two holes you drilled in the pipe. Put the bolts through the holes in the board and pipe. Reach into the pipe and attach the washers and tighten the nuts on each bolt.
Pro Tip: Sand any rough areas on your board to keep those paws safe. Make sure the seesaw is stable and the appropriate size for your dog.
#4 Weave Poles
Ready to test your dog’s ability with weave poles? Before investing time and money into a weave pole setup, there are a few basic pre-weaving skills you can try. Without buying anything, you can stand with your feet apart and introduce weaving techniques by training your dog to weave figure-8s around your legs – training treats are great motivation! When your dog is ready for a bigger course, here are a few inexpensive items to try at home.
Supplies: 6-12 soup cans or other similar-sized objects for small dogs or 6-12 plungers. Optional: 6-12 pool noodles to put on the plunger sticks for height with training larger dogs.
Before your dog starts to zig-zag, set up the cans/plungers in a straight line, 24 inches apart. It’s a good idea to start with 6 of your items and gradually work your way up to 12 as your dog masters the skill.
Pro Tip: Weaving is best on soft ground or grassy areas. Prepare for dogs to knock the weaving objects over when learning!
#5 Dog Walk
From our research, many people find the dog walk one of the more difficult obstacles to DIY and can also take up the most backyard space. If you are up for the challenge, keep on! The dog walk resembles an A-frame with a flat bridge in the middle connecting the ramps. This will make a low, affordable dog walk for beginners. (Taller dog walks need a metal, wooden, or PVC base.)
Supplies: Three 12-foot long wooden planks about 1 foot across, 4 hinges, the correct amount of screws for your particular hinge, two 5-gallon buckets, and non-slip coating or material to create traction on the planks.
Flip the buckets upside down about 12 feet apart to use as a base. Lay one of the 12-foot boards on top of the buckets to create a bridge. Prop the remaining two 12-foot boards on either side of the bridge to create ramps. Use the buckets to support the side ramps as well as the bridge. Attach two hinges on each side, connecting the side ramp boards to the bridge board. Apply weight to test it for sturdiness and safety. Lastly, apply a non-slip coating or material to the wooden boards to help create traction for your dog.
Pro Tip: Since the dog walk requires your dog to focus on where to put their paws, try putting training treats directly on the planks instead of in your hand. This will help keep your dog’s eyes on the planks for safer training.
#6 Pause Table
Of all the obstacles, the pause table might be the easiest for beginners to recreate at home. Essentially, you need a raised platform that is sturdy and supports the size of your dog. Most pause tables are about a 3-foot square, and 8-24 inches off the ground depending on the size of your dog.
Supplies: Some ideas are a crate, 1-level stepping stool, or a wooden box.
The goal is to train your dog to jump on the pause table and pause for a few moments (about 5 seconds) before continuing to the next obstacle.
Pro Tip: The platform object should be sturdy without much wiggle when your dog jumps on it. You may want to attach a mat, carpet square, or apply an anti-slip coating to your table’s surface. This will help your dog control the landing of the jump without sliding.
What to do next?
The benefits of agility courses for dogs include increasing physical exercise, building mental stimulation, and helps to teach focus. The agility skills also help develop a strong training relationship between you and your dog. To learn more about what training methods are right for your furry friend, we’ve put together a guide that takes a closer look at training methods and you can also browse our training techniques and guides.
If you are looking for a hands-free method to keep treats close by and ready to reward your dog for good behavior, you might want to look into a dog treat fanny pack. We’ve researched and reviewed some of our top dog treat fanny pack choices.