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Dog agility training props: creating homemade obstacles for fun

A critical aspect of agility training is creating homemade obstacles for your dog to navigate through, over, under, or around. Most importantly, those obstacles provide a fun learning experience.

So, even if there's no plan to enter a competition, your dog will still benefit from those homemade props. But how about you? For one, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is incomparable.

Training obstacles can be as simple or complex as you would like them to be. The good thing about making your own is that you can customize them for your dog without having to worry about the cost involved in buying ready-made props. And if you're creative enough, you can make them from stuff lying around your house.

1. A-Frame

A-frame obstacles are fun, easy to make, and perfect for dogs of all sizes. You can build it using two bricks or bricks combined with a plank of wood. But if you've got the resources, an A-frame prop made out of PVC pipe is more stable. This obstacle prop has three steps: one at the front and two at the back.

The A-frame obstacle develops your dog's sense of balance and coordination as he scales those three steps. Before working on this, teach him to climb higher steps first, such as a platform or a stool. When that's mastered, you can proceed with the A-frame prop and gradually increase the number of steps.

If you're buying a ready-made A-frame, expect to pay upwards of $40. Save money by using PVC pipe and plank as your materials of choice.

2. Tire Jump

This obstacle can be quite expensive to buy or even costlier if you hire someone to build it for you. If you've got the time and the aptitude, you're better off building one on your own because you get to choose your own materials. For those who want to save money, old tires are just fine. Make sure they're in good condition before you start training your dog to jump through them.

One thing about tire jumps is that their size matters. Ideally, the tire's circumference should be at least six times bigger than your dog's chest. For example, if your dog has a 20-inch chest or girth, the tire must have a circumference of at least 120 inches. Recall that the bigger the tire, the fewer chances of your dog slipping through it during practice sessions.

3. Hurdles/Weave Poles

These props look simple, but they involve a myriad of skills that your dog should learn before you can use them as obstacles for your training sessions.

Hurdles are pre-built obstacles that you don't have to construct independently. The downside is that they're often too high for tiny dogs and beginners in agility training. Before investing in a hurdle, look at it from the ground first to ensure it doesn't tower over your pet or become a problem for you when transporting it.

Weave poles are the most challenging props to build on your own because they involve more than just vertical construction materials. You'll need horizontal structures, too, to keep them stable during use. But if you've got the time and patience to construct them yourself, go for it because homemade weave poles can be as sturdy as the commercial kind.

Before you use any hurdle or weave pole, it must be balanced so your dog won't have difficulty maneuvering through them during training sessions. The good news is that there are DIY tutorials on the internet to help you build these obstacles.

4. Tunnels

Again, these props can be expensive to buy unless you're lucky enough to find them used. The good news is that building a tunnel is easy if you have the materials and patience. You can use a PVC pipe or an old-school cardboard box for this prop.

Ensure the openings are big enough for your dog to enter and exit without much effort.

This tunnel prop develops your dog's agility as he goes through it from one end to the other. Before training him, teach him how to use a real tunnel first. Subsequently, transfer that skill to this DIY obstacle and gradually increase its length until you're satisfied with his performance.

If you don't like the tunnel's length, make it shorter. The materials you use are your choice; just make sure they're flexible enough to avoid injury to your pet.

5. Spread Jumps

This obstacle prop is another favourite among dog trainers. But you don't have to be an accomplished trainer to build one for your furry buddy. Spread jumps are meant for multiple tasks as they help the dog make a smooth transition from one surface to another.

You may enhance your pet's performance by using uneven spread jumps with different heights. For example, you can place low planks on top of two high ones for height variation during training sessions. But that doesn't mean your dog should only go on the higher planks. Make sure he can cross all obstacles during practice sessions to avoid bad habits and negative performance.

Most importantly, spread jumps must be free-standing so they won't tip or move when your pet lands on them after a jump. For added difficulty, use different materials for this prop.

You only need common tools and materials such as screws, planks, plywood, or 2x4 boards to make a spread jump. The bigger the surface area for your pet to land on, the better his control during training sessions.

6. Pause Table

Pause tables are usually plywood, although the top surface could also be carpeted if you prefer that over wood texture. This prop is used to teach your pet to stay in one spot for a few seconds. You may use it while you're training him, too, for extended periods when he's not performing other tasks.

To create this prop, you need a large piece of plywood and a plexiglass sheet to go with it. The key is to make sure the wood is flat at least half an inch from the bottom. Otherwise, your pet may hurt his feet when he's standing on it.

Start training your dog on this prop by teaching him to stay on it with a treat in hand. Then, gradually increase the time required to stand in one spot before rewarding him. Using this prop, you can also teach your pet agility moves, such as spins and circles in place.

The Rewards of Dog Agility Training

There's more to building homemade dog agility training props than just saving on costs. DIY projects provide a great bonding opportunity for you and your dog while giving his young mind something new to learn. After all the hard work, seeing him use these props gives you satisfaction knowing he's become a more agile, healthy, and well-mannered pooch.


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