With some basic obedience training, your dog can compete in the canine sport of agility. Organizations such as the American Kennel Club sponsor agility competitions for dogs on the local and national levels. Because this sport requires the use of obstacles for your dog to maneuver through, you can benefit by creating your own course at home to practice for such competition. Instead of purchasing expensive equipment, you can save money and build it yourself.
Originally started in 1979 at the Crufts Dog Show in England, the sport of agility for dogs has since grown in popularity due to the benefits of the activity for the dog and owner. During an agility competition, you provide verbal and body signals to your dog, which is off-leash. The dog must maneuver through a series of obstacles including different types of tunnels, a set of weaving poles, a seesaw, a tire jump, an A-shaped frame and two levels of jumps over bars at varying heights. Dogs are scored on speed and accuracy, so it is important that they are familiar with commands such as left, right, up, down, slow, fast, stop and heel. Practicing for a competition requires the dog to have familiarity with these obstacles, which means you must build them for your dog in your home or outdoors if you don’t have access to a training club.
Because of its affordability, PVC pipe makes an inexpensive and durable material with which to fashion the majority of your dog agility equipment. An entire set of jump bars can be made using 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe, as can the weave poles, This Old House recommends. Cut the pipes with a hand saw and connect them together with pipe T-joints and end caps to form the equipment, which you can use indoors and out because of its weather resistance. Place a series of pipes vertically along a horizontal pipe at the bottom to create a weave pole course and form an H-shape for each jump, positioned over an I-shaped support on each side. Secure each connection with 1-inch screws for added support. PVC piping can also be used to form a tire jump using more of a square shape than a round one.
To make items such as the tunnels, repurpose items such as a toddler's play tunnel, found in toy stores. Make a closed tunnel by removing the supports from half of the tunnel to allow the dog to enter an open round side and exit through a loose flat one. Secure tunnels to the ground with earth anchors and fishing line. Repurpose an old toddler's seesaw for your dog or make one of your own. Fashion a seesaw with PVC pipe to form a sturdy base and a piece of laminated shelving board to prevent splinters from entering your dog's pads. Secure a set of gravel-weighted PVC pipes to each end of the board and a central spin pipe in the center. Use the shelving board to fashion an A-frame, painting all surfaces your dog will walk on with non-skid flood paint. Cut the legs of an old side-table or child's tea table and cover it with artificial turf to make a pause table for the dog.
If you are just starting to compete with your dog in professional agility competitions, you may not want to make the large investment in prefabricated agility equipment until your dog has shown an aptitude for the sport. Professional dog agility equipment can be expensive but sometimes can be bought secondhand, which may save you money and the trouble of making the equipment yourself. Homemade equipment can be used to train your dog at home but not used in a professional course. When fashioning your agility items, contact your local kennel club or other dog agility sponsoring organization to check on the proper measurements for equipment appropriate for your dog's size and breed. If you do not want your dog to compete professionally, you can use agility equipment to help with his exercise and obedience training and to boost his confidence.
- Agility 8 image by Conny Hagen from Fotolia.com