How to Create a Homemade Obstacle Course

How to Create a Homemade Obstacle Course

By Joanne Francisco for Exceptional Canine

How to Create a Homemade Obstacle Course

In the winter months, creativity is the key for exercising small dogs that might be averse to walking on icy streets in foul weather. However, regardless of weather, small dogs -- such as those in the terrier or toy group -- still need good daily exercise and tasks to keep their minds busy and their senses sharp.

One way you can help is to set up an indoor agility course using everyday objects around the house. This can be fun for everyone involved.

Improvising a Course
Agility courses include standard equipment, such as A-frames, platforms, jumps, tunnels and weave poles. Here are a few suggestions to recreate these items in your home:

  • Construct an A-frame by placing two small step stools (the kind you purchase to help an older dog get onto the couch) back-to-back. These should be covered with fleece or a rug to provide traction.
  • Co-opt one of those nylon children’s play tunnels for your dog.
  • Use an ottoman as a platform.
  • Turn a long cardboard roll (such as the kind found in wrapping paper) into a jump. Start by placing it on the floor, and gradually raise the roll to a safe height using chairs or bookcases as the base.
  • For weave poles, try toy bowling pins. If you have kids, line them up and instruct your dog to weave back and forth between them.
  • Take a plastic lid and place a treat in it to use as a goal to direct your dog through each exercise.

Keep Safety in Mind
When you’re improvising an obstacle course, make sure what you’ve constructed is sturdy and stable. Use rugs or mats for traction for all objects your dog steps on; don’t try these moves on tile or linoleum. For any exercise that involves jumping, the goal is never to see how high your dog can go. Always start low and gradually work up to a safe height.

As with all agility training, you should develop commands for your dog to follow, such as “Up,” “Down,” “Stay,” “Over,” “Jump,” “Right” and “Left.” Use hand signals to teach your dog commands, and be consistent. Start with your dog on a leash at first, leading him through the commands.

It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal in teaching your dog agility should be to have fun. Make sure to use lots of praise and treats; they help boost your dog’s confidence. You might be surprised at what yours can do!

Photo: Getty Images

Joanne Francisco and her husband, Craig, own VIP Dog Training Inc. in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. They have been training dogs since 1979, and they specialize in problem-solving and basic obedience. Francisco’s blogs have previously appeared in Exceptional Canine.