K9 of Mine
Let others know!
Agility Course Obstacles

DIY Dog Agility Courses: Homemade Obstacles For Fun & Training!

Agility courses provide dogs and their owners with a fun and healthy way to bond while getting some exercise.

You can even sign your dog up to compete in organized activities, called agility trials, if you’d like!

If you want to start teaching your dog to do agility work, you’ll need a few obstacles. You can buy commercially manufactured obstacles if you like, but may owners have found it easier (not to mention cheaper) to just build a few obstacles themselves.

To get you started, we’ll share nine great DIY agility course obstacles.

But before we get to the plans, we’ll explain some of the basics of dog agility trials, describe some of the most commonly used obstacles, and lay out the benefits agility work provides.

Dog Agility Course Basics: How to Participate

You can participate in dog agility sports in one of two basic ways:

  1. As a fun way of playing with your dog in your backyard. If you choose to go this route, you can make whatever obstacles you like, set them up however you want, and teach your dog to complete them any way you wish. Just keep your dog’s safety in mind and go have a blast.
  2. In organized agility trials. If you want to participate in an official competition, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the common rules and regulations of agility courses and try to create an agility course that resembles those you and your dog will face during organized events.

There are several different governing bodies that oversee agility competitions, so you’ll want to figure out which group will be overseeing the contests you and your pup intend to enter.

You can check out the specific rules of different organizations via the following links:

  • American Kennel Club (AKC)
  • United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. (USDAA)
  • Canine Performance Events, Inc. (CPE)
  • North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC)
  • Rockstar Agility Network, LLC (RSAgility)
  • North American Dog Racing Association (NADRA)
  • United Kennel Club (UKC)

These different clubs mandate things like the obstacle size, the distances between different obstacles, and the overall size of the course. However, the gist of the sport is the same in almost all cases:

Your dog will need to complete a series of obstacles while you run alongside her and provide direction.

Courses are set up in a variety of ways which differ from one event to the next. Dogs are typically not allowed to run through an agility course before the competition starts, but owners are allowed to briefly walk the course. This gives you the chance to prepare and establish a plan of attack.

You’ll need to control your dog with nothing more than hand signals and vocal commands while completing the course, and you are not allowed to touch any of the obstacles.

Dogs are judged on both the time it takes for them to complete the course (which means top-level competitors run through them at close to top speed), as well as their ability to overcome the obstacles without committing a “fault,” such as knocking over an obstacle or failing to complete one.

Common Dog Agility Course Obstacles

Although agility courses can be laid out in an infinite number of ways, most courses use the same basic obstacles.

These typically include:

  • A-Frame – This is exactly what it sounds like – an A-shaped ramp which requires your dog to run up one side and down the other.
  • Dog Walk – The dog walk is essentially an A-frame that has a flat section in the middle.
  • Seesaw – A pivoting plank, just like you can see on a playground. Your dog runs up one side, waits for her weight to swing the other side down, and then runs down. Some call this obstacle a teeter-totter.
  • Crossover – This obstacle (which isn’t used by any of the major organizational bodies anymore) is like a multi-sided dog walk. It consists of several ramps leading to a central platform. To successfully negotiate the obstacle, dogs must ascend and descend via the predetermined ramps without using the others.
  • Tunnel – A flexible tunnel your dog must run through.
  • Collapsed Tunnel – A collapsed tunnel is like a normal tunnel, except that the frame is removed from the far end. So, your dog will have to run in the open side of the tunnel and then push her way through the opposite side which is caved in.
  • Jump – Jumps are obstacles dogs are required to bound over. They’re typically constructed like a hurdle used in human track and field events.
  • Spread Jumps – A jump that requires your dog to clear a predetermined distance and
  • Panel Jump – Jumps that utilize a flat panel, rather than a hurdle-like design. Picture a short wall that your dog must jump over.
  • Broad Jump – A series of raised platforms your dog must jump over without contacting any part of the obstacle.
  • Tire Jump – A vertically mounted tire (or any other torus-shaped object) suspended in a frame. Your dog must jump through the center of the tire.
  • Pause Table – A raised platform that your dog is required to jump up on and pause for a predetermined length of time before moving on.
  • Weave Poles – A series of vertical poles through which your dog must weave like a slalom skier.

The exact dimensions and design details of these obstacles vary from one organizational body to the next, and many allow these sizes to be adjusted to suit the size of your dog.

Of course, you can always be creative and design unique obstacles for your pup. Just be sure to keep your dog’s safety in mind when doing so.

How Much Space Do You Need For a Dog Agility Course?

One of the cool things about dog agility courses is that they don’t require vast amounts of space.

Most official courses are set up in an area that measures about 10,000 square feet. That sounds gigantic, but it’s really not – that’s a square area with 100-foot-long sides. You’ll clearly need a big backyard to set up an official course, but you won’t need acres and acres of space.

If you are just setting up an agility course to have a bit of fun with your dog and don’t intend on training her for competitions, you don’t even need this much space. You can just adjust the obstacles you create and their layout to fit the space you have available.

Why Build Your Dog an Agility Course?

Dog agility courses can be incredibly beneficial for many dogs. Some of the most notable benefits they provide include:

They Help Your Dog Get More Exercise

Because dogs are usually expected to run through an agility course as quickly as possible, the activity is a great form of exercise.

They’ll often use all of their muscle groups while doing so, ensuring that they get a thorough, full-body workout. You’ll even get a bit of exercise while leading your dog through the course.

 They Provide Mental Stimulation

Learning to negotiate obstacles while following you around an agility course will help keep your dog’s brain humming. This will help prevent boredom, provide a number of emotional benefits, and generally help keep your dog healthier and happier.

They Help Improve Your Dog’s Obedience

Your dog will need to be minimally obedient to begin agility trial work, but once you begin training, you’ll surely notice that your dog’s obedience becomes much sharper. It may even help improve your training and leadership skills at the same time!

They Allow Your Dog to Show Off

Some dogs are complete hams who love to show off their skills and abilities. Agility trials provide a great way for them to do so. And because you’ll want to provide plenty of positive reinforcement during the training process, people-pleasing dogs will especially enjoy agility coursework.

 They Give You Another Way to Bond with Your Dog

Just about any activity you share with your dog will help strengthen your bond, but because agility trials require you to work very closely with her, you’ll likely enjoy a closer connection after a few months of work.

9 Awesome DIY Dog Agility Courses

We’ve put together nine of the best DIY agility course obstacles we could find below.

As with any other DIY project, you should feel free to mix and match concepts and designs so that you end up with obstacles that suit you and your dog!

1. Easy Agility Obstacles from Animal College Behavior Blog

The Animal College Behavior Blog provides tips for making a few agility obstacles that are very easy to create. Specifically, it provides plans for constructing jumps and ladders. However, this blog recommends buying tunnels, rather than making them yourself, as commercial models typically last longer.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Materials Needed:

  • Laundry baskets
  • Broomstick
  • PVC pipes
  • PVC connectors

Tools Required:

  • Saw or PVC cutter

This article doesn’t include any photos, but here are a few that may help you figure things out.

Obstacle Course for Dogs 2

Obstacle Course for Dogs 1

2. Simple and Creative Dog Agility Obstacles by Dogsaholic.com

Dogsaholic.com provides a few different ways to build three key agility obstacles: tunnels, jumps, and tire jumps.

It also provides a few easy ways to spruce up an agility course with basic household items. Some of the obstacles described can be built without any tools at all, but others are a little more complicated and require a few basic hand tools.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Materials Needed:

Note: The materials you’ll need will vary based on which version of the obstacles you make. You won’t need all of these materials.

  • PVC pipes
  • PVC connectors
  • PVC caps
  • Tire
  • Elastic cord or string
  • Chairs
  • Blankets
  • Traffic cones
  • Children’s play tubes
  • Soccer cones
  • Bamboo poles
  • Used tires

Tools Required:

  • Scissors
  • Saw or PVC cutter
  • Mallet (for driving PVC pipes into the ground)
  • Tape measure

Agility Course for Dogs 2

Agility Course for Dogs 1

3. DIY Dog Agility A-Frame from Instructables

This article from Instructables explains how to make a large and sturdy A-frame obstacle for your dog. These plans are designed for a very small dog, but you could easily scale them up to suit larger dogs.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Materials Needed:

  • Eight 8-foot-long 2x4s
  • Two 3’x 8’ pieces of 15/32-inch plywood
  • 42 feet of 3/8″ x 1 1/4″ molding
  • Two door hinges
  • Four hook bolts
  • Two 8-foot-long chains
  • Wood glue
  • One box of 2 ½- inch screws
  • One box 1-inch nails
  • Two cans of exterior paint (two different colors)
  • Exterior base coat paint
  • Several cups of dry sand
  • One pool noodle

Tools Required:

  • Cordless drill
  • Miter saw / chop saw
  • Circular saw (you can use this in place of a miter saw if you like)
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses
  • Paintbrush
  • Stirring stick

Dog Agility Course 1

This video doesn’t explain how to make the A-frame, but it does give you a chance to see the obstacle in use.

4. Multiple Agility Course Obstacles from WikiHow

This article from WikiHow focuses more on the basics of setting up a course and teaching your dog to complete it, but it also provides some neat ideas for making your own obstacles.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Once again, the materials you’ll need will vary based on which version of the obstacles you make. You probably won’t need all of these things.

Materials Needed:

  • Hula hoop
  • PVC pipes
  • PVC connectors
  • PVC caps
  • Flower pots
  • Chairs
  • Broomstick
  • Duct tape
  • Rope
  • Children’s play tunnels
  • Children’s tables
  • Blanket

Tools Required:

  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sharpie
  • Saw or PVC cutter

5. Build-Your-Own Agility Jumps from Gone to the Snow Dogs

In contrast to some of the other DIY articles that focus on providing basic ideas for how to build obstacles, this article from Gone to the Snow Dogs provides very specific plans.

It walks you through the entire process and shows you exactly how to make your own dog jumps.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Materials Needed:

  • Two white 5-Foot 1-inch Furniture Grade PVC Pipe
  • Two 5-Foot 1-inch Furniture Grade PVC Pipe, color of your choice
  • Two 4-Way Tee 1-inch Furniture Grade PVC Fitting
  • Six External End caps 1-inch Furniture Grade PVC Fitting
  • 1 Pair of Jump Cup Strips

Tools Required:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie
  • Saw or PVC cutter

Agility Obstacles for Dogs 2

Agility Obstacles for Dogs

6. How to Build a Three-Part Dog Agility Course from DIY Network

This is another set of very thorough plans from the DIY Network which provide step-by-step instructions for creating a three-part obstacle course. With these plans, you’ll be able to build your dog a high-quality seesaw, a set of weave poles, and an A-frame.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Materials Needed:

  • wood glue
  • plywood
  • 1-1/2″ galvanized roofing nails
  • PVC pipes and fittings
  • 2x4s
  • CPVC primer and cement
  • 1×4 boards
  • 9 feet of 2-inch PVC pipe
  • Four 2-inch PVC 90-degree fittings
  • Four 2-inch PVC T-joints
  • Two 2-inch PVC cap pieces
  • 3-inch hinges
  • Several 1-inch PVC pipes
  • PVC caps

Tools Required:

  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Nail gun (you could use a hammer if you prefer)
  • Paintbrush
  • Measuring tape

DIY Dog obstacles

DIY Dog obstacles 2

7. DIY Agility Course from Petful

Petful provides a great set of DIY plans that’ll allow you to build your dog a complete agility course, including a jump, tunnels, a seesaw, a pause table, and a set of weave poles.

This article places a heavy emphasis on making your own course as a way of saving money, so budget-limited owners should definitely check these plans out.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Materials Needed:

  • Four 18-inch length PVC pipes
  • Two 2 ¾ inch length PVC pipes
  • Three 4-inch length PVC pipes
  • Fourteen PVC T’s
  • Four PVC end caps
  • Four 18-inch lengths of 1-inch PVC pipe
  • Two 36-inch lengths of 1-inch PVC pipe
  • Four 1 1/2-inch PVC elbows
  • Two PVC T’s
  • One flex drain pipe measured and cut to fit your dog’s girth, 8 feet length
  • One drain coupler
  • One 12-inch length link chain
  • Three rolls duct tape (1 red, 1 white, 1 blue)
  • Eight 36-inch length PVC pipes
  • Four 18-inch length PCV pipes
  • Two ¼-inch PVC pipes
  • Eight 1 inch 90-degree PVC elbows
  • Six PVC T’s
  • Four 2 ¼-inch PVC pipes
  • Five 5 ½-inch PVC pipes
  • Nine 12-inch PVC pipes
  • One 10-inch PVC pipe
  • One 2-inch x 10-inch board
  • Two 6-inch pipe straps
  • Assorted screws
  • Astroturf or grass carpet for cover, 4 ft x 8 ft rug
  • Particleboard cut to cover the top of the spool, 24 inches x 48 inches
  • Astroturf or grass carpet to cover the board, 4 ft x 8 ft rug
  • Tacks or carpet glue to fasten the carpet to the board, 8 ounces

Tools Required:

  • Saw or PVC cutter
  • Circular saw or table saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie
  • Pencil
  • Scissors

Unfortunately, Petful doesn’t provide any construction photos of these projects, but they’re all explained in great detail, so you should still be able to figure out how to slap these obstacles together – particularly if you are already pretty handy.

8. DIY Canine Agility Course by Wide Open Pets

These plans from Wide Open Pets are some of the easiest ones we found, so they’re great for owners who aren’t comfortable making difficult construction projects.

They rely heavily on PVC pipes for the construction, which helps keep the project simple and reduce the number of tools you’ll need.

The plans will teach you how to make several different obstacles, including jumps, weave poles, and a seesaw.

Difficulty Level: Easy

Materials Needed:

  • Eight 3-inch PVC pipes
  • Eight 19-inch PVC pipes
  • Four 14-inch PVC pipes
  • 12 inches of 2-inch pipe
  • Nine 18-inch PVC pipes
  • Six 24-inch PVC pipes
  • Eight 12-inch PVC pipes
  • Two 48-inch PVC pipes
  • Two 5-inch PVC pipes
  • Two 6-inch PVC pipes
  • Two 15-inch
  • 12-inch-wide wooden plank (approximately 8 to 10 feet long)

Tools Required:

  • Tape measure
  • Sharpie
  • Saw or PVC cutter

Weave Poles for Dogs

High Jump for Dogs

9. Simple PVC Agility Obstacles from This Old House

This DIY agility guide from This Old House features another set of PVC obstacles that are easy and affordable to build.

As you’d expect from a set of plans produced by such a well-respected DIY resource, they are very detailed. Equipped with these plans, you should be able to construct a multi-unit agility course in no time. These plans will explain how to make jumps, weave poles, and a seesaw.

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Materials Needed:

All PVC pipes used are 1-inch in diameter unless labeled otherwise.

  • Eight 12-inch
  • Two 48-inch
  • Two 5 ½-inch
  • Two 6 1/2-inch
  • Two 15 ¼-inch
  • Four 18 ½-inch
  • Two 12-inch
  • Two 24-inch
  • Six 40-inch
  • Eight 3 ¼-inch
  • Eight 19-inch
  • Four 14 ½-inch
  • Four 12-inch
  • One 12-inch (2-inch PVC)
  • PVC caps
  • Colored tape (optional)
  • 12-inch-wide wooden plank (approximately 8 to 10 feet long)
  • Gravel for weighing down the obstacles
  • Assorted screws
  • Metal straps

Tools Required:

  • Saw or PVC cutter
  • Cordless drill
  • Tape measure
  • Mallet

DIY obstacles for dogs

Obstacle for DIY Agility Course

Helpful DIY Canine Agility Course Instructional Videos

For some reason, DIY dog agility course designers rarely make videos explaining how to build the obstacles detailed in their plans. But we always want to help our readers as much as possible, so we’ve gathered a few of the best videos we could find below.

These may not match any of the plans listed above, but they should help you figure out how to build most of the things described above.

Dog Agility Course Safety

Before you break out the tools and start fashioning a set of obstacles, you’ll want to make sure you review a few important safety tips.

When properly designed and built, agility courses are safe for most dogs, but there are a few potential dangers you’ll want to take care to avoid.

  • Be sure the obstacles have no rough or sharp edges. Run your hands all over the obstacles to ensure that none have exposed screws or rough edges that may scrape your pet’s body.
  • Make sure you clear the entire area. You don’t want your dog to trip or stumble into a hole while running full speed through an obstacle course. So, just make sure to inspect the entire area for potential hazards, including divots, tree stumps, rocks, sticks, or other dangers before you get started.
  • Customize the obstacles to suit your dog’s size. Simply put, a Chihuahua won’t be able to safely complete a course set up for a border collie, so you’ll have to tailor the size of the obstacles to your pet.
  • Talk to your vet before getting started. Not all dogs are cut out for agility trials. Some may be too heavy, while others may have hip or joint problems that might preclude them from these activities. Just discuss the issue with your vet and make sure your dog is healthy enough to do agility trials before starting.

Breeds That Excel at Canine Agility Trials

Any dog can learn to perform agility trials (provided that your vet gives you the green light). However, some breeds are clearly better-suited for the activity than others.

Dachshunds, for example, aren’t exactly built for obstacle courses (although I’d pay money to watch one try). At the other end of the spectrum, breeds with heavy builds – including Rottweilers, bulldogs, mastiffs, and Great Danes – typically aren’t as light on their feet as most good agility dogs are.

Most breeds that naturally excel at agility trials are small to medium in size (say, 20 to 50 pounds), and they typically have rather light bone structures. They must also be pretty smart pups who like to learn from and work with their owner or handler.

Herding dogs often exhibit these traits, and they’re typically among the most commonly seen breeds in agility contests. Some sporting dogs (such as retrievers) also excel in the event, but dogs who were bred to work alone, such as terriers and livestock-guarding breeds, are usually not as well-suited for the activity (although there are certainly exceptions).

Some of the breeds that usually make great agility dogs include:

  • Border collies
  • Shelties
  • Australian shepherds
  • Golden retrievers
  • Papillons
  • Fox terriers
  • Jack Russel terriers
  • Standard poodles
  • Pembroke Welsh corgis
  • German shepherds
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Chinese crested dogs
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Vizslas
  • Huskies
  • Weimaraners

Additionally, mixed breed dogs with a suitable build and temperament can also excel at agility trials. However, this may limit the number of organizations who’ll allow your dog to compete, as some are only open to registered dogs of a few given breeds.

  

As you can see, agility obstacles are pretty easy to build, and they’re great fun for many dogs. And while there are commercially manufactured obstacles available, you can just build your own. This will not only save you a bit of money, but it’ll also allow you to customize the obstacles to suit your pup.

Have you ever built DIY obstacles for your dog? We’d love to hear about your experience. Tell us what worked and what didn’t in the comments below!

Want more DIY project ideas? Check out our guides on:

About the Author Ben Team

Ben is a proud dog owner and lifelong environmental educator who writes about animals, outdoor recreation, science, and environmental issues. He lives with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler JB in Atlanta, Georgia. Read more by Ben at FootstepsInTheForest.com.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

 join our pup pack!

Get tons of great dog training tutorials, canine gear guides, hot news about the latest doggy discounts, & more - all delivered to your inbox!

envelope

By signing up you agree to our terms