Whether you plan to compete or just want a fun, challenging activity to do with your dog, agility is a great form of exercise and bonding for both of you. In agility, a dog and handler complete an obstacle course as accurately as possible and in as short a time as they can. It’s a highly athletic event that requires training, teamwork, and concentration. But you don’t have to compete to enjoy it; backyard agility courses are a great way to provide exercise and stimulation and to build a trusting relationship with your dog.
Agility Equipment for Dogs
The common pieces of agility gear are jumps, weave courses, and tunnels. You can go all-out and use every piece of competition equipment or stick to a few basics. Here’s the complete list and how they're used:
Open Tunnel: A dog runs at full speed to the entrance of the tunnel, approaching from any angle, runs through it and then exits quickly. This is a good starting point because it’s one of the easiest obstacles to master. For example:
This shape-shifting tunnel is regulation-size, 18-feet long, with a 24-inch openings.
It’s durable, lightweight, and portable, and comes with stakes and a carrying case.
Jumps: A dog leaps over the panel, bar, or triple jump from a proper distance and from any angle, without displacing the board or bar. You’ll want something portable, that’s lightweight enough for you to move around in case you want to rearrange the course. For example:
- Hurdle Set for Dog Fitness and Agility
You can set the bar to eight different heights, raising it as your dog gains mastery. The set includes four jumping bars, eight high-visibility cones, and height-adjustment attachments.
- Travel Jump Set
Set up anywhere with four portable, adjustable jumps with heights ranging from 4-to-24 inches. The jumps, made of furniture-grade PVC, come with a carrying bag and vinyl tape for marking the jumps.
If you’re handy, you can make your own, up-cycled agility jump.
Weave Poles: A dog enters to the right of the first pole at top speed. While focused straight ahead, he weaves through each pole as quickly as he can, staying as close to the center line a possible. For example:
The six poles are fully adjustable, and you can set them for a straight or offset course.
They are easy to assemble and meet competition guidelines.
DIYers can make their own weave poles using PVC pipe and a few easy-to-find materials.
You can add to this basic agility equipment with additional obstacles used in competition:
• A-frame: A dog scrambles up and over the top, touching the downside contact zone.
• Pause table: The dog leaps onto the table and stays in either a sit, down, or stand position. During a five-second count, he must remain in position and then jump from the table immediately on command. By the way, that five seconds also gives your dog a chance to rest and regroup for the next obstacle.
• See-saw: Your dog must approach it squarely, touch the upside contact zone with a slight hesitation at the pivot point, and then move down, touching the downside contact zone. He must exit swiftly when the plank touches the ground.
• Broad jump: Ideally, your dog soars over the jump, clearing all the boards.
• Tire jump: The dog jumps cleanly through an obstacle, rather than over it.
• Dog walk: The dog approaches this raised dog walk squarely, touching the upside contact zone. He then races across the top and runs to the bottom, touching the downside contact zone.
Some of these pieces of dog agility equipment can get very expensive. A-frames, for example, can cost close to $1,000. Some of the gear is easy to make yourself if you’re handy, such as a tire jump or seesaw. However, your best option may be to buy an agility kit.
Dog Agility Kits
- Affordable Agility in the Bag
The kit contains an adjustable jump, weave poles, a tire jump, tunnel, and pause box. The gear is sturdy, easy to assemble, and comes with a large carrying bag. It is a great starter kit, but may be better suited for smaller dogs. The price is most likely lower than what you would pay for each piece individually.
- Agility Beginner Bundle
With an adjustable tire jump, single/double bar jump, weave poles, and a tunnel, you’ll have what you need to get your dog started on agility. Just right for the backyard enthusiast.
- Dog Agility Equipment Package
Although this set doesn’t have everything you need, you and your dog will get a good start with a single bar jump, hoop jump and weave poles. The equipment is easy to assemble, lightweight and sturdy.
- Agility Gear Starter Package With Tippy Board
One of the only kits containing a tippy board, the package also has a training jump, pause box, and weave poles. The durable equipment can be easily assembled without tools. It’s a good starting point, if you and your dog are trying out agility for fun.
Even if you never intend to compete, having some basic pieces of agility equipment can provide your dog (and you) with endless hours of exercise, entertainment, and bonding time.