DIY: How to Make Your Own Dog Agility Course

Why pay $1,200 or more when you can go DIY for $300? Here's how to make your own course and save money.

Have you thought about making your own version of one of these?
Have you thought about making your own version of one of these?

One of our amazing dogs is a Lagotto Romagnolo. He is one of only about 1,000 of the rare breed in the country.

Luke is a beauty. Unfortunately, he is about 10 pounds and an inch or so outside the breed standard, so he can’t compete in a show ring. My husband, ever vigilant to bring the Lagotto breed to the public’s attention, decided Luke would be an awesome agility champion.

Canine agility competitions represent one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Agility courses are designed to demonstrate athletic ability and stamina as well as the team effort between the handler and the dog.

Official canine agility trials originated in Birmingham, England, in 1978. The American Kennel Club sanctioned the sport in the US in 1994. Today there are more than 2,000 AKC competitions across the country. It is a spectator sport enjoyed by young and old alike.

Don’t Miss: Top 10 Dog Agility Breeds

The Right Gear

When planning our backyard agility course, we researched the AKC regulation equipment along with expert training guidelines.

Several pet equipment companies offer an online catalog of sanctioned gear, so we ordered a base supply of weave poles, jumps, tunnel, teeter board and a pause table. The expensive equipment arrived a short time later. My husband opened the boxes to discover what appeared to be debris from a plumbing construction site along with instructions for assembly.

I am not saying our purchase was misrepresented. Indeed, the equipment is standard gear — but a trip to any home improvement store and a 20-minute Internet search would have save us a considerable amount of money. I will pass our lesson, including cost-saving tips, along to Petful readers.

Agility 101

A basic canine agility course consists of:

  • Jumps (standard pole and tire)
  • Tunnels
  • Teeter
  • Weave poles
  • Pause table

The equipment used for an agility course is regulated by height and width and determined by size and breed of dog. When you start assembling your backyard course, consider space and refer to the AKC agility information for your dog’s recommended adjustments.

Make Your Own Dog Agility Course

DIY dog hurdlesStandard Jump Retails for $50-$200

Jumps represent the core of the obstacle course. Jumps are presented in a variety of complex configurations including winged, wingless, double jumps and spread jumps. Each more complicated but with the same essential construction of poly vinyl chloride (PVC) pipes. PVC pipes are used in modern plumbing projects (and countless DIY projects), and an impressive array of PVC pipes and fittings is available at any plumbing supply or home improvement store.

The standard jump (hurdle) we purchased for $115 (not including shipping, handling or taxes) consisted of the same stuff you can buy yourself much cheaper individually:

  • 4 – 18 inch length PVC pipes (PVC pipe is sold at Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores for $3.02 per 5 ft length, and they will cut your required length for free)
  • 2 – 2 ¾ inch length PVC pipes
  • 3 – 4 inch length PVC pipes
  • 4 PVC T’s ($4.50 each)
  • 4 PVC end caps (68 cents each)

Approximate cost of DIY standard jump: $17.50

DIY tire jump for a dogTire Jump — Retails for $120-$175

The tire jump was possibly our biggest surprise. We had assumed from the catalog pictures that the brightly colored apparatus was a technological marvel. The reality: Not so much. Here is the list of what you will need to make your own professional tire jump — just like those used in sanctioned meets:

  • 4 – 18 inch length of 1 inch PVC pipe
  • 2 – 36 inch length of 1 inch PVC pipe
  • 4 – 1 1/2 inch PVC elbows ($2 each)
  • 2 – PVC  T’s ($4.50 each)
  • 1 –  flex drain pipe measured and cut to fit your dog’s girth, 8 feet length ($5.50)
  • 1 – drain coupler ($2)
  • 1 – 12 inch length link chain ($1 per ft)
  • 3 rolls duct tape (1 red, 1 white, 1 blue) ($3.50 per roll)

Approximate cost of DIY tire jump: $45

Weave polesWeave Poles — Retail for $50 per section

Weave poles test a dog’s agility and ability to navigate the complex order of the poles. We bought a run of four sets (two poles per set) for $200. The same PVC pipes can accomplish a regulation weave pole apparatus for $9. To complete the project you will need:

  • 8 – 36 inch length PVC pipes
  • 4 – 18 inch length PCV pipes
  • 2 – ¼ inch PVC pipes
  • 10 – PVC T’s ($4.50 each)

Approximate cost for a four-set run of DIY obstacle weave poles: $65

Homemade dog agility tunnelTunnel — Retails for $175-$200

The tunnel was a bit more complex. Because of the wiring and construction of the actual tunnel, I just shopped for a child’s play tunnel. I found a 6 ft collapsible tunnel for under $25 at Toys R Us. Add four small landscape fabric pins for anchors at $4 for a bag of 25, and you have a DIY obstacle tunnel for less than $30— and no assembly!

Teeter boardTeeter Board — Retails for $50-$75

Think of an old-fashioned child’s see saw, and you have the image of an agility teeter board. To build your own teeter board, assemble:

  • 8 – 1 inch 90-degree PVC elbows ($2 each)
  • 6 – PVC T’s ($4.50 each)
  • 4 – 2 ¼ inch PVC pipes
  • 5 – 5 ½ inch PVC pipes
  • 9 – 12 inch PVC pipes
  • 1 – 10 inch PVC pipe
  • 1 – 2 inch x 10 inch board ($7)
  • 2 – 6 inch pipe straps ($1.50)
  • Assorted screws (screw kit, $4)
  • Astroturf or grass carpet for cover, 4 ft x 8 ft rug ($20)

Approximate cost of DIY teeter board: $82

Assuming you can recycle materials from other projects, you can reduce production expenses. Otherwise, it may be better to just buy a teeter board.

Agility pause tablePause Table — Retails for $80-$180

Depending on the size of your dog, pause tables can range significantly in price. Their purpose is to provide a break for your dog to regroup and stay during meets. Their ability to stay on the pause table is scored, so it is an important training routine.

A visit to a local utility provider or warehouse supply company may be your best source for the base of a pause table. Ask for cable spools. They are sturdy and do not tip easily. Some utility companies discard the spools when the cable has been used. In addition to the base you will need:

  • Particle board cut to cover the top of the spool, 24 inches x 48 inches ($8)
  • Astroturf or grass carpet to cover the board, 4 ft x 8 ft rug ($20)
  • Tacks or carpet glue to fasten the carpet to the board, 8 ounces ($3.50)

Approximate cost of DIY pause table: less than $30

More Cost-Cutting Tips

The cost estimates for the agility course projects detailed are based on buying all materials at retail. Additional savings may be realized by:

  • Shopping thrift stores, yard sales and flea markets for materials
  • Looking for discount sale items
  • Recycling materials from around the house
  • Browsing online “for sale by owner” sites like eBay and Craigslist for used agility equipment

Help and Instructions

The American Kennel Club website is a great source of information to consider when planning agility courses and training for your dog. I also found that Caninecrib.com provided an excellent, easy DIY manual for assembling each piece of agility equipment. That online guide comes complete with step-by-step instructions and pictures.

Be sure to check with your veterinarian before beginning agility training to ensure your dog is physically capable. Do not push him beyond his comfortable physical limits.

As for my dog, Luke, I am not sure he will ever compete at the national level for an agility championship. I do know the mental stimulation and physical exercise we all enjoy as a result of the agility training is the true benefit. It doesn’t take a ribbon or trophy to see our dog is a real champion in our book!

Photos, top to bottom: tretjakovgallery, greengardenvienna, N8tr0n, arkuin, Daisyree Bakker, arkuin and arkuin/Flickr

 


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14 comments

  1. Nikole Fairview Reply

    You are right, that is a beautiful dog. I love his coloring and beautiful eyes. I think an agility course would be wonderful, but that I’d actually have to train my dog to use it. She might just run in there and sit down. Maybe bring some food in there and play with it, but that’s about it. This makes me wonder if certain breeds are intuitively able to use these courses or is it something that owners train their dogs to do. My little girl’s a cute little lap dog and likes to run, but likes batting small morsels of food or a small cat toys around more than anything.

  2. Jessica Reply

    I love the ideas, but instructions on how to build the pieces of equipment would be awesome (namely, the tire jump).

  3. emily Reply

    i am really trying to build a dog course for my dog. so can somebody please help me.

  4. emily Reply

    it is me again emily. i am really trying to figure out how to build a tire jump. so can somebody please help me.

  5. emily Reply

    hi me again. i can not build anything like without the materil. like i cant’t build the tire jump with out a tire and i cant because i do not have one. so can somebody please help me. and can somebody please help me by telling me where i can bye a tire.

    1. just a dog lover Reply

      Holy moly, perhaps you should learn how to read (and SPELL!) see the “Help and Instructions” included in the article for another website caninecrib.com – and she said it’s a flex drain pipe, not a tire!

  6. Emily Reply

    jessica!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! where are you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Kevis Reply

    Good stuff there, I have concluded similar in regards to much of the gear. A couple notes and some expansion info.

    First on Tire Jumps, if you google the crash and burn of dogs failing those jumps, unlike the breakaway bars on the horizontal jumps, the solid tire jump can seriously injure a dog. There are “breakaway” tire jumps available from some companies, essentially its in two halves with magnets on the mating ends, and bungies to roughly hold it in place so if the dog hits it, it moves out of the way and then springs back without neeing to be reset. That said, apparently the AKC isn’t smart enough to sanction safer equipment (maybe they have recently, but as of a couple years ago they hadn’t). Add the sectionalizing, bungies and magnets and you might have another $15-20 on that tire jump, but you will reduce the chance of back or neck injury to the dog from the jolt and flips that a failed jump at speed causes.

    For the high end stuff – Dog Walks, A Frames, Teeters etc. If you build from wood its certainly far less expensive than most commercial ones – ie a Dog Walk will generally run around $1000+ up to $2000 or more. You can probably make one from wood for around $100 – but it will be heavy and without a good bit more work and fasteners, not very portable.

    What I found in searching that is a lot of those high end units are using extruded aluminum scaffold planks/stages, bleacher seats or dock sections. Now this isn’t the budget option that wood is, you will probably cut the cost by 1/3-1/2 from that $1000 down to $500-700 but you will have a more portable, mostly impervious set of gear that if you are attentive to detail will be about as good as the ones you are paying $1500 or more for. You will have some additional hardware and tubing costs for a frame (I’ve seen a PVC pipe one, so thats probably in the sub $100 zone).

    Ultimately though, most of the sellers of pet agility equipment aren’t gouging selling that stuff. They are taking their time to assemble, fit and mark the product so its out of the box usable. If you do-it-yourself you have to factor in what your time is worth to that savings equation. IE, if I spend all day on a Saturday putting together a few items and saving $400 I am actually losing money versus buying the items from a seller and going to work for $800 on overtime doing what I get paid the most for. I quit mowing my own lawn when I hit a certain income level, I was making money buying back my time by paying someone else to do the job for cheaper than I could do it, and gaining time to relax and enjoy life.

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Kevis, thank you so much for this incredible post! You have some excellent information and tips for those looking to create their own agility courses.

      1. Sharon Carmichael Reply

        Why use wood for a teeter, when very durable PVC is reasonably available at the hardware store? Larger diameter PVC is cheap, easily sawed or cut, and can be left outside in all types of weather. The key is to use schedule 60 PVC, which is the durable stuff. Lighter weight PVC melts in the sun, and degrades over time. You should see my course, it’s mini (teacup agility) sized, but amazingly pro looking. I’ve made my tire jump with pool noodles, a hula hoop, PVC, and tie wraps. Even if it fell on my dog, it wouldn’t hurt her. Unfortunately, my girl has passed, and can’t play anymore.

        1. Melissa Smith Reply

          Hey Sharon! That’s a great idea- I really love how you covered all the bases in terms of both durability and safety for your fur baby. I am so sorry to hear that she passed!

  8. Wolf Lahti Reply

    It seems some instruction on how to assemble all these pieces is called for.

    And it’s quite the agile dog that can maneuver on a 2″-by-10″ board.

    1. Melissa Smith Reply

      Wolf, I kind of agree with you there, but I have the worst time just trying to put together a desk chair!

  9. Jesse Reply

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