With less places to go, keeping pup’s mind and body active is more important than ever. While some fitness fanatic pooches may think they need an Olympic Training Center to get a good workout in, we beg to differ! We barked with professional dog trainer Sara Spevacek of Adventure is Barking about building a backyard dog agility course with items you can find around the house or purchase without breaking the bank.
Dog Platforms + Balancing
Canine conditioning balance exercises are great for dogs recovering from orthopedic issues, but also help keep dogs of all ages strong and healthy. Try these at home!
For a basic body awareness exercise, use any object your pup can hop on. Spevacek uses a log from a fallen tree. For inside practice, a peanut exercise ball is perfect! Here is the three-stop core conditioning exercise.
Command 1: Front feet up
Lure pup onto the object with the command “front feet up.” Reward her with pets or snackies when she puts both front paws on the object and holds the position for a few seconds. Woofer may be hesitant at first; don’t force anything that she doesn’t want to do. Take it slow and you’ll eventually have success!
Command 2: All the way up
Next try having your pup jump completely up on the object. Start with the “front feet up” command then slowly guide your dog all the way up onto the object. It’s up to you whether you practice stand, sit, stay, or down once you doggo gets there. For the pawthletes, try a wobbly surface like a wobble board. Your dog will be challenged to hold the stay and build confidence in the process!
Command 3: Back feet up
Woof, is this one tough! Get Fido to step his front paws down from the “all the way up” position while keeping his back paws on the object. Many doggos have a tendency to forget about their back paws. This challenge teaches full body and hind end awareness.
Want to add some more variety and exposure to your fluffer’s life? Teach pup to walk across a variety of surfaces. Start with having your bud walk across folded blankets and pillows. Then level up by having pupper walk across a garbage bag or some crinkled paper grocery bags. Things as simple as hardwood floors may be completely foreign to new pups. Introducing your dog to all kinds of surfaces serves them well as they mature.
Use treats and praise to teach your fluffer how to weave in and out of objects. Do you need official weaving poles? Absowoofly not! You can use garden poles, cones, or 2-liter bottles filled with dirt. Start with just a couple poles spread about 2 feet apart and lead the treat in and out of the poles while giving commands such as “in and out” or “weave.” Once pup gets the hang of it, add more poles to weave.
We know doggo has seen the viral TikTok trend of pups jumping over the stash of quarantine toilet paper and has been beggin’ you to practice. If TikTok has taught us anything, it’s that hurdles don’t need to be fancy. Stack your Swiffer broom on a couple containers of Clorox wipes and then it’s like Kriss Kross taught us—JUMP! Use a pool noodle to soften the hurdle pole.
Start small and work your way up based on pup’s height and abilities. Dogs should never jump significantly higher than their shoulder height. Puppies shouldn’t practice jumps because their joints are still maturing. Instead, have puppers walk over poles on the ground and learn to step their feet in between the poles.
Tunnels can get expensive, but oh boy do we have a hack for you! Use a collapsible children’s play tunnel. Just be sure to secure it to the ground with landscape fabric pins. Tunnels prove very challenging to beginners and less confident dogs, so be patient with yours! Remember, this is about enhancing their quality of life… that means having fun and occasionally adding treats!
If your fluffer is trying to impress the girl next door, learn how to make a DIY tire jump from our enrichment series. And if DIY just isn’t your thing (your pup isn’t gonna try hops on shoddy craftsmanship) check out this agility in a bag kit. As always, when trying a new exercise routine, factor in your pup’s age, health, and general willingness to engage with new activities. Consult your vet if you’re at all unsure.
What home agility equipment have you created? Let us know in the comments and don’t furget to tag #SidewalkDog in your pup’s backyard obstacle course pics!
Featured photo: Murilo Viviani
Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and pup parent giveaways on Instagram.