Keep your dog fit and healthy

Joys of Summer – Co-op Pet Insurance hero

Want to get the kids out in the garden this summer while exercising the dog at the same time? Look no further than building an agility course in your garden. It’s easy for children to help set it up, and they’ll have fun trying to coax your pup through the obstacles. The best thing is it can easily be done with items most of us already have at home.

Dog agility course obstacle list

Weaving: You can use a lot of different things to make a weaving obstacle. This could be bamboo canes placed into the ground securely enough so that they won’t fall when the dog runs past. Alternatively you could use mini traffic cones, shoes or many other things from the house or garden. Just space them out at a safe distance and walk your dog through it so they start to understand the pattern you want them to go. Make sure you have lots of treats to help them along.

Tunnel: To make a tunnel, you could use cardboard boxes with the ends cut off. An even easier alternative is garden chairs in a line back to back with a blanket draped over the top to make a darker tunnel. You might even have a children’s play tunnel already. Whatever you use, just make sure there’s enough space for your dog to run through.

Jump: Hold up a hula hoop, or set up a small hurdle using plant pots and a curtain pole or a plank for example. Start low down, and if your pup is clearing it easily increase the height little by little. Make sure anything you use is easily collapsible and won’t hurt your pooch if they don’t clear the jump.

See-saw: This is more challenging to set up than the others. If you already have a children’s see-saw in your garden, you could incorporate this into your course.

Finishing touches: Why not finish up with a trick? Get your dog to sit and shake paws or jump into a paddling pool to cool off.

Safety first: A good place to start is figuring out how to lay out your course. You’ll need to make sure you have enough space between each of your obstacles that your dog can complete it safely, and it’s also important that you take your dog’s age, size and any medical problems into account. A Chihuahua probably won’t be able to clear the same kind of jumps as a Labrador - the most important thing is everyone’s having fun. Also take some time to clear the space of any mess that could trip up or injure your dog.

Get started: Encourage the kids to walk the dog around the course on a lead to get used to the obstacles before letting them start training. Try and show your pup what you want them to do, maybe even do some of the obstacles yourself! Have plenty of treats on hand for when they get it right and give them lots of encouragement. Don’t be frustrated if they’re not Crufts level first time, you’ll definitely all get a laugh out of it even if your dog ignores all the obstacles and goes straight for the treats instead.

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