Dog Agility Training For Beginners

Dog Agility Training For Beginners

We all dream of owning that perfectly well behaved, agile dog that people look at and go “wow, your dog is so well behaved!” Before we go out and bring home our forever friend, we have all the best intentions of training our dog to do all those cool tricks we see on Facebook.

Because seriously – how difficult can it be?

Let’s look back for a sec – when did dog agility training even come about? Where did it originate? Well, interestingly, Dog Agility first started as a form of intermission entertainment to…horse jumping!

Crufts Dog Show, 1970. That was the first time it was witnessed in a “show” environment. It quickly gained popularity from there, as people realised that the intermission was more interesting than the main event. Am I right??

What Age Can You Start Agility Training Your Dog?

Agility Obstacle Standards: Dog Walks

Yes, there is an age that is “too soon” for agility training – and it’s important as a dog owner to understand why. The joints in dogs will continue to develop until about 18 months old, longer with some. And if you try too much too soon, their joints can be permanently injured. Young dogs have soft bones, and if the plates in the joints are damaged (jumping or falling can do this easily) the puppies’ bone may not grow properly. Heavier breeds like rotties and German Shepherds generally need longer.

There are definitely things you can start your dog on before 18 months: obedience training can start at as young as 8 weeks old, but it’s important with very young dogs that you make it fun and use lots of encouragement, and it’s the same with agility.

At 8 weeks old, you can start your dog on pause “table” on the ground (i.e. just a square on the ground) and start training sit/ stay/ lie down. You can also start with “on ground” obstacles like tunnels. Try small wobble boards – and you can even set up two jump standards with the pole just on the ground. Just bear in mind that if you do want to start your puppy at 8 weeks old. You are going to need a LOT of patience! They are still learning about the wide world, and absolutely everything is new to them. This is just basically play time with encouragement.

I would wait until 12 months before trialing things like ramps, A frames and dog walks (at low heights!).

At 18 months you can move over to weaving and full size equipment, but still be careful. Like humans, dogs need to condition themselves to these things. They need to warm up, warm down, and train/compete full course and full size equipment in moderation.

When Is a Dog Too Old For Agility?

This is so super individual – as with humans, some have illnesses or injuries that prevent them from doing certain things. Generally, a dog that has led a more sedentary life is more likely to get injured from doing agility.

I would hesitate doing hardcore agility with a dog that is over 6 years old and has never done agility before – but as with the “scaled” versions for puppies, you can also scale for older dogs. And with older dogs it’s even more important to warm up properly before every training session!

I would not put a dog over 9 on full size equipment even if they have trained agility most of their lives and are in perfect health.

I can’t feel what my dog is feeling, and I can’t ask them – so how do I know?

There is no one answer for this, rather it’s a combination of things:

  • Follow the recommendations in this article, and any other scientifically backed information you come across. I urge you to do your own research on the matter, and make up your own mind!
  • Take breaks often and check in with your dog. Allow sufficient time to get over the “hype” and calm down enough to make an accurate assessment on their status
  • Don’t overdo it! Keep training sessions short and take a break for at least a few days every so often
  • It is good to have a physio to take your dog to if you’re really serious about agility training. Obviously this is rather expensive, so it’s understandable if you can’t afford this, but if you are going to compete or extensively agility train your dog, we would certainly recommend it
  • As with most things in life, use common sense. If in doubt, leave it

Which Breeds Are Most Suited for Agility Training?

Now, let me be clear – any dog can train agility, and if you’re thinking about it you should not be discouraged by what’s below. Just make sure you scale the obstacles, the extent of training and your expectation to your dog’s agility ability.

Agility is a very individual trait in dogs, and so you can have a Border Collie that’s a bit of a clutz (I’ve met a few) and not particularly suited for agility, and a bulldog that is great at it. But generally speaking, the list below is a guide as to which breeds usually top the agility competitions, vs the ones you rarely see.

Agility Obstacle Standards: Pause Tables

The dog breeds most suited to agility training are usually lightweight, quick and strong, with a desire to impress you and a strong engine. Examples of dog breeds that make excellent agility trainees include:

  • Border Collies
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Australian Cattle Dogs
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Australian Kelpie
  • Standard Poodle
  • Papillon
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Rat Terrier
  • Doberman Pinschers

Dogs that fare less well are breeds that are either really heavy in weight, notorious for a bad engines, short limbed or with breathing problems:

  • Dachshunds
  • Pugs
  • Great Danes
  • Mastiffs
  • Boxers
  • Bulldogs
  • Shih Tzu
  • Beagles
  • Newfoundlands
  • Bloodhounds
  • Basset Hounds

Another huge contributing factor (and this one is a little bit sensitive) is your dog’s intelligence. Some breeds are certainly more disposed to higher intelligence levels than others, but this is also very individual to the dog. I won’t be naming names or pointing fingers here, but if you do happen to own a dog south of the average intelligence line (and I think you know if you do!), just know that the journey will be challenging as all hell – but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

The Benefits of Agility Training Your Dog are Plenty!

Everything You Need to Know About Dog Agility Competitions

Whether your dog is Einstein or Goofy, a corgi, chihuahua or a rottweiler, agility training (appropriately scaled to your dog’s capacity) is a GREAT idea! Here’s why:

  • Agility training provides GREAT MENTAL STIMULATION for your dog, which is SO important. Dogs need mental stimulation just as much as they need physical! Read more about this here
  • It’s BONDING TIME, and your relationship with your dog is going to be so much stronger for it
  • Your dog will LOVE THE CHALLENGE, and will LOVE SEEING YOU SO PROUD when they get it right. Remember to be patient – your dog is trying desperately to impress you, so encourage them often
  • Because you are not just training their agility, but their OBEDIENCE AND GENERAL BEHAVIOUR as well
  • Both you and your dog are GETTING EXERCISE
  • A dog that has been sufficiently physically and mentally challenged, will be much more likely to be a DREAM DOG AT HOME
  • You have a reason to spend a good amount of time in the BEAUTIFUL OUTDOORS
  • Because it’s A LOT OF FUN 🙂

Equipment/DIY Agility Training/How to Get Started

Enough of the boring stuff – let’s get into it!

There is a range of different pieces of equipment you can use specifically for agility training. We have picked out some professional dog agility training equipment, and reviewed the top 5 in each category.

Ramps

There are 2 types of ramps – regular ramps and crossovers. The purpose of a regular ramp is for the dog just to make it over the ramp. Crossovers, however, are more complex in that they have multiple ramps all meeting at an apex in the middle.

This obstacle requires the dog to know which ramp to ascend, and which to descend, which means the handler needs to be able to clearly communicate with the dog, and tell them which ramp to pick.

Ramps are a great intro to agility – they can be easily scaled to suit a dogs size/ability and are relatively easy to coax a dog onto if they’ve never trained agility before.

Pros:

  • Easy introduction into agility

Cons:

  • They are large, take up a lot of space and are difficult to set up in your backyard
  • Expensive to buy and ship
  • Can easily get boring, and the uses of the obstacle are limited

Our Pick:

A-Frame Ramp for Dog Agility

This ramp from Kirby Built Products is relatively small at 90.75″ long x 18″ w x 24.5″ h, but could be good as a start. Cedar/Evergreen colours and made with 100% recyclable plastic. The item can be used as a ramp or an easy “A Frame”.

It’s sturdy and safe, with ribbed surface so it’s easier to climb. Shipping is free with this particular item, which is great.

Summary:

We give this ramp 8/10 because:

  • It’s safe
  • It’s small enough to fit in most people’s backyard comfortably with all the other obstacles
  • Shipping is included
  • As far as ramps go, the price is fairly competitive

A-Frame

A frames are very similar to ramps, only usually steeper, and only up and down without a flat part in the middle. A frames come in a range of difficulty levels, and can be scaled up as your dog progresses. It’s advisable to start on a smaller and less steep A frame (i.e. the product noted above under “Ramps”).

Pros:

  • Scalable to suit dogs ability

Cons:

  • Your dog needs to build up their confidence to this obstacle – don’t try to make them do it if they are not comfortable. If they seem unable to or hesitant to get up, try a smaller obstacle or lower grade/angle
  • Make sure the groundcover is soft enough to land on from a height comfortably

Our Pick:

Dog Agility A Frame by SportDOG Brand

This ramp is by SportDOG and is not for the faint of heart! It’s steel framed with aluminium alloy boards and rubber surface, which we love. It’s a solid and well engineered piece of equipment, the shipping is easy and the quality is great.

You have to assemble it yourself which is a bit of a project – but in a way I guess that’s lucky, or shipping costs would be ridiculous.

Summary:

We give this product 8.5/10 because:

  • It’s great quality
  • We love the soft rubber surface
  • It’s well engineered
  • The price is fairly competitive
  • The shipping is made easy

The Contenders:

BarkPark A Frame

This BarkPark A Frame is not as steep as the SportDOG one, at 127.5” long x 30” wide x 48.25” high. The frame is powder coated steel, and the surfacing is Caine Coat thermoplastic coating, which is also great. It mounts in-ground for additional stability and safety and comes in 2 colour schemes – natural beige & green or red & blue.

The price is hefty though, at almost double that of the SportDOG one. Shipping is included though, but even with this, the prices are miles apart.

Summary:

We give this product 6.5/10 because:

  • It’s great quality
  • We love the Caine Coat surface
  • We love in-ground mounting feature, and the additional support and safety that it provides
  • It’s well engineered
  • The shipping is included and made easy
  • It’s nice that you have a choice of colours, even if it’s just the 2
  • Unfortunately the price is just too much to make up for the extra features, which becomes the “King-of-the-Hills” downfall

SportDOG Agility A Frame 7’

This is SportDOG’s cheaper version, which features welded metal cylinders, plywood panels with sand grip coating and adjustable chain links. We love the price of the product at almost half of SportDOG’s other product, and the adjustable chains are handy, but that’s about all we love about it. The frame isn’t the most sturdy, it looks precarious and easy to tip, and the surfacing is a bit ruff on little paws.

Summary:

We give this product 6/10 because:

  • The quality looks OK
  • The surface is a bit rough
  • It looks unstable and easily tipped
  • The price great, but unfortunately in this case you do get what you pay for – or rather lack thereof. Our suggestion – if you want your dog to love agility and train safely, spend a little bit extra and get the next one up

Dog Walk

A dog walk is the same as a ramp, only with a flat portion in the middle. Like ramps, dog walks are a great way to introduce your dog to agility training.

In competitive settings, this obstacle is also called “contact obstacle”, as your dog has to make contact with the yellow zones. Unlike many other obstacles, the dog walk remains the same size for all dogs.

Pros:

  • Easy introduction into agility

Cons:

  • They are large, take up a lot of space and are difficult to set up in your backyard
  • Expensive to buy and ship
  • Can easily get boring, and the uses of the obstacle are limited

Our Pick:

Dog Sports Rubber Top Dog Walk

This mastodon dog walk looks like so much fun! The large option is absolutely HUGE at 8′ long x 3’ high x 12” wide and 150 pounds, so won’t work unless you have a lot of space. They do have an even bigger (and slightly more expensive) option of 12′ long x 3’ high x 12”, but I certainly wouldn’t fit it in my backyard.

It’s steel framed with aluminium alloy boards and rubber coating on the top, sides and ribs. It’s extremely sturdy and can hold up to 250 pounds.

Summary:

We give this dog walk 9/10 because:

  • It’s stable and safe
  • It’s made from high quality and durable material
  • It comes in 2 different sizes
  • It’s competition standard size, and so you can train is if in a competition
  • It’s foldable for easy of storage and shipping
  • For a dog walk of this size, the price is very competitive
  • It looks like so much fun
  • The only downside is the size – but if you have room for it, go for it!

The Contender:

Dog Sports Contact Trainer

 

The Contact Trainer is a mix between a dog walk, ramp and A Frame, which means it’s a good generic piece of equipment for basic training on all 3. It’s nowhere near the size of the Rubber Top Dog Walk and will easily fit even in the smallest of backyards.

It’s steel framed with a rubber top surface and lightly ribbed. It has one steeper side for A Frame training, a narrower ramp on the other side and yellow markers for contact training.

Summary:

We give this dog walk 8/10 because:

  • We love the versatility
  • It’s a manageable size that will fit in any backyard
  • The size also makes it easier to ship, transport and store
  • It’s stable and safe
  • It’s made from high quality and durable material
  • It’s a little bit on the pricey side for its size…

Tunnels

There are 2 types of tunnels, being regular tunnels and collapsed tunnels. A collapsed tunnel has a regular tunnel opening, but the main part of the tunnel is “collapsed” fabric (pictured right), meaning the dog has to navigate their way through to the end without seeing it.

Pros:

  • Easy introduction into agility
  • They are usually foldable and very lightweight, meaning they are easy to transport, store and ship
  • You can easily make them as easy or difficult as you want, increasing difficulty as your dog gets more confident
  • Most tunnels you can shape into straight lines, “S” shapes, “U” shapes or whatever you can conjure up

Cons:

  • Make sure the tunnel is large enough for your dog – you do not want them to get stuck halfway through!
  • Some dogs, like people, do not like enclosed spaces and can freak out. Start small, making the tunnel very short to coax them in. But it they don’t want to do it, don’t force them
  • The tunnels are made to be task specific – if you’re serious about training your dogs, don’t leave the tunnel out permanently/when you’re not around. This will not teach your dogs agility (quite the contrary, they will learn that they can do whatever they want with it), and it will ruin the tunnel. They are not meant to stay outside, but to be stored when not in use

Our Pick:

FurryFriends Pet Agility Tunnel

This tunnel is 18’ long and has a 24” wide opening which is large enough to accomodate large sized dogs (i.e. a german shepherd). It’s made from sturdy oxford dacron and is secured to the ground with 8 steel inserts that run flush with the grass.

The tunnel is at a very competitive price and comes with a carry bag. We love the large size opening, the durable material, and the ease of use and storage. The pegs/steel inserts could be sturdier material though, as they tend to come off and get lost in the grass. We recommend this one so long as you don’t require anything super heavy duty (i.e. use for competitions, multiple dogs, daily training etc).

Summary:

We give this product 9.5/10 because:

  • The price is excellent
  • The quality is great
  • The product is lightweight, easy to manage, store and pack away
  • The opening is nice and big and can accomodate all but the largest breeds
  • Easy to fold into shapes
  • Pegs are too light duty for heavier breeds and get lost in the grass…small downside on an otherwise great product

The Contenders:

Cool Runners Tunnel

Cool Runners Tunnel

This tunnel by Cool Runners is slightly shorter, at 15’, but the same opening size as the Furry Friends tunnel of 24”. This tunnel is made out of extremely heavy duty 19 ounce PVC and raised traction grip interior. The item is definitely more pricey than the alternatives in our list.

We love the high quality and durable material which seems to withstand an onslaught of not just one, but a pack of dogs, and puppies chewing on the material. Shipping is fast and the product is packed well.

The product itself is excellent, the price is just a tad too high.

Summary:

We give this product a 8/10 because:

  • The product is heavy duty enough to handle just about anything
  • Good is you have a small pack of dogs or using to train multiple dogs
  • Supplier is great
  • Shipping is fast and product is packed well
  • It’s got a very grippy interior which makes it easier for the dog
  • The price is the only thing that lets this baby down – but if you’re looking for top-notch quality, the price is actually pretty good

Cool Runners Lightweight Tunnel

Cool Runners Lightweight Tunnel

This is Furry Friends’ more expensive option, and in this case we don’t think more expensive necessarily equals better. At slightly shorter than the other Furry Friends tunnel (15’) and the same opening size (24”), this tunnel is the more expensive, more heavy duty tunnel. It’s made from 470GSM PVC material and is well priced at a mid-range between the 2 other products.

Summary:

We give this product 7.5/10 because:

  • We find the other (less expensive) Furry Friends tunnel is almost as good but at a much cheaper price
  • If you need to go with a super heavy duty option, we would recommend the Cool Runners over this one, even though it’s more expensive
  • Other than that, the material is good, the shipping is good, the other options are just better

Collapsible Tunnel

PawHut Agility Tunnel

Our top pick for a collapsable tunnel is the Paw Hut 16’ tunnel. It’s made from 210D Oxford Polyester and comes with a carrying case and 4 metal stakes to fix to the ground. This tunnel also has an opening of 24”, same as all the other ones on our list.

Our only qualm is that the “collapsed” end is slightly too long – but not a difficult problem to deal with if you have scissors handy. It could also be a good way to adjust the length of the collapsed end to your dog’s ability and confidence levels. Alternatively, you can roll up the end and un-roll as your dog progresses. Not enough of a problem at the very competitive price point.

Summary:

We give this product a 8.5/10 because:

  • It comes at a very good price
  • It’s sturdy enough to handle most beginner training sessions
  • The long collapsed end, although slightly annoying, provides an opportunity to let your dog grow in to the challenge, and make the tunnel longer as their confidence improves

Seesaws

Seesaws, or teeters, are all about balance and confidence. Like the dog walk and the A frame, the seesaw is also a contact obstacle. The yellow contact point in in the middle of the seesaw, and the dogs paws must make contact with it before proceeding over.

This is a slightly more advanced obstacle than ramps and A frames and should be taken in steps. The idea is for your dog to learn at what point the weight shifts from one side to the other.

Pros:

  • Once mastered, the seesaw can really boost confidence in your dog
  • They come in varying sizes and the smaller versions can easily fit in any backyard
  • Some models are dismantlable for ease of transport, storage and shipping

Cons:

  • Many dogs are weary of this obstacle at first, and shy or easily frightened dogs may struggle with this one

Our Pick:

Mini Travel Teeter

The cheapest option by far on our list, this seesaw comes with the added extras of being dismantable enough to fit in the trunk of most cars, it’s small enough to safely introduce a dog to the obstacle while still offering the full extent of the obstacle, super easy to assemble.

The seesaw stands 12” tall with a 12’ long board and 10.5” wide with 2 removable panels on the ends. The mainframe is PVC with plastic boards and treated with an anti slip sand surface. As the product is not designed to AKC standards, or for dogs over 60 pounds, we recommend this as an seesaw-intro for small to medium size dogs only. But if that’s all you need it for, this is our pick.

The quality is not the best on our list, but if used as intended that won’t be a problem.

Summary:

We give this seesaw a 9/10 because:

  • We love the price
  • It’s dismantlable, and dead easy to assemble
  • It’s perfect as an intro to seesaw training
  • It’s small enough that it will fit in most backyards and the back of a car when dismantled
  • The only letdown is that it’s not built for large or heavy dogs…

The Contenders:

SportDOG Rubber Top Seesaw

SportDOG Rubber Top Seesaw

This seesaw from SportDOG is the same length as the Mini Travel Teeter, but at a slightly wider 12”, an adjustable height ranging 20-24” and a weight limit of 250 pounds, this seesaw is much better suited for larger and/or heavier dogs.

At more than 3x the price of our top pick, it’s certainly built better and better quality ingredients (steel base, aluminium alloy plaks and rubber surface) but just not enough to make it worth that much more, unless by necessity you need it because your dog is larger.

What we do love about it is that, like the Mini Travel Teeter it also collapses (both the planks and the base folds, but doesn’t come apart), the adjustable height is great and the surfacing is much nicer for dogs.

Summary:

We give this seesaw 8.5/10 because:

  • It’s well engineered
  • It’s really good quality and built from good materials
  • The height is adjustable
  • It’s foldable for ease of transport, storage and shipping
  • It is wide and sturdy enough to take large and heavy dogs
  • You can use it for official training/competition
  • The only let down, like so many other products in our review, is the $ investment…

BarkPark Dog Agility Teeter Totter

BarkPark Dog Agility Teeter Totter

The BarkPark Teeter Totter only just makes our list. Not only is it the most expensive one, it also unfortunately lacks both the adjustable height of the SportDOG seesaw and the dismantlability of the Mini Travel Teeter. What it does have going for it is the frame made of rugged powder coated steel and the Caine Coat thermoplastic coating, and the fact that it comes in 2 colours.

Unlike the other products, which have triangular shaped bases for stability, the Teeter Totter needs to be fixed in-ground. It is also quite a step angle, at 25.5” high with only a 7.7’ long board, which means it’s not a great intro to the seesaw – especially for beginner agility dogs.

Summary:

We give this product a 6/10, because:

  • As the priciest item in this list, it’s slightly more than the superior SportDOG seesaw
  • You have to fix it in-ground, which creates an extra obstacle (pun intended)
  • It is not foldable or dismantlable, so transporting and storing will be more complicated. Shipping is free though, which is a plus
  • The angle is too steep for beginner dogs, but may be a good training tool for advanced dogs. The SportDOG item does have the option of being adjustable height though, so nothing that can’t be done with that
  • The material is good, and the in-ground fixing does mean that it will be pretty stable (so long as you’ve done it right)

Jumps

There are a number of different types of jumps, including:

  • Hurdles: regular bar, usually adjustable. Purpose: to clear over the top
  • Spread Jumps (Double & Triple Jump): bars displaced horizontally to create a “wider” obstacle to clear. Purpose: to clear over the top
  • Panel Jump: a solid panel up to the jumping height. Purpose: to clear over the top
  • Broad Jump: a set of 4 or 5 slightly raised platforms lying next to each other on the ground. This created an obstacle with low clarning height, but large ground cover area. Purpose: to clear over the top
  • Tyre Jump: usually a plastic (and lightweight) “tire” suspended in a frame. Purpose: to clear the inside of the tire

Instead of going through each category of jump and giving recommendations in each, I have picked 3 that give the most range for training; hurdles, broad jump and tyre jump. As panel jumps are similar to hurdles, and panel jump is a mix between hurdles and broad jump, I think you can get by (at least initially) without these.

Pros:

  • Jumps are very customizable, and can be suited to any level
  • Most jumps can be easily taken apart and transported and stored with ease
  • They are fairly inexpensive as far as dog agility equipment goes

Cons:

  • Unless you fix them into the ground with solid supports, jumps easily fall over when hit – so you may find yourself constantly standing them up

Our Pick:

Lord Anson Hurdle Cone Set

Lord Anson Hurdle Cone Set

We picked this one over many competitors mainly due to its versatility. The set is made up of 8 cones and 4 bars. Each cone has 4 height settings, with options including 5”, 9”, 13” & 17”.  This means you can configure them in lots of different ways – sequence, height and width.

For a final challenge, you can attempt putting the bar on the very top of the cone, which stands 21” tall – but for this to work your dog needs to be able to clear it with a margin.

The cones and rods are made from heavy duty plastic, and the cones stack for ease of storage and transport. The rods are 5’ long and can be dismantled. The only downside is the fixing point in the poles – there is a weakness here if hit hard by a heavy dog, and it would be better if this was a “screw in” extension rather than having to sit down with screws and screwdriver every time you want to assemble or dismantle. But overall, still a great product.

The price is very fair, and they do give you a small discount if you want to double the quantity and buy 2 sets.

Summary:

We give Lord Anson’s Hurdle Cone Set a 9/10 because:

  • It’s a very versatile set-up, giving you lots of options for sequence, height and width
  • You get 4 hurdles, where usually you would just get a single hurdle or a set of 2. This is really the minimum you need to set up a course
  • The material is sturdy and the cones don’t tip as easily as pole hurdles
  • Fairly priced with small discount for 2 x sets
  • The stacking and folding ability of the product is great for limited space
  • The weakness in the pole fixing point and fiddly assembly/dismantling are the only downsides. But if you are planning to set it up and leave it, or using it only on occasion, the latter will not a problem

Affordable Agility Practise Broad Jump

Affordable Agility Practise Broad Jump

This broad jump set-up consists of 4 very lightweight slightly raised boards and 4 marker poles. Very easy to set up and take apart for storage and transport. As the boards are loose it it easy to adjust to any size dog by just removing the last board. The boards increase slightly both in ascension and width.

The boards are also made to fit inside each other in order to save space when not in use. The boards are made from weatherproof vinyl/plastic, and it comes with red and blue vinyl tape rolls so you can be an artist and decorate the obstacle yourself. This may be a let down for you if you are not the arty type, but I like the touch. It also comes with a sizing chart to help you figure out where you should start based on the size of your dog.

The price is around where we would expect it to be. Good value.

Summary:

We give this product a 9/10 because:

  • It’s so lightweight and easy to transport
  • The boards fit inside eachother, saving space
  • Very easy to set up
  • Easy to scale according to ability
  • Fairly priced
  • The sizing chart is a nice touch
  • We think the “DIY” tape is a nice touch, but some may interpret it as lazy selling

Affordable Agility Practise Tire Jump

Affordable Agility Practise Tire Jump

Once again, Affordable Agility tops our list – this time for a tyre jump. The frame is lightweight and the base is decently sturdy, and you can easily adjust the height of the ring by sliding it up or down. The lowest setting is 2” and goes all the way up to 30”. Once again the brand lives up to its name by being affordable.

Similarly with the broad jump, the decor is up to yourself with the red and blue vinyl tape that comes with the set. The ring is made from a regular pool noodle, so not the best quality – but if you tape it all over it will last.

Summary:

We give this product 8/10 because:

  • It’s super lightweight which is great
  • The height is adjustable unlike many tyre jumps
  • The fact that it’s not suspended in a frame means it takes up much less space
  • The let down is the quality – we had expected more from this brand than a regular pool noodle, which is sensitive to both weather and sharp claws. But taped well, this should be OK

Weave Poles

Weave poles are, in my humble opinion, one of the most difficult of the obstacles to teach your dog. It requires discipline, great communication between you and your dog, and precision. It’s also one of the tricker obstacles to set up, as the distance between the poles needs to be on point.

Pros:

  • Weave poles are one of the lightest agility obstacles, and therefore easiest to store and transport
  • Weave poles are also commonly among the cheapest obstacles, as they don’t require much material

Cons:

  • Difficult to set out with distances and angles specific to your dog
  • Can be difficult to get them to fix properly into the ground and remain stable

Our Pick:

Dog Agility Shop Weave Pole with Guide Wires

Dog Agility Shop Weave Pole with Guide Wires

What a clever idea! These weave poles come with clip-on guide wires to help you train your dog what to do. You get a set of 6 poles, each 36” long, and 4 heavy duty adjustable height clip on/off Guide Wires to complete the circuit. You also get a set of spiral spikes to fix into the ground.

Unlike the Affordable Agility products, this one comes pre-decorated with the red and blue stripes, and the item is ready to use out of the box. It’s the most expensive option in this list, but with the guide wires (which the opposition lack), they’re worth it.

Summary:

We give the wire-guided weave poles 9/10 because:

  • They are so easy to use and require no work out of the box
  • Love the guide wires, they make the process so much easier. And they are adjustable height too!
  • Easy to fix into the ground, albeit not able to withstand a heavy hit before you have to reset it

The Contenders:

Cool Runners Agility Weave Poles

Cool Runners Agility Weave Poles

As the cheapest in our list (by a hairline margin), the Cool Runners weave poles end up at the bottom of our list unfortunately (just). But there are plenty of things about it that we love.

The fully adjustable base makes it really easy to set the poles up as you want them – i.e. straight or offset – whilst still maintaining a relatively stable base (without poking holes all through your lawn!). It’s obviously not as versatile as the Dog Agility weave poles (as they are separate, and not fixed to a base) but we feel the base is still flexible enough to not be a big issue.

The downsides are that you need a pretty much perfectly level surface to sit the base on, and having the stakes fixed to the base means there is a weakness, and the poles may snap on a direct hit by a heavy dog.

It comes with a carry bag and grass stakes as well for additional support, which is cool. A couple of reviewievers have note, however, that the stakes were missing when their order arrived – so if you are buying this product, have a look when it arrives and get back to them straight away if something is missing.

Summary:

We give this product a 7.5/10 because:

  • We love how easy the base is to use and assemble, and that it doesn’t require ground fixing
  • Less holes on your lawn
  • It’s foldable and therefore easy to store and transport
  • It’s cheap
  • It comes with a carry bag and grass stakes for additional stability. Well, you’re supposed to anyway
  • It’s not as versatile as separate poles, as they are all stuck to the base
  • The connection point between the base and the pole creates a weakness, and may cause the pole to snap on a direct hit by a heavy dog
  • The base requires almost perfectly level ground to work well

Pawise Agility Training Equipment

Pawise Agility Training Equipment

These Pawise weave poles land as a solid runner up.

The Pawise weave poles are almost exactly the same price as the Cool Runners poles, but are not fixed to a base. Also, you get 12 poles in this pack, which is a good amount to set up a decent course. They don’t have the guide wires that the Dog Agility poles have, but they are slightly cheaper.

The poles are very basic plastic with long metal stakes for stability. They are super easy to carry around and set up. The poles come in 2 colours – 6 of them blue and the other 6 orange, so you can observe easier. The product also comes with a carry bag, which is very slightly on the small side, and a rope to ensure you are setting the poles up in a straight line (if that’s what you want).

Summary:

We give the Pawise poles an 8.5/10 because:

  • Love that you get 12 poles instead of the standard 6. This enables you to set up a longer and more challenging course
  • They are so easy to use
  • The long stakes keeps them firmly in-ground
  • It comes with a carry bad and rope for ease of set-up
  • Good price
  • The only reason the Dog Agility poles win is because of the guide wires!

Pause Tables

Pause tables are in the “contact” category of obstacles, and your dog needs to make contact with the yellow section with their paws. The pause table (or tables) require great communication between dog and handler, as you don’t know what your dog will have to do in the pause table – sit, stand or lie down. The dog also needs to stay on the table until you’ve said they can go, and so in addition to “doing” commands, your dog also needs to know “hold” or “wait” commands.

This obstacle is particularly difficult for very energetic dogs, and especially in the adrenaline of a competition. You might find that sitting/lying or standing still for 5 seconds is harder than all the other obstacles combined!

Pros:

  • Pause tables include both difficult and simple tasks, so there is something for everyone

Cons:

  • Raised pause tables are usually a quite large and bulky object, and so more difficult to store and transport than, say, poles

Our Pick:

Agility by Carlson Pause Table

Agility by Carlson Pause Table

Let’s be honest – there’s not much to pause tables, and so they don’t need to be anything flash. That said, I do like the ones that are raised over on-ground ones. The Carlson pause table is all it needs to be: simple, lightweight PVC frame with a thick plywood top and faux turf coating. Nothing flash, and the price is reasonable.

The Carlson pause table is 35” x 35” and comes in 4 different set heights: 8”, 12”, 20” and 24” (all the same price).

Summary:

We give the Carlson pause table 9/10 because:

  • It does all the things a pause table needs to do
  • It comes at a reasonable price
  • It’s nice and lightweight
  • It’s durable and will easily last even if left outdoors permanently

The Contenders:

Affordable Agility Wood Pause Table

Affordable Agility Wood Pause Table

Unfortunately in this instance our trusted Affordable Agility friends appear to be not so affordable. Being the most expensive on this list (at almost double the price of the Carlson table), this pause table is also made from PVC with 2 sets of different height legs and, as the name suggests, a very sturdy wooden top. It’s also treated with a traction surface.

OK, we like that you’ve gone to the effort of good quality, but even a exceptionally heavy dog will have a hard time breaking the Carlson pause table, so we wonder if it’s necessary.

Summary:

We give the Wood pause table a 7/10 because:

  • It’s good quality and adjustable standard heights
  • The price is a bit high, and unless you are really serious about your training, we feel the overengineered quality it’s not really necessary

Beginner Kits & Packages

Buying each piece individually can be a pain, especially if they are all from different suppliers – so if you are starting out and you want the whole kit and not just individual obstacles, we have picked out these “starter kits” for you.

Budget Option

Affordable Agility Essentials Set

Affordable Agility Essentials Set

This was the best budget package we would find, which includes 1 x tyre jump, 1 x hurdle jump and 1 x set of 6 weave poles. For under $150 including shipping we feel it’s a fair price for a starter set.

Standard Options

Affordable Agility “Agility in a Bag”

Affordable Agility “Agility in a Bag”

If you want to go the next step up, once again Affordable Agility has what you need. In this set you get everything you get in the “Essentials” pack, as well as 1 x pause square, 1 x tunnel and a carry bag. At under $280 including shipping, it’s one of the best value for money kits we could find.

Weave Poles Beginners Bundle/Package

Weave Poles Beginners Bundle/Package

This package is slightly more expensive than the “Agility in a Bag” kit at just under $450 including shipping – but if it’s quality you’re after, this is the better option. This pack comes without the pause square (which is the easiest part to just make yourself), but the hurdle is a double as opposed to a single, and the tyre jump is better quality.

Pro Options

BarkPark Small Dog 4pc, 6pc & 9pc Agility Course Kits

BarkPark have the kit-and-kaboodle options if you’re getting really serious about agility training, and you have plenty of space (and cash) to spare.

The first option is the 4pc, which includes 1 x tunnel, 1 x pause table, 1 x set of 6 weave poles and 1 x set of 3 ring jumps. The party comes at a price (at time of writing) of just over $2,700 including shipping. Expensive – but the obstacles are all metal, no cheap PVC, plastic, plywood or pool noodles.

BarkPark Small Dog 4pc, 6pc & 9pc Agility Course Kits

Next is the 6pc, which at just under $5,900 includes the 4pc package, plus 1 x decently sized dog walk and 1 x set of 3 “Stepping Paws”. You know, I’m not even sure what the “stepping paws” are for, but I’m sure you could have a lot of fun with them anyways!

These 2 packages come in  colour schemes – red and blue as pictures, or green and beige.

BarkPark Small Dog 4pc, 6pc & 9pc Agility Course Kits

BarkPark’s final mastodon package is the 9pc “Advanced” package, which includes the 6pc set plus an additional 2 “stepping paws”, 1 x seesaw, 1 x A Frame and 1 x “Rover Jump Over” hurdle. This baby comes at a hefty price of $10,100, and is probably only worth it if you:

  1. Have more dollars than cents
  2. Live, breath and eat Dog Agility or
  3. You’re planning on running your own local agility competition and charging entry

Final Words

Hopefully you now have some more insights as to what dog agility actually is. The most important thing to remember is to train safety and have fun with it. Make sure you suit the training to your dogs personal capacity, and remember that there is no “one size fits all”.

If you want to start training in your own backyard, or local park, have a look at some of our recommend products or packages above, and start your training this week!

If you have any tips or ideas, or feedback on any of the information in this article, we would love to hear them. Either leave a comment below or email us directly.

Good luck with your agility endeavours, and remember – have fun!

References

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