By Susyn Stecchi
Are you looking to add an agility or obstacle course with dog park equipment to your park or multi-family community?
There are two types of dog agility courses. One is for professional championship trials that have to adhere to the standards of the various dog agility professional organizations such as the USDAA. The other is the informal, recreational type of dog playground equipment course, best suited for dog parks and multi-family housing.
Why would you want your dog to use dog park agility equipment? Agility training is a wonderful opportunity for you to partner with your dog as their coach and trainer while your dog gets to learn to approach and complete various obstacles, increasing your dog’s confidence and giving it exercise at the same time. Any dog, regardless of breed or size, will benefit from agility exercise. But start slowly, just as you would when starting your own exercise program.
Most recreational dog park dogs and their owners do not intuitively know how to use dog agility equipment. Professional dog trainers use food to lure dogs onto or into obstacles that they would normally just walk around or avoid. Food inside a dog park is not recommended.
Also, the distractions of other dogs playing outside the agility area make it hard for the dog being taught to use agility equipment to remain focused on the task. For this reason, dog park planners should select an area of the dog park that is far from the main activity. Fence it in and designate it just for agility use.
The designated agility area doesn’t have to be any particular shape – a corner chunk of the dog park or a long rectangular slice can both work fine for recreational dog agility setups. The space does need to be spacious enough to allow for leaping and running dogs so that they don’t run into a fence or other equipment while running the obstacles.
The easiest and fastest way to construct your dog agility course is to purchase a dog agility equipment starter kit from a reputable vendor. Make sure the equipment that you select is sturdy, non-toxic to dogs, and will stand up to the environment that your dog park is located in. Be sure the coating is urine-proof for products where a dog would sit or stand. You can start out small at first and add on later if use of the agility course increases.
Typical starter dog park kits usually consists of a bar jump or hurdle, a tire or hoop jump, stepping pods, and a show or pause table. The bar jump or hurdle should have bars that are both adjustable in height (to both accommodate different size dogs and increase the challenge as the dog’s performance increases) and break away to protect the dog from injury.
The pause or show table provides both a break for the dog to rest and also tests its obedience to stay and pause. It does not need to be very high, but it should have a large enough surface to accommodate a larger dog such as a golden retriever standing on top of it.
For a recreational dog agility course, the layout will depend on the shape of the space devoted to it. Ideally, there will be 15 feet between each obstacle, but there should be at least a minimum of 10 feet between each obstacle.
Before we discuss layouts, keep in mind that professional championship trials and competitions constantly vary their dog agility equipment layouts. While your recreational dog agility equipment will be permanently installed, the dedicated site that you choose may limit the variety that is possible. Corner sites will allow for more variety than rectangular configurations, as you will see from the layout suggestions.
Rectangular dog park agility equipment layouts:
Each of these will have two different run patterns, from one direction to the other and reverse back.
Square Dog Agility Layout:
This layout can become five different courses by varying the run pattern.
Susyn Stecchi is the author of “So You Want to Build a Dog Park: A Comprehensive Guide for Municipalities and Private Entities.” The 569-page, complete dog park guide book is now in its 8th edition. The Park and Facilities Catalog offers a full line of dog agility equipment for parks and multi-family communities.