An Overview of Dog Agility Equipment
Training your dog for agility requires the right equipment. But with such a wide selection of dog agility equipment, how do you decide what you need?
The major factors that will determine what kind of agility equipment you need will be your expectations and goals.
What are you trying to achieve? Are you planning to compete in agility trials or just looking for an activity you can enjoy with your dog?
Once you have the answers to the above questions, deciding what equipment to buy will be an easy task.
Agility equipment falls into several categories, and that's how I decided to present it.
But before we take a look at dog agility equipment, here is something important you need to know:
- All obstacles in agility are designed with dog safety in mind.
- Jumps have easily displaceable bars to prevent an injury if your dog misjudges and takes down a jump bar.
- Contact equipment surfaces are roughened for good traction in both dry and wet weather.
Let's take a look at the most popular categories of dog agility equipment...
"Contact Obstacles" Agility Equipment
A-frame consists of two platforms, usually about 3 feet wide by 8 to 9 feet long, hinged together and raised so that the hinged connection is between five and six-and-a-half feet above the ground, forming roughly an "A" shape.
The bottom 36 to 42 inches of both sides of the A-frame are painted a light color, usually yellow, sometimes red, forming the contact zone into which the dog must place at least one paw while ascending or descending.
A Dogwalk consists of three 8 to 12 ft planks, 9 to 12 inches wide, connected at the ends.
The center plank is raised to about 4 feet above the ground so that the two end planks form ramps leading up to and down from the center plank.
This obstacle also has contact zones.
Teeter-totter consists of a 10 to 12 foot plank supported just off-center about 2 feet above the ground so that the same end always returns to the ground.
Similar to an A-frame and a Dogwalk, this apparatus has contact zones.
The balance point and the weight of the plank must be such that even a tiny dog can cause the high end of the teeter-totter to descend to the ground within a reasonable amount of time, usually about 3 seconds. Smaller dogs get more time to run a course.
Picture a 4-foot high table obstacle with Dogwalk ramps descending from the center of all four sides.
The dog must ascend the correct ramp and then change direction at the top to descend the ramp indicated by the handler.
This is not a very commonly used obstacle.
"Tunnels" Dog Agility Equipment
Tunnel (or chute)
A dog agility tunnel is one of the most common and recognizable pieces of dog agility equipment.
It's a solid tube, 10 to 20 feet long and about 2 feet in diameter, through which the dog runs.
The tunnel is constructed of flexible vinyl and wire so that it can be configured in a straight line or be curved.
Collapsed Tunnel (also known as "Dog Agility Chute")
A barrel-like cylinder with a tube of fabric attached around one end.
The fabric extends about 8 to 12 feet and lies closed until the dog runs into the open end of the chute and pushes his way out through the fabric tube.
While not as common as a Tunnel, it's still a very popular and fun apparatus.
"Jumps" Dog Agility Equipment
Jump (or hurdle)
A Jump consists of two upright bars that support a horizontal bar over which the dog jumps.
The height is adjusted for dogs of different heights.
The uprights can be simple bars or can have wings of various shapes, sizes, and colors.
Double and triple jumps
This apparatus consists of two or three sets of uprights, each with horizontal poles.
The double can have parallel or ascending horizontal bars; the triple always has ascending bars.
The spread between the horizontal bars can be adjusted for the height of the dog.
A Panel is similar to a Jump but instead of horizontal bars the panel jump has a solid panel from the ground up to the jump height.
It's usually constructed of several short panels that can be removed to adjust the height for different dog heights.
A Broad jump consists of a set of four or five slightly raised platforms that form a broad area over which the dog must jump without setting feet on any of the platforms.
Its length can be adjusted for dog's height.
This apparatus consists of a tire suspended in a frame.
The tire is wrapped with tape so that there are no openings or uneven places in which the dog could injure himself.
The height of the frame can be adjusted to your dog's height.
The dog must jump through the opening of the tire, which varies between 18 and 24 inches.
Miscellaneous Dog Agility Equipment
Table (or pause table)
A Table consists of an elevated platform about 3-foot-by-3-foot square onto which the dog must jump and pause, either sitting or in a down position, for a certain period (usually about 5 seconds) counted out by the judge.
The height of the Table ranges from about 8 to 30 inches depending on the dog's height.
The Pause box is a variation of a Pause table.
It's a square marked off on the ground, usually with plastic pipe or construction tape, where the dog must perform the "pause" behavior (in either a "sit" or a "down" positions) just as he would on the elevated table.
This is another very recognizable piece of dog agility equipment.
Similar to slalom, dog agility weave poles consist of a series of upright poles, each about 3 feet tall and spaced about 20 inches apart, through which the dog weaves.
The dog must always enter with the first pole to his left and must not skip any poles.
Here is a short video that demonstrates the most common pieces of dog agility equipment...
If all of the above left you a little intimidated, don't be! Most of that equipment is for competitions and you don't need it.
A good dog agility equipment starter kit will usually include the most popular obstacles, including dog agility weaver poles, a high jump, dog agility tunnel, and dog agility chute. In addition to the agility equipment, these sets usually come with a agility training instructional booklet.
And if you are handy, dog agility equipment plans are also available for making your own agility equipment.
Teaching your dog the basic execution of most obstacles takes only a small amount of time and simple training techniques. Have fun!
You may also wish to explore the following articles:
Want to learn more?
If you are a new dog owner and want to learn more about dog behavior and obedience training, I highly recommend you read and follow this Secrets to Dog Training guide. It's written by a professional dog trainer and is full of techniques you can use to teach your dog new tricks.
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