Many of our beloved pet dogs spend a lot of their time being bored and under exercised. They’re expected to quietly entertain themselves while we’re at work, at the grocery store, watching TV, cooking meals, reading, and more. They are also expected to sleep at night, of course.
While some dogs are content with a few short walks around the block every day or a quick romp in the backyard, most dogs simply aren’t cut out for that sedentary lifestyle. Their parents and grandparents were bred for hunting or farm work, and their energy needs (and intellectual capacities) far surpass the quiet suburban life we give them.
That’s where a DIY obstacle course for your pet can come in! Obstacle courses are a fun and easy way to exercise your dog’s body and mind. Even if you live in a tiny studio apartment, you can use obstacle courses to create fun games for your dogs. Most dogs will enjoy moving their body in fun and new ways!
Most obstacle course designs pull from aspects of dog agility, but those require a lot of space. However, you can incorporate elements from agility into any size space!
Ideas for DIY Obstacle Course
- Unstable surfaces. From couch cushions to wobble boards, you can help your dog build core strength and confidence by having them walk over, sit on, or even perform obedience exercises on unstable surfaces.
- Raised platforms. Low coffee tables, curbs, and stumps can all double as raised platforms for your dog to jump up onto. The jumping increases fitness and the balance boosts confidence!
- Jumps. Tree roots, logs, or even ski poles balanced between two chairs can double as jumps for your dog to bound over.
- Balance beams. Again, you can use logs, planks, or anything else long and skinny to help your dog learn to balance across a beam. This is challenging and requires lots of balance, so start with short and low-to-the ground beams for safety.
- Tunnels. It can be a lot harder to build your own tunnels. However, I’ve used culverts and other random objects around town to play tunnel games with my dog. Many dogs really seem to enjoy dashing through tunnels at top speed.
Reward-based training will ensure that your dog feels more comfortable with your new obstacle course. Don’t simply drag your pup over the obstacles by her leash. Instead, use treats and toys to help her feel happy and comfortable!
Take It Slow
Take it slow and make sure your dog has the opportunity to enjoy the obstacles and feel confident performing them. Even though both approaches use food, it’s quite different to lure a scared dog across a balance beam with a fistful of chicken than it is to reward a dog with chicken after she confidently strides across the same obstacle. One is a bribe that can push the dog past her comfort zone, the other is a reward for a job well done!
If you need to reward your dog for half-completed obstacles or “good tries,” that’s perfectly acceptable! The goal is to have fun with your dog and get their mind and body working through a game.
Lastly, you can find more DIY games like this DIY obstacle course for your pet on our blog.