woman helping her dog through weave poles
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How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Build this easy-to-assemble agility course for your dog, and watch him get happier, healthier—and smarter

You have your tricked-out media room. The kids have their backyard playground. But what about your dog? We think this oh-so-important family member deserves a special home recreation area too.

Which is why we recommend getting everyone together this weekend and building her an agility course. Not only will it give you and your family some quality bonding time with your favorite canine, the workout the course can provide will be great for your dog's health, behavior, and longevity. "Active dogs tend to keep fluid in their joints longer, which lessens the effects of aging," says Carrie DeYoung of the American Kennel Club. And watching your pup fly over hurdles, whip around poles, and balance herself on a teeter-totter provides way more family entertainment than watching TV or playing video games. Here's how to build your dog's rec area.

Plan to make one of these? Show us the finished project and you could be featured in This Old House magazine


Steps // How to Build a Pet Agility Course
1 ×

Cut List for Pet Agility Course

 
Step One // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Cut List for Pet Agility Course

cut diagrams of three excise units of a pet agility course
Illustration by Jennifer Stimpson

Clean the printing off the pipes using clear PVC cleaner (optional). Mark each section of pipe to length using the cut list below. Cut all the sections using a pull saw. Write the length of each section at the end of the pipe where the marking will later be covered by a connector or end cap.

Cut List
(All 1½-inch pipe, unless otherwise noted)

Agility Jump (download plan here)
8 @ 12 inches
2 @ 48 inches
2 @ 5½ inches
2 @ 6½ inches
2 @ 15¼ inches

Weave Poles (download plan here)
4 @ 18½ inches
2 @ 12 inches
2 @ 24 inches
6 @ 40 inches

Teeter-Totter (download plan here)
8 @ 3¼ inches
8 @ 19 inches
4 @ 14½ inches
4 @ 12-inch
1 @ 12 inches (2-inch pipe)

Plan to make one of these? Show us the finished project and you could be featured in This Old House magazine

 
2 ×

Jump Bars

 
Step Two // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Jump Bars

dog jumping over jump bars in yard
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

This jump bar helps Fido build up his hindquarters and develop a better sense of boundaries. It also helps breeds that are prone to hip problems (such as Labs and German shepherds) improve strength and agility.

 
3 ×

Cut the Bar Rests

 
Step Three // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Cut the Bar Rests

handsaw cutting pvc pipe pipe
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

To create the cups on which the ends of the jump bars rest, mark four tees at the center outlet on one side of the middle line. Insert a scrap piece of pipe in one end of the tee to hold on to, and clamp the other end of the tee to a work surface. Cut the line using a pull saw, then turn the tee and cut parallel to it to remove the larger side of the center outlet. The leftover cup will hold the jump bars in place while allowing them to dislodge easily so that your dog can't be injured.

 
4 ×

Assemble the Jump

 
Step Four // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Assemble the Jump

mark powers assembling jump bars in yard with dog lying next to him
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Assemble one side of the jump in this order: tee, 5½-inch pipe, cut tee, 6½-inch pipe, cut tee, 15¼-inch pipe, and end cap.

Using a block and a hammer, push each connection together until the pipe rests against the shoulder inside the connectors. The center of each cup should sit 8 inches and 16 inches from the ground. To hold the sides upright, insert a 12-inch pipe into each outlet of the bottom tee; fit one with an end cap and one with another tee. Push two 12-inch pipes fitted with end caps into the base tee to steady the assembly.

Assemble the second side. Connect the two sides by resting a 48-inch pipe between them. Wrap four strips of red tape around each jump bar and several around each side to increase the jump's visibility.

 
5 ×

Weave Poles

 
Step Five // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Weave Poles

woman running dog through weave bars in yard
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

A series of six weave poles keeps your dog agile by working his joints and muscles. Start with three, then add more as your pooch progresses.

 
6 ×

Connect the Base Pieces

 
Step Six // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Connect the Base Pieces

mark powers drilling holes in pvc pipes for weave bars
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

To be sure the base pieces for the weave polls won't spin, first connect each 18½-inch piece to the side of a tee. Tap the pipes tight into the tees using a block and a hammer. Drill a hole through the tee into the pipe using a drill/driver fitted with a 1/16-inch bit. Connect the two with a 1-inch set screw.

 
7 ×

Align the Poles

 
Step Seven // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Align the Poles

mark powers standing a length of weave bars on end
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Attach the tee-pipe pairs to create one long line. Insert a 12-inch pipe into the tees on either end of the run and fit each with an elbow, a 24-inch pipe, and an end cap. Insert a 40-inch pipe fitted with an end cap into each of the six tees. Lay the entire row on its side on a flat surface to keep all the tee outlets parallel. Mark a line that crosses in between each tee and pipe between the uprights so that you can keep them lined up the right way when you put the screw in. Using a drill/driver, drill a hole at each connection, making sure the mark stays aligned. Secure these connections with 1-inch set screws.

 
8 ×

Add End Supports

 
Step Eight // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Add End Supports

mark powers using drill to attach feet at ends of weave bars
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Straighten the polls vertically while pushing the legs at either end to opposite sides of the polls to create a large Z shape. When the weave polls are straight up and down, drill and sink a set screw through both ends of each elbow on either end of the polls. Wrap two strips of blue tape at the top and bottom of each weave poll and one strip in the center.

 
9 ×

Teeter-Totter

 
Step Nine // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Teeter-Totter

woman standing next to dog on teeter-totter
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Doing a balancing act on a teeter-totter helps dogs gain confidence and trust your commands—particularly "come," "stop," and "stay"—as you help them over it.

 
10 ×

Find the Plank Balance Point

 
Step Ten // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Find the Plank Balance Point

hands marking the tipping point with a t-square and pencil
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Mark the tipping point of the teeter-totter at 5 feet along a 12-by-8-inch laminated shelving board. Positioning this fulcrum away from the entry side of the teeter-totter will slow the drop rate once the dog crosses it. Mark two lines 2 inches from either side of the fulcrum. Mark each outside line at 3 and 9 inches from the edge.

 
11 ×

Drill for the Center Spin Pipe

 
Step Eleven // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Drill for the Center Spin Pipe

drilling the holes in the teeter-totter
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Dry-fit the holes of a 2-inch strap on the crosshairs. To create space for the head of the bolt to sit flush with the top of the plank, remove the strap and drill one-quarter the depth of each hole using a drill/driver fitted with a 5/8-inch paddle bit. Drill the rest of each hole with a 3/8-inch bit.

 
12 ×

Bolt on the Center Spin Pipe

 
Step Twelve // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Bolt on the Center Spin Pipe

attaching the pipe strap assembly to the teeter-totter board
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Set the 12-inch length of 2-inch PVC pipe inside the straps with their holes aligned with the holes in the board. Attach the pipe-strap assembly to the board using 3/8-inch flathead bolts. Space the strap from the board with four washers at each bolt. Tighten a locknut onto each bolt using a flathead screwdriver and an adjustable wrench.

 
13 ×

Paint the Board

 
Step Thirteen // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Paint the Board

painting the board
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Paint the entire board with white primer. When the primer is dry, outline a 1-foot-wide area over the fulcrum with painter's tape. Paint the contact zones on either side of the board in yellow paint mixed with an antiskid additive.

 
14 ×

Attach Balance Weights

 
Step Fourteen // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Attach Balance Weights

using a drill/driver to add weights to the board
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Use two weights to slow the descent of the board when a dog is on it. To make them, fill 12-inch lengths of pipes with gravel and cap both ends. Attach the weights as close to the end of the entry side as you can without raising the board off the ground. Secure the weights with metal strapping and 3/4-inch sheet-metal screws.

 
15 ×

Assemble the Base

 
Step Fifteen // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Assemble the Base

fitting together the teeter-totter base
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Make the teeter-totter base by creating two box-shaped sides connected by crosspieces. To build the bottom of the first side, push together an elbow, a 19-inch pipe, a tee, another 19-inch pipe, and another elbow. Repeat to build the top. Connect the top and bottom by inserting a 3¼-inch pipe, a tee, and another 3¼-inch pipe between the elbow at each end of the top and bottom. Build a second side, and install 14½-inch pipes between the tees in the center of the bottom and sides of the frame sides. Set the frame fittings using a block and a hammer, but do not tighten the top crosspiece and one corner. Wrap stripes of yellow tape around the base to make it easier for your dog to see.

 
16 ×

Position the Plank on the Base

 
Step Sixteen // How to Build a Pet Agility Course

Position the Plank on the Base

connecting the crosspiece and the teeter-totter plank
Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Slide the 2-inch pipe on the teeter-totter plank over the crosspiece. Connect the crosspiece and the last corner. Tap all frame connections until secure.

 
 
 

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