Making an obstacle course for your pet
At the moment many of us are only allowed outside for essential activities or exercise once a day and some dogs that are used to having several walks are only getting one. We’ve all been discovering new ways to fill our time and some of us have finally been getting round to things that we have wanted to do for ages. This week we really enjoyed reading about a lady called Joe who set up an obstacle course for her dogs and her chickens in Clacton-on-Sea.
Joe is a professional dog trainer and she has wanted to set up a course for her dogs at home for quite some time. Unfortunately she also has ME - which means that she often has to rest in between playing with the dogs - but now, during lockdown she has found the time to get around to it.
Joe and her pets: Metro
As a dog trainer, Joe already had some doggy agility equipment at home but she has also used other bits and bobs from around the house and garden in order to build her course for her two dogs, Ripley and Merlin. Speaking to Metro, Joe explained why she decided to build the course:
“During lockdown, I’m doing online classes and Ripley and Merlin are my helpers, but it can get very repetitive for them, and I wanted to give them something physical that was just for them and would challenge them. They are loving it.”
The course includes a maze and a ball pool where the dogs search for hidden objects – and lots of obstacles constructed from household objects including an old baby gym and a small exercise trampoline. But the dogs aren’t the only ones enjoying the course. Joe’s chickens have been taking up the challenge too – and it seems that chicken agility is a ‘thing’ on YouTube – and we’ve found some cat agility videos too!
Beaky the Chicken: YouTube
How to build your own pet agility course
Make use of the things you have available. If you have children this can be a fun activity to get the whole family involved in – get them to draw a plan and brainstorm which household items you can use to create the course.
Work with the limitations of your pet and the space – be that a cat, chicken dog or hamster. If you don’t have a garden or outdoor area then you can make the course inside instead. Just make it a bit smaller and ensure that your pet won’t be knocking things over and has plenty of room to manoeuvre.
You may be able to pick up some items including pop-up tunnels, ball pits or hoops at your local supermarket if you are going out to shop – or you can improvise with household items. Again if you have then children you may already have a slide or seesaw that you can use.
Photo by Chris Johnstone on Unsplash
Bending poles: Use cones or sticks to mark out a line of poles that your dog, cat or chicken can weave in and out of.
Jumps: Use chairs and a broom, garden canes or sticks. Make sure these aren’t too high to start with or your dog may do the limbo instead! You can increase the height gradually as their confidence increases. Where possible make the pole loose so that if the pet hits the pole it will fall down, to reduce the risk of injury.
Tunnels: You can pick up a pop-up play tunnel pretty cheaply online or alternatively you can make something from boxes with a blanket or towel draped over the top.
Hide and seek: Hide a treat in a ball pool or a box of packing material, whatever you have to hand.
Balancing: You can make a seesaw from some pieces of wood like the one pictured below – or balance some planks of wood above the ground on bricks or blocks to make walkways for your pets to balance on.
Hoops: Again you can buy hoops online or in some larger stores – or you can fashion something from whatever you have lying about at home.
Home made see-saw
Getting your pet to participate
Nothing motivates most pets more than food. You’ll find that an aromatic, quality treat goes a lot further than something from a packet. For dogs, try cooking a packet of cheap sausages and chopping them up. Use them to lead the dog around the course and always reward their achievements with positive reinforcement.
Joe shakes a Tupperware box of dried mealworms to entice her chickens around her course and I know some chickens go crazy for a bit of grated cheese so you might want to try that if yo don’t have any mealworms at home.
Cat Agility: YouTube
If you’re going to get your cat to try the course then results may vary depending on the breed of cat. Some breeds like Bengal and Siamese cats might be more willing to jump through hoops than some and some cats might respond better to cuddles or prefer chasing a favourite toy around the course than food. You know your pet better than most so with some gentle perseverance you might be able to get them to join in.
An indoor course for smaller pets such as rabbits or hamsters can be tremendous fun too. Just make sure they are safely contained and that you are enticing them to move rather than pushing them along.
Cat Photo by Aniket Bhattacharya on Unsplash
However you decide build your course, the emphasis should be on fun, and designed to suit your pet’s ability. Have you made an agility course for your pet already? Let us know in the comments below!
Main Photo by Estlea Shaddix on Unsplash