If you're an agility training enthusiast, you can set up a backyard training course to work with your dog and help improve his mastery of obstacles and sequencing. You don't need a ton of space to set up the course, and while it's helpful to have premade equipment, you can substitute homemade obstacles for training.
Sequencing Is the Challenge
When you put together a backyard course, it's all about throwing the obstacles to your dog in many different orders. Practice driving your dog to the opposite end of a tunnel instead of the close end. Go directly from the weaves to the dog walk, even though the jump is closer. Move your backyard obstacles around frequently, and practice completing them in different orders to get your dog accustomed to real canine agility.
No Course Is Complete Without Weaves
Practicing weaves is a must, but you can do this in several different ways. Some agility training stores sell weaves with spikes on the bottom that you can simply drive into the ground. You can also get a full set of weaves on the metal stand your dog will encounter on the course. If you want to save a little cash, you can buy PVC pipe at your local home improvement store, cut it to 36-inch-long pieces, and attach tent spikes to the bottom to drive them into your yard.
Add a Dog Walk to Create a Realistic Course
The real work of agility training starts when your dog has mastered the individual obstacles and you begin sequencing. It's not difficult for your dog to get the hang of a dog walk, but it's useful to have one in backyard training so you can practice putting it in the sequence in different places.
You don't need to have an official dog walk for sequencing and to practice contacts. You can start with 10-foot planks and prop them up on concrete blocks or milk crates. Be careful if you just use planks, though; large dogs can bow them when they cross, and the movement can spook your dogs. If you reinforce the planks with a vertical stringer or a second plank, your homemade dog walk is less prone to bowing and swaying.
Add a Jump, or Several
Jumps are a frequent feature of nearly every agility course, so it's useful to have several jumps you can put in your sequence. You can buy bar jumps from canine agility stores, but you can also use PVC pipes and braces to build your own bar jumps. Use T-shaped steel to build the support for the jump, and split end caps vertically, creating two C-shaped cups, to provide supports for the bar.
Tunnels on the Cheap
Tunnels are a vital feature of a backyard agility course, because you need to practice driving your dog to the tunnel and picking him up again when he comes out. Canine agility tunnels can get really expensive, though, so try substituting a children's play tunnel from your local toy store. Don't forget to anchor it down; you can use bungee cords or sandbags to hold your tunnel in place.
While the canine mind is much less complex than ours, smart dogs can certainly think things through, problem solve and, with experience, gain understanding of their world.