Once you get
addicted to agility you may well look at your garden in a completely
different way. Instead of the usual garden furniture you'll start
wondering what size equipment you can fit in and how many jumps you should
make or buy.
Shown right is my garden sized Dog Walk and a couple of
jumps. The Dog Walk is only 28" high and the ramps are 6 feet long.
The central section is 4 feet long, but I have also made an extended central
section that is 8 feet long. It's all home made and with the exception of
the 8 foot part of the dog walk it can
be stored in a garden shed.
My shed is 6ft by 4ft and there's still
room for loads of other bits and pieces. We also have a storage box
for other bits and pieces like the pipe tunnel.
The thing that most people
want to know is whether garden sized equipment will be any good for training and
does it matter if you train a six pole weave rather than a twelve pole
weave? Hopefully this page will provide some answers.
After speaking to people, and from the posts I've read on
various forums over the years, many people train successfully at home with a
six pole pole weave. However, it's important that the dog
gets some practice going through twelve poles. For most dogs this
doesn't mean that they need to do twelve poles all the time and a six pole
weave will be fine for training entries or getting up speed. If you do train with six poles and your dog
subsequently finds it difficult to do the full weave through then you may
need to think again. Also you may sometimes meet weaves with an odd
number of poles such as 5 or 9. A thorough grounding in weave training
on both six pole and twelve pole weaves as well as the occasional odd
numbered weave will stand you in good stead for the show ring. The
faults on weaves in the ring are nearly always on the entry but some dogs
have a habit of popping the last poles.
Agility has become so popular now that garden sized contact equipment can be
purchased fairly cheaply but is it worth it? For me, training contacts
at home is essential and I don't think we could manage without some garden
sized equipment. I've found a small dog walk to be very valuable but
even this takes up a fair amount of room if you only have a small garden.
I have used a small A-frame for training and this has worked very well and
not caused any problems. Other people have varying degrees of success
but the one thing I would advise is that before buying equipment you ask
someone who has bought that equipment to tell you how good it is.
Agility forums are good for this kind of research and also ask at your
training classes. Remember that dogs need to land on something that's really
solid. Cheap and/or light equipment can so easily get knocked over.
Small dog walks are sometimes available on ebay.
A plank is an excellent tool for teaching contacts. I made a six foot plank from
a couple of bits of sawn timber held together with batten. It may not
sound much use but believe me it helped us no end. During a long
wet winter I got Sasha and Jamie to run along the plank on the flat.
When they'd learned to do this I put the plank on a bit of a slope and did some
contact training on this. By the time the ground had dried out sufficiently
to resume classes they'd improved their contacts no end. Here's a dog
walk ramp being used in this way. I have to put something in front
of the plank for Jamie to focus otherwise he would just look back at me.
I used a small jump and toys.
With Jilly I have trained her to do the end position first with two feet on the plank and two on the ground.
Once she understood that simply being in the right position on the end of the plank got her a reward
we worked backwards from there.
One thing I'd always hesitated about is a see-saw. It can be a bit off putting to a dog when they get
used to the feel of one particular see-saw and then meet something different
in competition. If a plank tips very easily and then they go onto a
see-saw with a heavy plank it could encourage a dog to jump off the end.
If they do this before before it's touched the ground they get faulted.
After speaking to a lot of people many of them, including our trainers
recommended using a low see-saw to start with and to build confidence.
A garden version could be ideal for this and for training a new dog to get
used to the plank moving under them.
These are essential if you want to train at home. They are
quick and cheap to make or you can buy them from ebay or somewhere similar.
Garden jumps are often the sort that stick in the ground and they don't have
wings. This is useful if you're really tight for space but it can be
tempting to put the jumps too close together. One thing I didn't
really bother with at first was a long jump but it was only because it
hadn't given us a problem. The first time Sasha saw a long jump was in
competition and she just jumped it because it was there. However, the
day came when she failed to recognise it in the ring as we hadn't practised
at home or in training. I put together a full sized version for a bit
of practice and we've had no problems since then.
I have made a tyre jump but we don't use it a lot. It was useful at first when Sasha
didn't know what she had to do and it has been useful for occasional
training. It's something that needs to be full sized for
Dogs really don't notice if your jump
poles are not the regulation length. A few centimetres is neither here
nor there to a dog but I wouldn't have them much smaller though as it alters
the spacings too much. If you don't have a large garden you can manage
with slightly shorter jump poles and jumps without wings but watch your spacings.
For some reason dogs find tunnels enormous fun. You can buy a smaller pipe tunnel which most dogs
love but if you only have a three metre tunnel I wouldn't bend it into a U
shape. A straight tunnel or a banana is great. Do be careful
that the tunnel you buy is suitable for your size of dog. The regs
specify a minimum diameter of 24 inches but if you have a Jack Russell you
can obviously get away with something smaller. One thing I
bought but quickly stopped using was a cheap flexible tunnel. A dog
like Sasha can be like lightning through this but they can so easily get
caught in the flimsy material that it can be dangerous and can throw a dog
onto it's back and cause serious injury.
should you get to start with?
Initially I would buy or make some jumps but dogs love to have a bit
of variety. If you have the money I would buy or make as much
equipment as you can reasonably afford. It may sound ridiculous if
you're training in a garden but you don't have to use all of it all at once.
The variety will keep you and your dog occupied and ensure that training is
What I do if we're having a
longer training session is to devise some exercises that will use the
equipment in turn. We might start with a layout of jumps that lets us
practice front crosses and back crosses or perhaps some snakes and pull
throughs. Then we'll put away a couple of jumps and have a go at the
weave. We'll practice weave entries from funny angles or a jump
and then a weave entry with Sasha way ahead of me. When we're fed up
with that we'll put away something else and set up the dog walk so that we
can do some jumps and contacts or maybe a six pole weave and contacts.
The beauty of this system is that you have to give your dog a rest whilst
you move the equipment round. It's important not to tire a dog too
much when you're training and this can easily happen if you have a big bit
of land with everything set up so that you move from piece to piece without