Backyard agility can be a fun activity for you and your dog, but if you price heavy-duty aluminum equipment like dog-walks and A-frames, you’ll find that it’s not exactly budget friendly. Which is why Jim Hutchins’ second edition of Do-It-Yourself Agility Equipment: Constructing Agility Equipment for Training or Competition couldn’t be more timely; like the first, it offers clear, concise instructions and helpful illustrations from start to finish for 27 agility obstacles and related training accessories.
Hutchins is practically an agility pioneer, having participated in the sport since 1994. As agility has evolved, so too has Hutchins’ tinkering. When the first edition came out several years ago, I had just started taking agility classes with my Dalmatian and was eager to practice at home without breaking the bank. (Hutchins estimates that it costs as much as $6K to buy brand-new equipment.) Better yet, between my husband, brother and father, all the tools needed to make everything from a simple PVC bar jump to a wooden adjustable seesaw were available.
I’m not a handy person by nature, so back then, I relied heavily on the knowledge and experience of the aforementioned family members. This was by no means a reflection of Hutchins’ instructions but rather of my general indifference toward power tools and trips to the hardware store.
In the years since, I have immersed myself further in agility through competition and teaching classes, which boosted my confidence enough to try building some of the equipment on my own. I managed to make the PVC bar jumps, broad jump and a basic tire jump just fine. The cutting and measuring reminded me of baking, which is something I love to do, although it was disappointing not to have a finished edible product or a bowl to lick. (The dogs agreed.)
This book is as useful as you want it to be. In some cases, Hutchins says, it’s a good idea to consider buying a particular piece of equipment, such as a tunnel, if it’s a more complex project than you want to take on.
For safety reasons, I recommend that you take an agility class or two if possible before attempting to put your dogs on more tricky equipment like the seesaw or weave poles. Also, be sure to test obstacles for strength before urging your dog to try them. It’s equally important to gauge your dog’s reaction to the equipment; some of my students learned the hard way that if they just plopped their dogs on a piece of equipment without taking the dog’s confidence level, experience and physical health into consideration, they could turn their dog off agility in an instant. It’s always smart to go slow and let your dog set the pace.
If you’re looking for something to keep you and your dog active this summer (and maybe give your neighbors a conversation starter), construct your own backyard agility oasis with detailed instructions and invaluable resources from Do-It-Yourself Agility Equipment.