Are you looking for ways to keep your dog entertained on rainy days? Or really any time you need to stay at home?
An indoor dog obstacle course is a fun way to keep your dog entertained, as well as give them a mental and physical workout. And the best part is that it can be completely customized to fit the size of your space and the interests of your furry friend.
Let’s break down how you can make one!
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What is an indoor obstacle course for dogs?
An indoor obstacle course, also known as an agility course, is a creative way to provide your dog with exercise, mental stimulation, and training opportunities. It’s also a great way to teach your dog some new tricks.
It can be constructed using items you already have around the house like chairs, blankets, baskets, and other household items.
Indoor obstacles for dogs from household items
You can make a variety of obstacles for your dog by using household items. Items like blankets, chairs, baskets, hula hoops, a coffee table, and even stairs can all be used as obstacles for your dog.
Tunnels are easy to make with just a large blanket and a couple of sturdy chairs, like dining chairs.
Place the chairs far enough apart for your dog to go through them. The chair backs should be facing each other. Then drape a blanket over the backs to create a tunnel.
You can change the length of your tunnel by using only two chairs for a short tunnel. Or use 4 chairs for a longer tunnel.
Once your tunnel is ready, encourage your dog to go through it. If your dog is hesitant, try holding a treat on the other end of the tunnel and call your dog to you.
Hurdles are a fun way to challenge your dog’s agility and are easy to make with items everyone has in their home.
You can use a stool, laundry basket, storage tub, or even a stack of books to create a hurdle for your dog. Laundry baskets should be used upside down and storage tubs either need their lids on or be upside down.
For large dogs, like Luna, a standard-size laundry basket presents just enough of a challenge to make them jump. If you want a bigger challenge, try a baby gate in the doorway.
For small dogs, use a small stool, like a child’s step stool, or a small storage tub. If you don’t have anything smaller for your little dog to jump, you can teach them to jump onto a stool before jumping back down. For this, I recommend you only use a stool as it is meant to be stood on.
Hula Hoop Jump
Hula hoops are an excellent way to engage your dog in agility training. And there is little work to get it set up. All you have to do is hold it up for your dog to go through.
If your dog is hesitant at first, start with the hoop touching the floor and just encourage your dog to walk through it.
Once they are confidently walking through the hoop, start raising it up a little at a time. As your dog’s confidence grows, continue to raise the hoop up until they have to jump through it. Once they are comfortable jumping through the hula hoop, you can vary the height of the jump by holding the hoop at various heights. Just make sure not to go higher than your dog will jump.
The army crawl is a fun obstacle to incorporate into your indoor course. You can make this by using a coffee table or a couple of chairs and a blanket.
Set up is easy if you have a coffee table to use. Just place the table where you want it and encourage your dog to crawl underneath it from one end to the other.
If you don’t have a coffee table available, you can use a couple of sturdy chairs similar to how you created your tunnel. Except this time, you want to place the seat of the chair facing each other.
Then place the blanket across the seats of the chairs. You may have to place something on the blanket to prevent it from falling off the chairs.
Weaving is an obstacle your dog will really enjoy and it’s super simple to make. All you need are a few items to place on the floor to make a zig zag obstacle. Anything from a small cardboard box to a pair of shoes will work.
Take your items and place them in a row on the floor. Leave enough room between the items for your dog to go between them.
To teach your dog how to do this, walk the obstacle the way you want your dog to go. Encourage them to follow you, using treats if necessary.
Stairs are a built-in obstacle for anyone that lives in a multi-story home. There is nothing to build for this obstacle, you just use the stairs already in your home.
Then all you need to do is get your dog to either go up or down the stairs. You can either use the stairs yourself calling your dog to follow you. Or you can have one person at the top of the stairs and another person at the bottom.
To get your dog to go on the stairs, the person not on the same floor as the dog just has to call the dog to them.
The best part is this also practices your dog’s recall.
If after reading all that you’ve decided you don’t want to go the DIY route, there is the option of just buying some agility equipment.
You can buy entire agility course kits that include tunnels, weave poles, and jumps along with several other items.
Or you can also purchase individual pieces, like weave poles, tunnels, or teeter.
These items are perfect for those who don’t have the time to build their own course and some can be used both indoors and outdoors.
Put it all together
Now that you know the different obstacles you can make, it’s time to put together an indoor obstacle course for your dog. Find an area that has enough space for each obstacle you want to set up.
Then start with one obstacle and once your dog gets comfortable, add the next. Continue this way until you have added all the obstacles that you want for your obstacle course.
Remember to take it slow and follow your dog’s cues. The point of an obstacle course is to challenge your dog mentally and physically. Not to push them to do something that scares them.
Once they complete each obstacle, give your dog some positive reinforcement in the form of a treat or verbal praise.
Change things up
Once your dog is comfortably completing the obstacle course, it’s time to change things up.
Do this by changing the order of the obstacles or adding new ones. Or you can change how long an obstacle is by making the tunnel longer or shorter.
Or add a second laundry basket for your dog to jump after the first one. Just make sure to give your dog enough room between jumps.
Benefits of an indoor dog obstacle course
There are several benefits to building an indoor dog obstacle course for your dog.
The most obvious benefit is that it provides exercise and mental stimulation for your dog, which can help reduce boredom and prevent destructive behaviors. Especially when the weather makes outdoor play difficult.
Additionally, using the obstacle course as a training tool helps reinforce good behaviors and strengthens the bond between you and your dog.
It also can improve your dog’s agility, coordination, and confidence.
When setting up my own indoor obstacle course, I ran into a few issues that you may have as well. Here are the issues I had, and what I did to work around them.
Not enough space
The biggest issue I had was I don’t have enough space. My house is a split level and the living room and family room aren’t very big.
To work around this, I did more individual activities and also used a bedroom doorway and hallway. It ended up being more work for me, but hey, it got me more active on a crappy weather day than I would have been otherwise.
Your dog won’t do the obstacle
The biggest issue I had was Luna and Morgan not wanting to do the obstacle. This was mainly an issue with the army crawl under the coffee table obstacle. Both of them preferred to go around the table.
Since neither of my dogs seemed scared, my husband went to the start of the obstacle and prevented them from walking around the table.
I then placed several treats under the coffee table from one end to the other.
Both dogs easily went under the table like I wanted them to after that.
Just make sure to follow your dog’s cues. If they seem hesitant because they are scared, just move on to another activity.
Your dog just steps over the jumps
When I set up the hurdle jump in my hallway, the basket was too short to go all the way across the hallway. So I used a small storage tub on its side to fill the rest of the gap.
Unfortunately, Luna is big enough that she just stepped right over the storage tub.
To fix this, I moved the basket into a doorway. This helped, but ultimately wasn’t a big challenge for Luna.
Finally, I used a baby gate in the doorway. This worked great for Luna. It’s enough of a challenge that she has to work for it, but not so much that she can’t, or won’t jump it.
The downside with using a baby gate is that you will be teaching your dog that it is okay to jump it. If you use baby gates to keep your dog out of certain areas, you may want to try something else.
Keep safety in mind
Although an indoor obstacle course can be a great way to entertain your pup and provide exercise and mental stimulation, it’s important to keep safety in mind.
Set up your obstacle course on a sturdy, nonslippery surface like a carpeted room and stairway.
Also, make sure any items you use are sturdy and not likely to move when your dog is on them. And make sure that the space between obstacles is wide enough to prevent injury as your dog navigates the course.
Finally, if you have any concerns about your dog’s health you should talk to your vet before starting an indoor obstacle course.
Keep it fun
The most important thing is to have fun with your indoor obstacle course.
If your dog is hesitant to try an obstacle you can try encouraging them with treats. If your dog still refuses, don’t force them.
Some dogs just won’t want to do certain obstacles. Luna loves to jump laundry baskets and needs very little encouragement to jump them. Morgan, on the other hand, prefers to walk around an obstacle than jump it. But she will jump it if she has enough encouragement (aka I have a treat for her).
If your dog is refusing to do an obstacle, even after encouraging them with a treat, it’s probably better to just skip that obstacle.
It’s always better to find something they like than to try to force them to do something their scared of.
It’s also safer for you and your dog.
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