Now Coming to Your Home: An Indoor Obstacle Course For Your Dog

When the weather gets rough, the housebound 
get inventive.


The temperature outside has plummeted, and neither you nor your dog feels like being outside for very long. Or the temperature outside has skyrocketed, and it’s unsafe for you and your pet to be outdoors other than for a walk in the early morning and the evening. But your pal is antsy. How are you going to keep things interesting?

By setting up an indoor obstacle course, of course — for little to no money rather than choosing one for about $100 from an online store.

Your dog may be confused as you set things up. But once she realizes it’s for her and that she gets treats and warm praise for navigating the course properly, she will be thrilled. She will also get happily excited the next time she realizes you are moving things around to interact with her. She will understand that you are preparing something with her happiness in mind and that the two of you will engage in the activity together. That will only strengthen the bond between the two of you and thus make her more apt to follow your cue when you want her to do things outside of the activity, like “Wait,” or “Stay,” or “No jump.”

Much of what you need for this DIY project is already in your home.

Chairs. With a set of dining room chairs or folding chairs, you can train your dog in basic agility. Arrange the chairs in a staggered line either across or down the room and enthusiastically coax her to zig zag her way around them. You can also set up the chairs for her to go through “the tunnel.” Line up several chairs facing in one direction and set up another line of chairs facing in the opposite direction about two feet away. Then throw a quilt or blanket over the tops of the chair backs. Voilà — she has to make her way through the passage to receive a wonderful treat at the other end.

Ottoman or footstool. Incorporate jumping into the course. If your dog is on the larger side, an ottoman might be just the thing for flying through the air to the other side. For a medium-size dog a footstool could work. And a small dog might be able to sail over a shoe (and then the other one) for a graceful landing. A couple of throw pillows could work, too, as could two stacks of books set to whatever height is right with a broomstick going across the top of them (an idea promoted by the American Kennel Club).

The obstacle(s) you want the dog to clear doesn’t need to be in the same room as the chairs if your rooms don’t have a lot of length or width. You can just have different pieces of the “course” in different parts of the house or apartment, calling excitedly to your dog to come with you for the next part. She will get the hang of it very,
very quickly.

That same piece of “equipment” can in many cases become a twofer — not just something you teach your dog to jump over but also to jump on. Switching up the cues for the two tricks will help her pay better attention to you.

Cardboard boxes. Find one or two that are barely wide enough for your dog to fit into, then cut out the bottom and get her to shimmy through. It’s almost like a military maneuver in which soldiers have to crawl through a narrow space without much headroom. But your pet will just see it as another way to extend the fun. You can also use one of those nylon cylindrical baby tunnels that collapse on themselves for easy storage. (Remember, blue and yellow are the colors that dogs are best able to perceive.) A coffee table that’s low to the ground can work well, too. Drape a sheet over the sides so that there’s only one way through.

Hoop. No explanation necessary. If dolphins can jump through it, so can your dog (unless she’s arthritic, overweight, medically compromised, or perhaps shaped like a Basset hound — or scared. Don’t push it.)

Bear in mind that you can move things around to keep it interesting. Anything that breaks the monotony of lying around while providing more time with you rather than just near you is great for your pet.


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