by Joan Scialdone
Sea Jay Collies & Designs
Having your own agility equipment in your backyard can be a great help for practicing between classes and trials or working on a problem area that needs extra attention. However, Agility equipment can be expensive to buy; even in the best priced venues—if the equipment is reasonable, the shipping charges are crazy—especially if the supplier is clear across the country.
Have no fear—PVC is here. You can make almost ANY piece of agility equipment with PVC piping and connectors. Call them adult Tinkertoys. They are easy to assemble and easily interchangeable—low cost, low maintenance and mostly weatherproof. They can be striped with colored plastic electrical tape. PVC is readily available at any Lowe’s, Home Depot, or local plumbing/hardware supply. You can buy a hand-cutter and cut the pieces yourself; or bring your dimensions with you and have someone from the store cut them for you; they are usually glad to help. You can get really creative and make jumps, weave poles, bases for tables, teeters, dogwalks, etc. Jump wings can be made with plastic lattice. I am also going to include suggestions for equipment to introduce dogs to the tipping of the see saw; learning where their feet and legs are, and getting comfortable maneuvering on narrow planks, so when they are ready to tackle the equipment at full height, they will be confident and comfortable doing so.
A Basic Jump can be made with $12 worth of PVC pipe and connectors. They are lightweight, easy to assemble/disassemble, and can be moved and transported easily. 1” diameter is recommended, but ½” can be lighter and easier to handle. (see photos)
The parts you’ll need (all 1 inch diameter pipe and appropriate connectors except as noted: quantities are in brackets).
1 – slip end caps (6)
2 – slip “T” connectors (4)
3 – 12 inch pipe feet (4)
4 – 30 inch pipe uprights (2)
5 – 1¾ inch pipe stubs to join “T” connectors (2)
6 – 36 inch pipe lower cross bar (1)
7 – 36 inch pipe jump bar, ¾ inch diameter (1)
Jump Cups: If you don’t make your own, you can buy “Clip & Go” jump cups from Clean Run – Cost: $14.95 per pair. Or if you prefer, drill holes in the uprights and use either carriage bolts or locking pins. The Instant Agility site has step-by-step instructions for making your own. It is easier to refer you to the site where you can see photos (I always do better with visuals than trying to imagine it in my head).
A Basic “Tippy” Plank: Simply get a small length of a 12” width board (3-4 feet) and place a square board, soft ball or rock underneath. This becomes a great clicker exercise and game as you teach the dog to “touch” the plank w/a paw; click and treat. You can progress to two feet, and eventually work up to 3 and 4 feet, standing on top, walking across it, etc. My smooth boy, Tanner, just LOVES this game and will do it endlessly as long as the treats keep coming. It can also be brought indoors for a winter/rainy day game as well.
Using the same plank, split and slide two of the long plastic kids’ “Noodle” toys under each side; this makes a great training tool to teach the dog how to turn around in narrow places. It’s only 2-3 inches off the ground, so they learn where their hind feet are, can easily “bail” off as they learn, and will be less likely to fall off the dogwalk at competition height.
A Basic Ladder can be made with 1/2” PVC, tees and ells, or use a standard one laid on the ground; put your dog on lead and walk him through the rungs—he/she will learn where to place all four feet and know precisely where their feet are by doing this exercise.
Tunnels: Affordable Agility has great prices on these and often offers free shipping; for a basic practice tunnel, you can use a child’s nylon or plastic one available at JC Penney or Toys R Us. They are not very durable, but for a basic, low cost, practice item, you can’t beat it.
Basic Weave Poles (6): Buy two 10’ lengths of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and cut into 36” pieces. Purchase 12 half inch end caps—for the tops and bottoms—keeps rain out—drill a hole in the bottom 6 caps and attach a 3” carriage bolt w/nuts. Place these caps on the bottom of each pole—these can be stuck in the ground by hand (if you have soft soil) or pounded in with a rubber mallet (essential in places like the “Granite State” – New Hampshire). You can also stripe them with colored plastic electrical tape.
Other Equipment: With the exception of the A-frame, ANY other piece of agility equipment can be made with PVC piping. You can make/purchase the base for a seesaw, pause table, or dogwalk. Affordable Agility sells the PVC frame for a dogwalk; you simply add the boards.
You can purchase a book of agility equipment construction plans at a reasonable price, (“Do It Yourself Agility Equipment – Second Edition” by Jim Hutchins—$29.95, available at Clean Run, Amazon, or any bookstore) or there are numerous websites (I referred to a couple of them below, marked ***) that offer step-by-step instructions on how to build your own equipment, or have equipment at reasonable prices. I will just list a few; please note these are listed for your information only; I am not affiliated with any of them.
Good luck, and most of all, have fun ! ! !
| About Joan Scialdone
Joan Scialdone started out in the breed in 1976 with a rescue Collie, Laddie, a stray who had been turned into the local dog officer. Laddie had several health issues when, once successfully treated, caused his bad habits to emerge. This got Joan involved in obedience training which totally turned his behavior around—he loved to work and would almost flip cartwheels on training night—he enjoyed class so much. Laddie earned his CD in three straight shows with scores of 192 or higher. Having this much fun and seeing a dog emerge with a new found confidence and social skills totally hooked Joan on the sport. Since then, she has been introduced to Agility, Rally and Conformation and have put multiple titles on eight more Collies in both the U.S. and Canada. Her favorite activities are anything to do with performance. Joan says, "A trained, well behaved dog is a joy to live with. It is wonderful to be involved with a breed that is talented and versatile enough to do it all—beauty and brains in one lovely package."
Presently, Joan is owned by two Collies, Della and Tanner, who have taught her a great deal — "Probably more than I’ve taught them," she says.
Joan has also been Obedience Chairman at three CCA National Specialty shows (1999, 2004 and 2009); a CCA member since 1987 and CCA District Director for New Hampshire for the past 6 years. She is also a member of the Collie Rescue League of New England, the Collie Club of New Hampshire and Collie Club of Maine.