Backyard Training – Where Less is More!

5 Dec

Dog Agility Blog Action Day…I bought my house when I had one pet dog. Agility what was that?  It’s the thing that took over my life, but hasn’t taken over my yard.    I now have 4 dogs all who have competed in agility.

My backyard is about 100×100 and has only one tree.  The perfect agility yard you say?  It could be, but it’s not.  That perfect yard has well not a lot of usable space….When I bought the house, my biggest concern was how was I going to mow the hill.  The 45 degree angle hill that pretty much is my whole yard!

My Back Yard

So what do you when you have a very little useable space?  You be come extremely creative!  Did I happen to mention that I live in Minnesota?


It truly is amazing how much you can accomplish when you have limited space.  Here is what was typically out in my yard this past summer.

Typical Backyard

  • The weaves can go away to give me room for some jump grids.
  • The a-frame can get moved to give me room for some box work, although that didn’t happen much this summer.
  • A tunnel and 1 or two jumps are my best friends.  What can’t you do with a tunnel and a couple jumps?  Not much – you just have to be creative!

I’ve done almost all of my training in my backyard.  Now I will admit I LOVE to run courses, but in my yard, that is not practical.  A class now or then works for that!  In my yard, I like to work skills.  Skills is what it’s all about, if you don’t have skills, you’re not going to make it around a course very easily.

Working with just a couple obstacles also allows the handler really to concentrate on what they are doing to cue the dog.  One of my favorite sayings I heard when I started doing agility was “You can’t have speed without understanding.” The dog can’t do something fast, if they don’t understand what you want.   Breaking skills apart until both you and the dog understand each other is the key to becoming a brilliant agility team!

Because I can’t just go out and run a course, I have to have a plan.  Serps, push throughs, threadles, collection, extension, weaves, contacts, front crosses, rear crosses, sends…I pick a skill and think…how can I work “this” with 2 jumps and a tunnel.  It doesn’t take long to figure out there are thousands of things to do with those couple of jumps and tunnel.

Winter…what do you do in the winter when your limited space is under at least 10 inches if not 30 inches of snow?  You take one jump in the basement and you play.   I’ve been known to  even move furniture so that I can play with two jumps.

Sometimes I just go out to just have fun with my dog.  No specific plan, just something fun for the dogs.  Some days I plan to work on one thing and as I start working, my dog shows me that my idea for the day was worthless and we really needed to work on something else!

I said I don’t usually run a “course” in my back yard.  However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Course 1

The main goal of all my training is to be positive and let the dog have fun.  The reason we all do any of this is to have fun.   If it’s not fun for BOTH you and the dog, then it’s time to reconsider why you’re doing agility!

Please take the time to check out the other blogs on Backyard Training HERE.

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