An obstacle course for your pet is not just an excellent way to get a tubby tabby or pudgy pug off the couch and exercising, it's fun for both of you. Though you can buy complete obstacle course setups, it's easy -- and less expensive -- to make your own from simple items you probably already have at home. Set up the obstacles in your backyard and encourage your dog to run the course. It may take a few times, but he should catch on eventually. Your cat can enjoy a few indoor obstacles at her own pace.
Hurdles, a standard component of dog agility courses, are easy to make at home. Jumping helps dogs increase their strength, muscle tone and balance. The height of the hurdle should never be higher than your dog’s shoulders: a small board on the ground is sufficient for very small dogs. Large breeds can leap over a wooden picnic bench. Prop a board across bricks for your medium-sized pooch. Most dogs get the idea quickly. If not, hold out a treat and encourage your dog to jump the hurdle.
If you don't have an old children's tunnel that's no longer in use, visit a toy store for an inexpensive polyester or canvas play tunnel. Stretch it out in the yard and encourage your dog to run through. If Rover doesn't get the idea, or is hesitant to enter the tunnel, throw a few small treats inside. When he enters to retrieve the treats, move to the other end of the tunnel and call him enthusiastically. Praise him when he comes to you. Most dogs will quickly get the idea and enjoy racing through the tunnel as long as they fit inside easily.
In an agility course, dogs weave their way in and out through a row of upright poles. Gather up your brooms, mops and any other long, thin poles, and set up your own weave pole obstacle. Simply wedge the handles as deeply into the ground as you can, so the poles are sturdy and won't fall onto the dog if he bumps against them. Space your poles 2 feet apart so Rover has plenty of room to maneuver. You should have at least five poles for the best workout.
Though few cats will run a set agility course, most cats like exploring, jumping and playing on their own schedule. The typical feline can’t resist the lure of a cardboard box, so set out two or three in the living room or other indoor area. Fluffy will probably immediately leap inside. Many cats enjoy tunnels, so stretch out a child's play tunnel and let your feline run through. Another option is a child's play parachute. Lay the parachute on the floor, then lift a section high enough for your cat to glide underneath. Let go of the fabric so it settles over your cat. Kitty can enjoy leaping and jumping underneath the chute.