The U.S. Police Canine Association issues national specifications for K-9 obstacle courses. Local police departments construct these courses to train their dogs and practice for certification trials. The agility portion of the USPCA certification trial includes five components. Even if you're not training your dog for police or guard work, courses built to these specifications teach professional-grade agility and obedience. Successfully completing a K-9 obstacle course with your dog improves your confidence in both your dog and yourself.
The hurdles consist of four 3-by-4 foot obstacles standing in a straight line 16 feet apart. The USPCA rulebook lists six possible obstacles for this portion of the course: a picket fence, a chain link fence, a simulated brick wall, a 30-by-30 inch open window the dog must jump through, a wall or board jump and a shrub jump. The dog must jump over or through all four of these hurdles following only voice commands before returning to his handler.
The catwalk portion of the course evaluates the dog's ability to climb a ladder and stay at a mid-point of a raised platform on command before dismounting. USPCA rules specify the ladder consists of five steps placed 12 inches apart, with the first 12 inches off the ground. The ladder sits at a 25-to-30 degree angle leading up to a 24-inch wide platform 6 feet off the ground. A 10-foot long dismount ramp on the opposite end of the raised platform completes the obstacle.
The broad jump obstacle tests the dog's ability to leap a distance of 6 feet over a set of progressively taller boards. The four boards that make up this stage of a K-9 agility course are 6 inches wide and 5 feet long. The lowest of the boards is 6 inches off the ground, with height gradually increasing to a final height of 12 inches off the ground. To succeed in this portion of the course, the dog must jump over the boards on a single voice command without stepping on or knocking over any of the boards.
The a-frame is another obstacle designed to challenge the dog's agility and enable him to more confidently handle circumstances in the field. The apparatus consists of two 4-foot wide boards spread 4 feet apart at their base. Their top edges come together at a 6-foot high peak. On a single voice command, the dog jumps to the top of the obstacle, then dismounts and returns to his handler's side. The dismount side includes a platform 3 feet off the ground to prevent the dog from being injured as he leaps from the top of the a-frame.
The final piece of the USPCA K-9 agility course evaluates the dog's ability to crawl through a tight tunnel on command. The obstacle consists of pipes wrapped with chain-link fencing that leaves an opening 4 feet wide and 16 inches high at the base. The tunnel is covered with a 4-by-8 foot sheet of plywood. Upon a single voice command, the dog must lower to the ground and crawl into the tunnel for a distance of 8 feet, exit and return to his handler's side.
Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.