There are a number of reasons why you might want an agility a-frame for your canine companion.
Perhaps you are entering an agility competition, perhaps you are working on training and obedience together, or perhaps you just want to strengthen the bond between you and your dog and increase their physical and mental wellness.
Luckily, these a-frames are simple to make, adjustable for all dog types, and easy to pack away and store when you aren’t using them. So read on for a fool proof guide to how you can build one of these awesome agility a-frames in your own backyard.
What You Will Need
- 2 x ½ inch plywood sheets, (4 by 8 feet in size) – for the platform
- 7 x strips of 2x4s (8 feet long) – for the frame
- 14 ½ inch strips of plywood (4 feet long) – for the rungs
- 4 x eye rings with screw heads
- 2 x chain (approx 8 feet in length)
- 4 x carabiners
- 2 x metal hinges (3 inches)
- 1 x box of 1 ¼ inch screws
- 2 x tins of water resistant paint (in contrasting colors)
- 1 x bag of sand
- Strong wood glue
- Drill with drill bit and screwdriver heads
- Circular saw
- Nail gun
Step 1 – Lay Out Your Plywood
Clear some space on your work surface and lay out your two sheets of 4×8’ plywood. (If you don’t have room, just lie one sheet out and repeat the process with the second sheet afterwards).
Step 2 – Line Up Your 4 Outer 2x4s
Take 4 of your 8’ long 2x4s and line them up along the long edges of your plywood.
Make sure they are flush to the edge and finish neatly at the top and bottom of each sheet. These 4 strips will reinforce the plywood platform lengthways.
Step 3 – Measure And Cut Your 6 Horizontal 2x4s
Now that you have your vertical strips laid out, use a tape measure to establish how wide the gap is between them. It should be around 3’4’’. Use a pencil to mark this length out along your remaining 2x4s, and use your circular saw to cut 6 of these shorter strips to size.
Step 4 – Line Up Your 6 Horizontal 2x4s
Now that your strips are cut, line them up on top of your plywood sheet, 2 at each end and one across the middle of each sheet. These will reinforce the plywood platform widthway.
Step 5 – Glue And Screw The Frame To The Platform
Using a drill bit, first drill pilot holes at each corner of the frame and drill two evenly spaced holes along each vertical length of the frame. Next, using long screws, attach the frame to the plywood sheet at each of these pre-drilled attachment points.
Then drill through the side of the vertical strips to attach the inner horizontal strips at the top, bottom and middle of the frame.
Step 6 – Measure, Mark-up And Attach Rungs
Now that you have reinforced your plywood platforms securely, you can flip them both over so that the smooth surface is on top. Take your measuring tape and pencil, and mark out where each of your rungs is going to go.
These rungs will sit horizontally across the platform, at 12 inches apart, therefore there will be 7 rungs on each side with no rung on either end. Once you have marked up, you can lie the rungs across the platform and use your nail gun and glue to secure them into place.
Step 7 – Mix Sand Into Paint And Apply Over Every Surface
You should now have two plywood platforms, each with a sturdy frame attached to its underside and 7 evenly spaced rungs attached to the upper side.
Pour out some water resistant paint and mix sand in to create a textured effect. This will make your finished a-frame slip-free for your pooch.
Coat both the platforms in the paint/sand mixture, including all sides of the under frames and rungs. Use water resistant paint as this will help to strengthen your finished article against weather and wear.
Leave to dry.
Step 8 – Attach Hinges
When your two platforms are dry, stand or lie them on top of each other with the runged sides facing outwards and the reinforced sides pressed together.
Use a clamp to hold them in place if necessary, but wedge a couple of paint sticks between the platforms at the very top to create a small mobility gap.
Then line up your hinges at the top end of your a-frame, so that the barrels sit in the little gap and the hinges are equally spaced. Use your drill to secure both hinges with 1 ¼ inch screws.
Step 9 – Attach Eye Rings And Safety Chains
Now you will be able to open your a-frame out and it should stand freely thanks to the hinges holding the two platforms in place. However, you must attach safety chains to stop the frame from opening too wide and splatting flat on the ground.
Use the middle horizontal bar of 2×4 as a guide and drill a pilot hole into the underside of the frame at this central point on both sides of both platforms. Then screw your 4 eye rings into these holes by hand.
You can now use your carabiners to attach each end of your chains to the eye rings so that they pull taught when the a-frame is open to the height you want.
You can attach these chains more closely if you want to raise the height and gradient of the a-frame, or more loosely if you want to lower it.
Step 10 – Apply Top Coat And Contrast Color
There is only one thing left to do and that is to apply a water resistant top coat in two contrasting colors.
You should paint the bottom half of your a-frame a contrasting color to the top half of the frame so that your dog can see it more easily and can perceive the angle at which it stands rather than thinking it is a flat wall.
This top coat will also give your a-frame an added bit of protection against paws, claws, wind and rain.
Step 11 (optional) – Add Carry Handle And Safety Latch
For those of you who intend to shut your a-frame up and store it between use, attaching a carry handle in the center of the long edge of the apparatus is a great idea.
You can buy these handles at any hardware store and they can be attached with 4 small screws.
However, if you do choose to do this, you will need to add a safety latch as well to ensure that your frame stays shut when you tip it on its side and lift it.
Top Tips For A-Frame Training
The benefits of a-frames to your dogs mental and physical wellness can be huge, and the sense of achievement and connection that you will both feel when you master this apparatus is even bigger.
To help you and your pooch get the most out of your a-frame, here are a few simple training tips and tricks.
If your dog has not been on an a-frame before they may feel unsure and daunted by the prospect. By starting off with the frame at a very low height, you can get your dog used to the sensation of the platforms gradually.
As they become more familiar with the width, feel and even smell of the a-frame, you can begin to lift it in very small increments until you reach the height you are after.
To combat nerves and jitters, and to ensure that your dog doesn’t jump or fall off the side of the a-frame, always start your training with your dog on a short leash.
You can walk or run alongside them as they climb and keep them firmly on track so that they don’t steer off course. After a while your dog will be able to run up and down the a-frame safely without the leash being necessary.
A great way to encourage your dog up and down the a-frame is to use pocket treats.
Giving your pooch a biscuit at the top of the frame, and then again at the base will incentivize them in the early stages of their training, and signal to them that they are doing well.
Before you begin your training, decide on what command you are going to use to tell your dog they should climb the frame.
Commands such as ‘on it’, ‘up’ or ‘go along’ are often used, but you can choose whatever you like so long as you keep it the same every time you practice.
This will provide consistency for your dog and stop them from becoming confused.
And finally, always stay alert, even if your dog becomes a pro on the a-frame. Never let them climb it without you being on hand to supervise because accidents can happen but they are far less likely if you are close by.
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