How to Train Your Dog to Play on a Play Set

Medium
4-8 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Agility training is fun and rewarding for small to medium dogs. You can send your dog through agility school, or you can train him on his own or even your children’s play equipment. Dogs who practice agility get to exert their excess energy and have fun doing it. If you have children, they will always have a playmate in your dog, especially if you teach your dog to play on a playset. 

Design your own set and create a dream backyard for your pup or get a playset your dog can run, jump, and play on alone, in a group, or even with you or your kids. Playsets that focus on agility and play for dogs often have tunnels, inclines, declines, high platforms for climbing, and even balance bars. With a bit of building experience, you can make a playset for everyone in your family to enjoy and train your furry friend to play on it. 

Defining Tasks

Whether you have an entire set now or are bringing in pieces to see how your dog adapts to each new skill, you’ll have to introduce each section to him one at a time. Some of these pieces will be more challenging than others, and your little guy may have to develop strength or skill to master the agility required to play on the set. This training will need to be fun and exciting but also rewarding. Though some dogs will run along having fun, others may need more motivation to continue facing challenges. 

Think about your playset or how you plan to design your set and consider your dog’s needs if possible. He’ll need to know where he can play, where he can dig while playing, where he can go potty away from the set, where he can get water, and what your expectations are with the playset. To get him to play, make this an area where he wants to be.

Getting Started

Be prepared with at least some agility pieces before you begin to train. If this is an existing playset, make sure it is dog-friendly and free of any nails sticking out or large splinters. Take some specific play time for training, but make it free of other distractions. Be sure to have lots of tasty treats on hand for rewards as well as to entice and encourage your dog to move along the track or set.

The Agility Method

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1
A-frame
Work with your dog on one piece at at time starting with the easiest piece. This may vary for dog, but typically, the easiest will be a shallow angle A-frame piece to work inclines and declines. Walk your dog up the incline and back down the other side. Give a treat once he’s finished.
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Plank
Practice balance by walking your pup across a plank. Start with him on a leash at first and then walk next to him with the goal of eventually waiting for him on the opposite side. Be sure to give him a treat each time he masters the plank.
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3
Stairs
If your dog is used to using stairs at your home, having stairs on a playset will be a breeze. Teach him to get to higher platforms by using the stairs. If he needs assistance learning the stairs, encourage him up each step by using a treat for the climb.
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4
Platforms
Depending on the playset you have, your dog may find himself on a platform. He needs to know how to get down. Consider training him to go downstairs, down a decline, or jump by holding out a treat to entice him. If he is jumping, be sure he is at a safe height and not at risk of injury.
Step
5
Slides
Some playsets have slides your dog can go down. To train your pup to slide, start with a leash and gently guide him down. Practice several times eventually taking the leash off and letting him slide on his own. Do not leave the leash on your dog without it in your hands or control as he could become entangled in the leash. Give him a treat at the bottom of the slide each time he is successful.
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Interior
Your playset may have a clubhouse or dog house your dog may need or want to visit. Guide him inside and back out again using a leash, then entice without the leash using a treat until he can come and go on his own.
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Practice
Practice each section on a leash at first if he needs guidance, then off leash with treat encouragement followed by meeting him at the end of the section to earn his treat. Be sure to encourage with treats and give him treats once he completes each part of the playset. In no time, he’ll be able to play on his own.
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The Make It Special Method

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Create
Your dog will enjoy playing in a playset if it’s fun for him. Whether this is a special set for just him, for him and his doggie friends, or for him and your children, it should be enticing for your dog. Even with an existing playset, plan areas that are fun for your pup. He’ll enjoy certain aspects of playtime more than others.
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2
Sand
Have an area of play sand deep enough for your dog it dig. This will be an area he visits often as long as he’s allowed to dig. You might find he releases energy here, goes to play on the equipment, and then comes to dig again.
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3
Up and down
Your playset should include easy and challenging inclines for your dog. Encourage your dog to move up and down these inclines safely by guiding him and repeating the action over and over until he is moving up and down on his own. These inclines can be ramps, stairs, or even roof peaks he can climb.
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4
Tunnels
Your dog will love going in and out of tunnels. Place tunnels on the ground, at the end of inclines, as part of a decline, and wherever you see fit to challenge your dog to hide and run out.
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5
Shade
A dog house or a shaded area your dog can climb up onto is perfect for cooling down and resting after some fun play time.
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6
Water
Be sure to have a special place just for water. Your pup will visit his water spot often as he plays, exerts energy, and tires himself out.
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7
Play
Once you have this fun playset created, train your dog to play by getting out there and playing with him. Climb before him, call his name, encourage with a treat, and reward your pup for having fun.
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The Guide and Encourage Method

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Leash
Introduce each section of the playset your dog needs to master while he is on a leash. You can guide him from the side encouraging him to go up, down, or across while holding the leash, or you can guide him up as you lead with the leash. Practice on a leash until he is eager to start on his own.
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Call
Walk near your dog, using his name to call him encouraging him to follow you and come to the sound of your voice as he maneuvers his way around the playset.
Step
3
Treat
There may be areas of the playset your dog is unsure about. These areas can be mastered using a treat to entice your dog up, down, around, and across. High platforms, planks, or declines might be scary for your dog. A treat to guide and entice may help get him through.
Step
4
Practice
Practice each method starting with a leash before moving on to another method. With lots of practice, your dog will not only be able to play on the playset alone without guidance and help, but he’ll want to play because he’ll have fun.
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Rewards
Be sure to give your dog rewards as he is learning to get on and around the playset. Some of the areas may be challenging for him. Treats go a long way in encouraging him to play and learn.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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