Regular exercise is as important to your canine pal's health as it is to yours, but your dog can't grab his duffel bag, hop into his automobile and head to the gym. He relies upon you for the opportunity to stretch his legs during a long walk or trip to the dark park. You can make exercise fun and keep it exciting by building a jungle gym for your four-legged friend in your own backyard.
It's a Jungle Out There
The first step to create a jungle gym for your dog is defining a space. Survey the space you have available. Ideally, the jungle gym should be located in an enclosed area, which will protect your dog from running into a road, especially if he's easily distracted by passersby or birds who may venture uninvited in or out of the play yard. Locate the jungle gym away from gardens and lawn ornamentation, which may be in the way or get broken during play. Uneven terrain may be helpful to establish hills and valleys in which you can locate play stations.
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PVC pipe is an excellent material to use in jungle gyms. You can fashion weave poles by connecting sections of PVC pipe with tees, or sinking them into the ground. Poles should be spaced about 2 feet apart to allow room for your dog to move through the course. Always sand your PVC cuts to remove any rough edges that may injure your dog.
Another great use of PVC pipe is a simple jump. By cutting your pieces in different lengths and attaching the jump bar using a PVC tee, you can raise your jump as your dog's ability improves, or lower it as he ages. If you don't want to use PVC to create the entire jump, you can build the frame of the jump using 2-by-4's. Cut holes in the frame and slide the PVC pipe length through to create the jump pole. Cut multiple holes to raise or lower the jump.
The Bridge and Tunnel Crowd
Adding a tunnel in the jungle gym before or after the jump station can keep your dog interested and allow him to use different muscle groups crawling than he does when he jumps. Tunnels can be time consuming and difficult to create by hand. A child's tunnel purchased from a toy retailer should work fine. A wooden bridge created by building a sturdy box, and running a ramp down each side, adds height and interest to the jungle gym.
Keep it Interesting
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Add additional stations using toys strung from rope, or a teeter board, which can be purchased, handmade or recycled from a child's teeter-totter. Hide treats along the route of the jungle gym to reward your pal for a good workout. In warmer climates and in summer months, add a small pool for a bit of refreshment. This also can serve as a way to prevent heat exhaustion. No matter his size, don't leave your dog unattended near the pool.
Before beginning any type of aggressive play, your dog should see his veterinarian to be certain he isn't exercising beyond his capability and is healthy enough for a romp in his jungle gym. Never leave your dog unattended. Playtime is always more fun if you're along for the ride.