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8 Agility Training Tips for Obstacle Course Runs with Your Dog

Fun runs are a great way to stay fit and bond with friends - including your best furry friends. Now, obstacle course runs, such as Tough Mudder's dog-centric Ruff Mudder, invite dogs to join in on the fun with hills, rough terrain, water and mud holes, climbing walls, and other strength tests, so it's important to make sure Buddy's up to the task.

Obstacle Course Pre-Race Check-up for Dogs

Before you sign up, okay the event with your vet. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, a dog's health history, age, weight, social skills, or breed could make obstacle courses a non-starter.1 Even if your 10-year-old schnauzer rivals the greyhounds at dog parks, his little legs may not be suited for jumping and climbing over long distances or those that require greater agility.

Dog Agility Training for Obstacle Courses

Most dogs need to train before an obstacle course event. Like humans, dogs must build up cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and agility to avoid injury and enjoy the day.

These agility training tips can help you prep your pup for an obstacle course:

  1. Start a few weeks ahead. This gives Buddy time to strengthen his lungs, heart, muscles, bones, and joints. Paws and pads also need time to toughen up, and keep rocks and debris on the course from causing pain.2
  2. Build up slowly. This is particularly important for overweight dogs. Start by walking 1 mile briskly. When that gets easy, add 1-minute bouts of running. Gradually build up Buddy's endurance by alternating walking with running. Always start runs with a brief warm up. Incorporate extra rest days if you're just starting out.3
  3. Drill with hills. Jogging or sprinting up hills will get Buddy's hind legs, and yours, in top shape for an obstacle course. Start by adding hilly roads to your training route, then graduating to steeper climbs on stairs or bleachers.4
  4. Go off road. Run through wooded areas, and on hiking trails, graveled roads, and muddy paths and puddles to improve agility and acclimate Buddy to different surfaces.5
  5. Wade through water. Jog through baby pools or waves on a beach to enhance conditioning and prepare for water obstacles on the course.6
  6. Get a jump on it. Jumping works fast-twitch fibers in muscles for greater speed and power. Hold a dog treat at eye level (or an appropriate height for your dog) and prompt Buddy to jump to your hand. Perform multiple reps before sharing the treat.7
  7. Practice with obstacles. Work on Buddy's agility by running him across wood planking, over a broom handle raised on cereal boxes, and under running sprinklers. Explore local playground equipment on wet days or when the kids are in school. Cut the ends from cardboard packing boxes, tape them together, and create a long tube for you and Buddy to crawl through, military style. Use a leash to guide your pet.
  8. Watch for trouble. No matter Buddy's fitness, look out for extreme fatigue and heat exhaustion. Signs include excessive panting, labored breathing, stopping or losing interest suddenly, lameness, or reddened gums.8

Pet Wand PRO and Agility Training Rewards

In addition to praise and nuzzling, every agility training run deserves a reward for good behavior. Try following up with a warming pet shower to soothe Buddy's tired muscles. Waterpik® Pet Wand PRO penetrates deep fur with a patented WaterComb™ spray that sweeps away mud and suds in one motion and makes bath time a calming experience for pets. Pet Wand PRO also helps you bathe pets faster, so you and Buddy can play - and train - longer!


Waterpik® is the proud sponsor of the first Ruff Mudder Dog Obstacle Course.
The event takes place on Saturday, May 19th, 2018 in Philadelphia at Plantation Field in Coatesville, about an hour outside Center City.
Find registration details here, or watch the race live on May 19th at www.facebook.com/WaterpikPets/


  1. American Veterinarian Medical Association, Run Spot Run, www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/run-spot-run.aspx. (Accessed January 25, 2018.)
  2. Clough, J.T. How to Train Your Dog to Run with You, www.active.com/running/articles/how-to-train-your-dog-to-run-with-you. (Accessed January 25, 2018.)
  3. American Veterinarian Medical Association, www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/run-spot-run.aspx.
  4. SlimDoggy, Benefits of Strength Training Your Dog, slimdoggy.com/benefits-of-strength-training-your-dog/. (Accessed January 25, 2018.)
  5. Animal Planet, 10 Tips for Dog Agility Training, www.animalplanet.com/pets/3-start-early/. (Accessed January 25, 2018.)
  6. SlimDoggy, slimdoggy.com/benefits-of-strength-training-your-dog/.
  7. Ibid.
  8. American Veterinarian Medical Association, www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/run-spot-run.aspx.