Introduction: DIY Dog Agility A-Frame

With A-Frames ranging from $500 bucks to $1,000 or more I figured I would save some cash, have some fun, and build my dog an Agility A-Frame to practice on!

On the following pages, you'll see that it's actually quite easy to do, and yes, I am 100% confident it will hold my dog's weight, then again, my dog weighs 16lbs... If at any point you want it stronger, modify the plans as you see fit. I've had a 70 lbs German Shepard use the frame and I've also climbed it myself as a test. This thing is a beast and is pretty heavy.

Also keep in mind this is a practice frame. Regulation frames are 9 foot per side, these plans are only 8 foot. The rest of the dimensions are to rules so it's a reasonable practice setup.

See my other instructable for making your own Dog Agility Jumps

As Requested, now with video!

Step 1: Materials List

The Materials need for this can all be found at your local Home Improvement center.

  • 8 x 2" x 4" x 8' (two by fours) (Note: 8' is what they're listed as in the store, their actual measurement is 8' - 3", or 93", this allows a builder to build an 8' wall using a 2x4 above and below the cut 93" 2x4 to give you 8').  Note: As pointed out by alan481 "8' lumber is an actual 96". you are thinking of the pre-cut 92 5/8" stud" I must have purchased studs.
  • 2 x 3' x 8' x 15/32" plywood (or, if you're concerned, feel free to use a thicker plywood, buy a 4x8 sheet and have the home improvement store rip it to 3 x 8!)
  • 42 feet of 3/8" x 1 1/4" molding (this will be used as the rungs to add traction for the dog, this is sold by the foot and you have to cut them yourself. We cut 7 lengths of 6' per length to aid in fitting in the vehicle)
The Rest
  • 2x door hinges
  • 4x hook bolts ( bolts that have a hook on one side, allows you to attach the chain)
  • 2x 8' lengths of chain (we picked up chain that can hold about 250lbs, overkill, but it's cheap)
  • 1 bottle of wood glue (for the molding)
  • 1lbs box of 2 1/2" screws (or use nails, etc)
  • 1lbs box of 1" nails (or some other nail, brad nails, etc) for tacking the molding to the frame allowing the wood glue to dry.)
  • 2 colors of paint, exterior paint is best.  For the Yellow, I had some cans of Krylon paint leftover from my Christmas Pacman Lawn Ornament.
  • optionally, exterior base coat (I'm using it on mine, but do what you would like)
  • a few cups of dry sand (we're going to mix it with the paint to add some more traction for our pups)
  • 1x pool noodle (This will be used to fill in the gap at the top)
Total cost excluding wood glue, paint, screws and nails (I already had these) was $100 bucks.

Step 2: Cut List

This is the easiest thing to have cut, have the home improvement center rip the plywood down to 3 foot by 8 foot. The two home improvement stores by me do not charge you for the first two cuts, as all we need is 2 cuts, this is ideal! Plus, this helps it fit in your car/truck/suv easier. Save the cutoff, the 12" is good for later projects (dog walks, etc)

Note: 8 foot sides are 1 foot short of regulation. As such, these plans are for a practice A-Frame.

You have a total of 8 2x4s, set them up as so:
4 of them, keep their original length (these will be used along the length of the plywood sheet)
2 of them, cut 2x 36" boards from for a total of 4 x 36" boards (this will go at the top and bottom of the plywood.
2 of them, cut 2x 33" boards from for a total of 4 x 33" boards (This will be mid supports for the a-frame)

Depending on how you cut your molding at the home center, you need to end up with 14 strips of 3' per strip. If you followed my recommendation on the Materials List page, then each of the seven strips, just cut them in half.

I just used a Chop Saw (Miter Saw).  Remember, measure twice, cut once, wear safety googles, etc. Also, a helper is, well, very helpful!!!!

Step 3: Building the Box

The first step is to build a box.

Follow these directions twice, we're making 2 boxes.

Find a reasonably flat surface to build this on (just find anything that is "good enough"). I used my garage floor.

Step 1:
Take the 2 2x4s that you didn't cut and lay these parallel to each other. These 2x4s are 3" short of 8 feet, the world of wood measurements is not very intuitive!  Anyway, lay the 36" boards above and below the 8' boards.  Lay the 33" boards 32" from either end.

I used 2 1/2 inch deck screws to secure them.  These should hold up to the elements, but feel free to use nails if you'd like.

with a pencil, mark the 8' board on the side in the middle of the 33" boards.  This will be used to know where to screw the plywood to the cross members.

Step 2
Lay the 3'x8' plywood sheet on top of the frame you just built.  I first drilled, then countersunk each hole, then drilled in a 2 1/2 deck screw into each hole.  I could have used smaller screws but this allowed me to use one box.  I did this about every 6 inches or so.  

We had 2 drills setup, one with the drill bit the other with a hex plug so we could quickly drop in the countersink bit and then the drill bit.  This made a tedious job more tolerable!

You can optionally fill the wholes with wood putty to prevent the dogs paws from getting caught, we just filed them with sandy paint (see next page).

Step 3
Sand! At this time we sanded down the corners and any chips from the screw holes.  We did this before installing the molding as it was easier.

Step 4
Measure about 4" in from one end and lay a piece of molding.  Repeat this every foot.  I used wood glue and then tacked each strip of molding down with 1 inch nails.  The nails act like a clamp for the wood glue.

At this point, I made sure the molding didn't have any sharp edges but bringing out the sander.

Congratulations, if you repeated these instructions, you should have 2 halves of an A-Frame!

Step 4: Painting

Painting is pretty much up to you.  The colors are purely your preference, or in my case, what was on hand and what was 5 bucks at the Home Improvement store's oops bin!

Paint is very important. Not only will it help the wood last, but we will also be adding sand to it to provide additional traction for the dogs.  The only rules for the A-Frame's paint scheme is it needs to have 2 colors.  The bottom (yellow in my case)  is where the dog has to contact before it's allowed to jump off of the A-Frame, if they don't they will be penalized.

Step 1 (Optional)

Prime the surface.  I had some leftover Kilz from a home improvement project.  As this item will be sitting outside, I figured some primer would be one more layer of protection!  

I also used the primer coat as the coat that would contain the sand.  Sorry I don't have photos of this step but pretty much I used a spare bucket, poured in about a quart or so of primer.  I then added clean playground sand a cup at a time. After each cup, we would spread a sample onto the board to see if the sand was distributed enough.  The end result is about a 10% sand coverage.  It looks like very poorly made sandpaper!

Step 2.
Starting with the light color, paint 3" of board.  This will be your contact zone.  If you didn't use sand and primer, be sure to mix some sand in the paint (see step 1) if you did use sand & primer, you can just paint this coat on.  In my case, I had some extra Krylon spray paint from my Christmas Pac Man Lawn ornaments.

Step 3.
Paint on the dark color!  Too easy right :)

Step 5: Hardware

Now that our two sides are made, we need to join them, and secure them when they're spread out.

Step 1
Lay the sides so that the rough panel sides are on the bottom and top.  Picture opening the A-Frame and seeing only the frames inside.  If you do this backwards, it won't be a very successful A-Frame!

Step 2
Shim a gap between the top of the A-Frame.  This will give the hindges/frame space to open and close.  I just used scrap wood for this.

Step 3
Fasten the two hinges to the A-Frame. This one I used some 1 inch screws that I had laying around.  Feel free to use the 2 1/2 if that's all you have, note that they'll be poking through the frame side of the A-Frame and won't impact the dog in any way.

Step 4 Adding the chain bolts
At this point, I kept the frame laying on the ground while I drilled the holes for the bolts.  I drilled the whole, opened the frame like an alligator's mouth, and put the bolts on. I suppose I could have used washers at this point.  Feel free to do that if you so choose.

Make sure you put the hook side of the bolts on the interior of the frame. Don't worry about the leftover bolt length, we'll take care of that later.

Step 5
Measure out both chains and attach them to the hooks, one on each side.  I did this as we stood up the frame.  Standing up the frame/moving it is definitely easier with 2 people. Make sure whatever angle you want to achieve, the chain is pretty taught.  You don't want the frame moving/giving as the dogs jump on it.

Step 6
All important! Dremel the excess bolt!  The last thing you want to do is catch yourself or the dog's leash (if you're just starting out, you'll probably have the leash on for a couple runs) on the extra bolt.  Once that's cut off, there is very little overhang of the bolts.

At this point, the frame is almost done!

Step 6: Pool Noodle?!?

Yes, you will use a pool noodle!

The first few times I used the A-Frame, I was nervous.  Not so much about the A-Frame but about the gap at the hinge joint.  Most dogs learn to jump over the apex in an efficient jump.  Until they do, they may pause at the top or mis-step.  As you can imagine, I did not want this big ol' gap hurting my dog.  After some careful thought, I came up with the idea to use a pool noodle!

These come in various sizes and shapes.  The first one I used was a hexagon.  This worked very well as it wouldn't slip or move.  Since shapes are hit or miss, the second one I used was the standard round pool noodle.  Check your local drug stores/toy stores or walmart/target type stores.  They tend to only sell these during the summer. As such go ahead and grab two as depending on how harsh the sun is, they may not last until next season.

Step 1
Measure and cut to 36".  I cut mine with a simple utility knife.  You can use scissors, sharp knife, etc.

Step 2
Secure it to the A-Frame!  I did this by running a piece of rope through the whole in the middle.  I then wrapped that rope around the a-frame hinge area and tied it off.  This was secure enough and has lasted 1 year without a problem!

Step 7: You Are Done!

Congrats!  In just an afternoon you have built for 100 bucks something that costs a few hundred!  I have to say, this project was really fun for the whole family!  My wife was a huge help and my dog loves it.

The attached photos are of our Cockapoo Ruby going over our A-Frame as well as some jumps I made with PVC (let me know if you'd like a instructable about those too!).

As a note, if you're thinking about doing dog agility, please get professional training at least to begin with.  If you over work your dog, you can cause some serious damage.  A professional trainer is relatively inexpensive and they'll train you how to properly train your dog.  

For those thinking about doing dog agility, all I can say is it's addicting and a very bonding activity for you and your puppy!  Ruby and I have learned so much doing it and she has also learned a lot more obedience from it.  If your dog is out of control, don't let that stop you, the professional trainers will help you with that as well!

To Keep Ruby off the jump until it's time to do training, I use chicken wire around the two ends.


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