DIY Wooden Obedience Dumbbells

In competition obedience there are a number of exercises that involve retrieval of dumbbells.  In the Open class you have the retrieve over high jump and retrieve on the flat.  And in Utility you have the scent discrimination exercises.

Zora lying on the floor with a wooden dumbbell on her foot

In Open your dumbbell may be made of wood or plastic.  In Utility you need 2 sets of 5 identical articles, one set each made of leather, metal or wood.  The articles do not have to be dumbbell in shape, but that is the most common form.

The AKC regulations describe exactly how the dumbbells for each exercise made be designed, sized and made.

Open dumbbells should be: The dumbbell, which must be approved by the judge, will be made of one or more solid pieces of wood or non-wooden material similar in size, shape and weight to a wooden dumbbell. Metal dumbbells are not permitted. Dumbbells will not be hollowed out. They may be unfinished, coated with a clear finish or may be any color. They may not have decorations or attachments but may bear an inconspicuous mark for identification. The size of the dumbbell will be proportionate to the size of the dog.

Zora’s white plastic dumbbell

And Utility articles should be: The articles will be provided by the handler and will consist of two(2) sets only. The handler will choose which two (2) sets are to be used,metal, leather or wood. Each set of articles will be comprised of five identical objects, which may be items of everyday use. The size of the articles will be proportionate to the size of the dog. The metal set must be made entirely of rigid metal. The leather set must be made of leather.  The wood set must be made of one or more solid pieces of wood. The articles may be unfinished, stained or dyed and must be designed so that only a minimum amount of fastening material is visible. The articles in each set will be legibly numbered with a different number and must be approved by the judge.

a dog in a utility competition in a pile of metal and leather dumbbells sniffing

This morning I thought it would be an enjoyable project to make some dumbbells for Zora and I to work with.  I had the materials lying around in the cellar work area already, and knew the general size I wanted.  If I was unsure of the size, there are some online resources I found to help properly size the dumbbell for the dog.  Max200 had a nice tutorial as did J&J Dog Supply For Zora’s I wanted a bar of 2 3/4″, and the bells as 2 1/2″ square.  In hind sight I probably should have made the bells 2 1/4″ square or even 2″ square and I may cut them down to that at a later date.

I wanted to make dumbbells as Utility articles for our scent discrimination practice.  And made 6 so that I would have the required 5 by the regulations plus 1 extra.

Materials for Wooden Dumbbells:

  • wood 1/2″ thick.  I used some nice quality plywood I had
  • wooden dowel diameter appropriate for your dog.  Mine is 1/2″
  • 2 screws per dumbbell (if you are making Utility ones as I was, you want to make sure all the screws are identical same color, size, shape)
  • wood glue
  • Skill saw
  • Drill & drill bits
  • Sand Paper
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Square
  • Clamps
  • Black or White paint if you are numbering the ends of each dumbbell

To Make:

Measure out the length and width of each dumbbell end square onto your plywood.  I measured out 2 1/2″ the width of the piece of plywood I had (10″ wide x 2′ long), and then measured cross wise every 2 1/2″ to make the marks for 4 squares.   After making those marks, I cut in using my skill saw along the 3 cross wise marks, but not going the full length of the board.  So I ended up with my board with evenly spaced cuts in.  Then again using the skill saw, I cut along my 2 1/2″ mark that went the width of the board.  This created 4  2 1/2″ squares cleanly.  I then did another 2 1/2″ mark the width of the board, then evenly spaced 2 1/2″ marks the length and again cut in that pattern.  In the end I had 12 2.5″x2.5″ squares of my plywood.

I then matched up squares into pairs.  Some of my cuts weren’t perfect, so I tried to match up squares that were most like each other.  I then clamped a pair together and measured to find the center, marking that spot.  I then drilled a hole directly through the center of 2 squares.  And repeated this process for each pair of plywood squares.  This allowed me to create matched pairs of dumbbell ends.

Keeping each pair together, I now set the dumbbell ends to the side of my work area.

Taking my dowel, I measured  2.75″ from one end, and cut it cleanly.  I then continued until I had 6 2.75″ pieces of dowel.  I took each piece of dowel and drilled a small hole on the very end, so that when put together the screw will go in without splitting the dowel.

2 dumbbell ends square with holes drilled and the center dowel bar

At this stage I had all of the pieces I needed cut and drilled for my dumbbells, so time to sand.  I wanted to make sure there were no sharp edges, splinters, or marks from my pencil on the dumbbells.  I sanded each side of the bells, the ends of the bars, and over each face until smooth.

Now to assemble my dumbbells!  First I screwed just 1 together and tested it out on Zora to make sure I had it all correct and comfortable for her.  That passed, so I then took it apart to reassemble properly.

Zora sitting wagging tail a blur handing me the dumbbell in her mouth during testing phase

I put a dot of wood glue on the end of the dowel, then using my screw driver screwed the dumbbell end into the dowel.  Flipped it over and repeated for the opposite side.  2 sides and 1 bar made 1 dumbbell.

Once my glue dries overnight, I will then paint my numbers 1 through 6 on my 6 new wooden utility articles and call them complete!  Not bad for 90 minutes worth of work.

4 of my 6 new wooden dumbbells on the counter, sanded assembled and glue drying


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