Oh, What Fun! Avidog’s Adventure Box

by | Breeder, Breeding, Puppy Raising

Most women love to shop at Bloomingdales or Nordstrom, but sadly for my mom, my favorite places to shop are Ace Hardware, Lowe’s and Home Depot. The reason for my quirky shopping preference is my obsession with puppies.

I am always looking for ways to provide learning experiences that will develop our puppies’ physical, psychological and emotional health. I know that every experience we give our puppies before they go to their new homes can help them to be the best they can be. So I wander the aisles of hardware and home improvement stores thinking of ways to use their products – usually not the way they were intended to be used – to challenge our pups as they grow.

For many years we have been filling our puppy pens with as many learning experiences as possible, from jungle gyms to bottle pools. In 2011 we got the idea to make an Adventure Box. We tried many ways to put one together but they never seemed to work quite the way we wanted them to, especially since our first priority was safety!

We had to be sure that everything we used in the Adventure Box had no sharp edges, could not be stripped down, peeled off, chewed up or swallowed whole by the puppies. We also wanted to be sure it would be sturdy enough to be pulled on, jumped on, walked through and still remain upright. With our last litter we got it right and the puppies loved it!

I am the first to admit that punching the holes in the frame is not easy!!! Just check out my PVC discard bin for the proof! Once you have the framework in place, the rest is not only simple, but lots of fun! Depending on the size of your puppies you can scale the Adventure Box up or down from ours, which was designed for golden retriever puppies.

The Adventure Box stimulates puppies’ senses in a fun and safe way. Adding the Adventure Box to their play area teaches them, at a time they have few fears, that stuff that moves and makes noise is interesting and fun. We toss treats inside the box so the pups have to go through the dangling items to get to them. Within a day or two, the pups are charging into, tugging on and trying to dismantle the box. When we begin feeding pups solid food, we will sometimes put the food bowl in the center of the Adventure Box. This teaches them to tolerate things touching and bumping them while they eat.

Puppies playing in an Adventure Box

Puppies playing in an Adventure Box

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Whether you want to make your own Adventure Box or have one shipped right to your door, check out our FREE ebook “How to Build and Use an Avidog® Adventure Box” or here to order a fully-assembled Adventure Box.

If you are making an Adventure Box don’t be limited by what we used when choosing your hanging items – go the store and use your imagination but remember SAFETY FIRST! The items should be enticing to the puppies while also stimulating them as they move in and out. Choose different kinds of items for each side so they can have many different experiences.

Of course, we love to see puppies playing in their Adventure Boxes, so don’t be shy, share a video of your puppies having fun in their Adventure Box on our Adventure Box video sharing page and our Facebook page.

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45 Comments

  1. Kelly

    Love this idea! I won’t have a litter for quite awhile, but I’m saving up your wonderful ideas, and this one’s a cracker. 🙂 I’m going to have to move all of the furniture out of my house so that the puppies can have all the space I want them to have! Thanks for sharing this, Lise!

  2. Lise

    Kelly,

    You can set up the box outdoors as well, and moving it around from indoors to outdoors would also be a great thing to do. Let us know when you use it. We’d love to have you share photos and your experience with it. You can post on our Facebook page. What kind of puppies will you be having?

  3. Roxy

    Have you had any troubles with new owners and chewing problems? This is a fantastic idea in theory but my concern would be that pups now have been taught its okay to play with and chew hoses and plastic cups and other household items. Personally, I think I would lean towards less likely to be found around the house items.

    • Gayle Watkins

      Roxy, That’s a good point but we haven’t had more than normal problems with pups chewing in their new homes. We do raise retrievers so a certain number of chewing issues have to be expected. Thank goodness we’ve never hung shoes or socks from the Adventure box :-). We do strongly encourage our new owners to confine their pups or keep a close eye on them since young pups can get in so much trouble on their own. That may nip the problem in the bud!

      • Roxy

        Thanks. It is a great concept. Definitely something I’ll have to remember down the line. Thanks.

    • Lynda

      I am about to make on of these for our Bulldogs and I thought the same thing about the hose since the mother is death to hoses, so I am going to try a hula hoop instead.
      My way of thinking is that puppies, or dogs in general, can’t chew what they can’t get to, or so I try to convince my husband when he leaves stuff laying around lol.

      One big problem I ran into was finding the 3 way pvc fittings in 1 & a half inch or 2 inch. Nothing close to us so had to order them and it seems like the pvc industry has changed the way they size stuff so make sure to check that out! just a fyi Thanks

      • Marcy Burke

        Lynda,
        Finding the PVC is not always easy, as you have found. When buying PVC some companies measure by outer diameter and other by inner. As long as the company you buy the pipe from uses the same measurement you should be good to go. We would love to see your pups in your Adventure Box when you get it built. If you would, put a photo or video up on our Facebook page.

  4. Karen Lake

    Love the idea! I am in the process of gathering materials to build one for my current litter. Could you please tell me more about the large white Y pipe in the video? What are the dimensions, etc.? Many thanks.

    • Lise

      Karen,

      The “Y-pipe” you see on the floor is a PVC fitting from Home Depot. It is not really part of the adventure box itself, but has been fun for the puppies to explore and race in and out of. The part number is Model # PVC 00600 1600. Marcy picked it up on one of her puppy shopping sprees.

      We are thrilled you are going to add the Adventure Box to your puppies’ early developmental experiences. We’d love to see videos of them playing in the Adventure Box. If you “like” us on Facebook you can post them to our FB page. Let us know how they do.

  5. dawn O'Leary

    Holy jumpins you guys. I can’t keep up. Having another litter any day and will have to try this. I have found a slide from play value(it is an elephant trunk which the pups should beable to climb up on so will let you know how that goes.DAwn

  6. Lise

    Dawn, We wish you the best of luck with the new litter! Have fun with them on your slide. We’ve had puppies climb the steps to be able slide down on their own- such fun to watch them learn!!
    Try this Adventure Box – they have so much fun playing with all the things that hang, swing, spin and make noise. Let us know how things go.

  7. Cheryl Beach

    My 4 1/2 week old Flat Coated Retriever pups LOVE the Adventure Box that my husband constructed from your plans. No hesitation or need for treats to get them to play. What a great concept.

  8. Lise

    Cheryl,

    We are thrilled that you built the Adventure Box and that your pups are doing really well with it.
    Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know! We know how busy you are if you have 4.5 week old pups! If you have any video of the pups playing in the box post them to our Facebook page! We’d love others to see how much fun the pups can have.

  9. Tracy

    I can’t wait to build one of these!!

    • Marcy Burke

      Tracy,

      We’d love to hear about your experience building and using the Adventure Box! If you take pics and video of your litter using the Adventure Box we’d love it if you would put them up on Facebook. Nothing makes us smile more than seeing others using our ideas that help their pups grow both physically and mentally into the best dogs they can be!

  10. Judi

    I haven’t raised a litter, but this looks like it could be fun even for the puppy after I bring him home. I might think about making one panel and putting it across a doorway so it takes up a bit less space. Could change out the hanging bits every few days. This might be counterproductive to my “thou shalt not cross babygates” rule which enables me to prop babygates across doorways instead of fixing them in place. Hmm.

    Have you thought about putting a bit of tarp or stiffer shower curtain across part of the box? Flapping noises and feels could be good. Maybe start with strips of tarp/shower curtain and move up to just a single slit for passage.

    • Lise Pratt

      Judi,

      The Adventure Box is a lot of fun for puppies, but as it is designed it is not appropriate for older puppies and dogs. The attachments on the Adventure Box can be removed by older puppies and dogs so we do NOT recommend it.

      We have built a doorway barrier for puppies to play around. You are right, you can teach them to break the rule of staying behind the baby gates if you are creating a barrier by having items very close together. If you are just setting it up to have something make noise as they go through it should not teach the pup to disrespect baby gates. Before making one consider the kind of puppy you have. If it is a bold pup you may want to skip teaching it to push through things at an older age.

      We have thought of using some kind of fabric design for one side but are pretty sure it would not have a chance to survive! When building your own be sure everything on the Adventure Box is safe for the puppy; be sure there is nothing sharp and nothing that can be ripped off or swallowed whole.

      • Haylee Briggs

        Hi,
        I have two older puppies of 7-8 months ,they are rescues so we can’t be sure how old or what breed they are but border collie cross is the main consensus so they are medium to large dogs. I would love something like this for them. Do you have ant suggestions for bigger older puppies?

        • Marcy Burke

          Haylee,

          Our original Adventure Box was made from steel. But it was prohibitively expensive to build and ship. For older pups, you could hang a clothes line between some trees and hang different things from the clothes line. Or you might use a vinyl-coated wire. Just be sure it is fastened to the tree really tightly and that the pups cannot get hurt by the things that you hang. There can be no loops or openings for their heads, legs, feet to get caught on. Hope this helps!

  11. Joy Annunziato

    Doing this adventure box!! Adapted the sandbox with bottles…My husband built a low box and tons of bottles in it! We call it the bottle box! No hesitation on the pups part barging thru…I have Tollers. Also sent tag lines home with all my pups! Love your stuff My last litter was bomb proof! Than you.

    Joy

  12. Lise Pratt

    Joy, We are thrilled that you are going to use the Adventure Box! The pups have lots of fun in and around the box. Have a blast with it! We’d love to see photos or video of your puppies playing in your Adventure Box or Bottle Box for that matter. Feel free to post it on our Facebook page. I am so glad you built the bottle pool for your pups and even happier to hear that we’ve helped you send them home bomb proof!

    Feel free to let people know about Avidog’s products.
    1) Our potty training course, Avidog’s Puppy Potty Training Solution is a multimedia course along with live telephone support that is guaranteed to potty train your puppy or your money back (we’re not kidding!)
    2) Taglines are free and available through our website. Once they receive it they will get a link to the instructional video on how to use it correctly.

    What kind of puppies do you breed? We look forward to hearing about their Adventures in the Adventure Box! We love getting feedback – thanks so much for sharing yours!

    Lise

  13. Rosann

    Absolutely love this! Going to make one for future litters

    • Marcy Burke

      Rosann –

      When you get it done, we’d love to see it. Perhaps post a picture or video to our Facebook page? We love watching pups in the Adventure Box – all that learning going on and it’s also loads of fun!!!

      -Marcy

  14. kathy

    I will hopefully be having a litter of border collies in a few months, and am always looking for new ways to stimulate pups and expose them to new sights/sensations/textures/movement. this is such a great idea, I am going to make this today, I will definitely send you some video when it is put to use!

  15. Tamara

    As a dog trainer, I can’t tell you how much I love this! Not only is it a great idea for puppies, but a great thing to introduced to shy older dogs or senior dogs who just need some enrichment but aren’t up to moving about a lot. The uses are probably endless.

    • Lise Pratt

      Tamara, The Adventure Box is designed for very young puppies. While a very carefully built version of this box could be used for shy, older dogs or even senior dog please be VERY careful choosing the items you put on the box and how you attach it to the box. You must think safety first! Be SURE the dog cannot pull off anything that they might get hurt with.

      If you use the box as a training tool, shaping the dog to play with things on the box, your being with the dog would assure they are not going to get hurt. We’d love to know what you actually do with the box if you have a minute, please let us know.

  16. Pat

    So excited to build one. The poor pups are only 2 days old
    Read about the box in Whole Dog Journal and found my way to the site for more info. Making my shopping list!

    As we have small dogs, I will have to scale it down. I raise Search n Rescue dog as well as Service dogs and have used the nero stimulation exercises for 20 years. I am excited to find a new way to add to my rules of seven. I will add “floors” in the center to add screens, grates, water and other things of interest. All removable and safe. Textures in surfaces are very important in development.
    Off to Lowe’s where I find treasures all the time. The Sports Acadamy offers so many things in my training building.

  17. Lise Pratt

    Pat, we are thrilled you are going to build an Adventure Box! You may also be interested in our Early Scent Introduction since you raise S&R dogs. We have been doing ESI for years while we also do Early Neurological Stimulation. We have analyzed the data and the results are compelling.
    Gayle has done a webinar called “Baby Noses” explaining ESI for the Canine Health Foundation. The webinar is due out very soon. If you would like more information about ESI let me know.

    We agree about changing the footing for the puppies – it is an important part of developmental process!
    I hope you found some great things for your Adventure Box! We’d love it if you’d share some video or photos on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AvidogIntl, or just email it directly to me at Lise@Avidog.com

  18. Michael Kihn

    Lise et al,

    We built an adventure box (or, as we call it, a puppy playpen) for the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School Working Dog Center. We found that we could avoid the difficulty in “punching the holes in the frame” by using the following technique:

    1. Mark holes, with a Sharpie every 2 inches using a steel rule taped to the 30 inch PVC pipe. This insures that the holes will occur in a straight line along the pipe.
    2. Using a hammer and a small (8d) nail, make a dent on each mark. This will center a small pilot drill.
    3. Using a 3/32 inch drill bit centered in each dent, drill holes all the way through the PVC pipes.
    4. Then, using a 1/4 inch drill bit centered in each small hole, drill the 1/4 inch holes on each side of the pipes.

    This process requires a few more steps, but avoids the problem of trying to drill a large (1/4 inch) hole on the relatively narrow curved surface of the PVC. Because we centered the large drill bit in a small pilot hole, the 1/4 inch bit did not slip on the PVC. We did not waste a single piece of PVC

    We also found that using “side elbow” fittings (available at Loewe’s) with three instead of four openings, for the corners of the frame, we did not need to cap a fourth opening.

    This is a great device and the folks at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center are looking forward to using it when the next group of puppies arrives early next year.

    Best regards,

    Mike Kihn AIA, LEED AP

  19. Lise Pratt

    Michael,

    Thank you so much for your feedback! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
    Drilling the holes is the most challenging part of building the box and your suggestion, although it’s a few more steps, will make the actual drilling more accurate.
    We would love to see photos or video of your puppies using the box. We’d love it if you’d share their adventures with us – we enjoy seeing all kinds of puppies in using the box! Thanks again for your suggestions.

    All the best,

    Lise

    • Kate Judge

      I discovered a couple of things that helped with drilling issues. It was suggested that I use a brad drill bit that has a thin sharp tip with two more pointy bits. It helps to grip the pipe bit when you start drilling. I also used the pvc connectors to support the pipe and raise it off the work surface while I was doing the drilling as I didn’t have vice grips. It was actually pretty easy. Now I did use the thinner pvc not the more expensive thicker schedule 40 pvc which might be an issue. I ended up getting my pvc connectors from Lee Valley if you have one in your area. People use them for greenhouses!

      • Marcy Burke

        Kate,
        Thanks for sharing the tip. The project is a fun one, but drilling those holes can be frustrating for people. We would love you to send us a picture of your finished Adventure Box!

  20. Ingrid Norris

    After seeing this in the Whole Dog Journal, I believe it would make an excellent Girl Scout Silver Award project for puppies at our shelter or in foster care. Thanks for the ideas!

    Ingrid Norris
    Humane Education Coordinator
    Spartanburg Humane Society

    • Marcy Burke

      Oh, please send us pictures if you do it as a Girl Scout Silver Award project! We would love to see them.

  21. Shelly

    Another great source for things to hang on puppy gyms are second hand stores/websites. Things like baby mobile toys, balls etc can often be found at Goodwill etc. I have a hand mirror in a really sturdy frame with a hanging hole on the handle–some pups are absolutely fascinated by reflection.

    • Marcy Burke

      Great idea to check out those places, always keeping safety in mind, of course, when picking the items.

  22. Christina Miller

    So thankful your AKC/CHF webinar on neonate scenting techniques brought me to your website. I am SO making an adventure box. I have a 5 day old Canaan Dog litter that will love it in a few weeks. Will also start ESI with them this evening. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    • Lise Pratt

      Christina,

      How is the ESI going? What scents are you using and what are their responses?
      Please send video of your pups in the Adventure Box. You can post it to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AvidogIntl or send it directly.

      We wish you all the best with your pups!

  23. Margret V.

    Fantastic idea, I’m expecting a litter in february and really want to try and make something like this. I live in Belgium so no home depot for me, but I ‘m pretty sure I’ll find pvc pipes to build a frame and some cool stuff to hang in them 🙂
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Lise Pratt

      Margret,

      We are so glad you will be building an Adventure Box for your puppies.
      Think through what you hang from the box to be sure it will be safe for your pups.
      Please send video of your pups learning in the box. You can post it to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AvidogIntl or send it directly if you are not on Facebook.
      What kind of pups do you breed?

  24. Camille

    Hi! So excited to try this! My brother built the box part and I’m currently trying to find parts to hang on the sides. We have a 3 week old litter who will be ready to try it soon and 3 more litters on the way, so I’m grateful for your pictures to help me fill in the sides quickly. I work for a non-profit where we breed, raise and train Labrador retriever pups, and donate them to children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome and Autism. We also donate our pups to groups that further train them to be assistance dogs. I’m hoping this box will help with “bomb proofing” our pups. Thank you!

    • Marcy Burke

      Camille,
      It is exciting to introduce the Adventure Box to litters. How nice of your brother to make one for you. 3.5-4 weeks is the perfect time to introduce them, they are ambulatory, yet have no fear. With 3 more litters on the way it looks like your box will get quite a workout.

      Adding the Adventure Box to your litters’ play area will bring out the very best in them. For pups that are fearful, they become less so. For bold pups that are afraid of nothing, it can make them almost bomb proof! Start out with good genetics and add lots of age-appropriate stimulus, including the Adventure Box, and the puppies end up the better for it! Good luck with this litter and your future litters.

  25. Dana

    I have 3 week old wire dachshund pups currently. They arent up on their feet yet. I just ordered the premade one. At what age is the best age to start them on the adventure box. Also how long does it take the boxes to ship?

    • Gayle Watkins

      Dana, We typically first introduce the Adventure Box at 3.5 weeks but if your pups are too small, you can easily wait another week before doing so. Be sure to introduce it before 5 weeks of age though, before your pups start becoming wary of new things. Have fun with it and PLEASE send photos! I was raised by a dachshund (standard, red, smooth) and love the breed!

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