Dog Parkour is all about you and your dog interacting and problem-solving in the environment. It is sometimes known as ‘urban agility’ but it can be done anywhere: in towns, in woodland, on the beach, in the garden and at home. There are set Parkour moves, such as four-feet on, two-feet on, over, under, through, balance and jumps but you can do them with any obstacle, limited only by your imagination, your dog’s capability and, of course, what is safe!
Safety is very important of course. Jumping on and off things and balancing on narrow surfaces can be risky so we always need to be aware of keeping our dogs safe, supporting them using a harness when at a height, helping them off obstacles where the jump may damage their joints, and ensuring that there are no spikes or sharp edges on the things we encourage them to interact with.
Parkour builds confidence by improving our dog’s balance and proprioception. As they practise different behaviours and interact with new objects, they learn that they can do new things and that they can succeed. So it is perfect if your dog is a little anxious or lacking confidence.
If you are the competitive type, then there are titles to work towards which are awarded on the basis of video submissions so are perfect if you find it hard to get out and about to shows and events.
You can start Parkour at home with a low stool or a sturdy box – or out on a walk if you can find a low, secure log or platform. When you place something new in front of them, most dogs will at least investigate it by sniffing: you simply reward this interaction. Then gradually hold out for a little more: putting a paw on, two paws, standing on it and so on. Many dogs will jump on straight away. If this happens, you have a natural Parkour dog! Your challenge will be getting behaviours on cue so they don’t jump on everything they see!
But it is great fun and well worth exploring. If you want to know more then check out the International Dog Parkour Association’s website, www.dogparkour.org, where you’ll find explanations of all the exercises with video links and information about trainers and titles. There are also several Facebook groups where people will be delighted to help you get started.
Janet & Martha