All About Dog Parkour: What It Is and How to Get Started

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Are you looking for ways to spice up your dog's daily walks? If you are wanting to try something new with your dog while getting out and exploring the world, dog sports are a great way to get active with your dog. Canine parkour is a fun and customizable sport that might be a perfect activity for you and your dog to try at home and in your local neighborhood.

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What is dog parkour?

Caine Parkour is an exciting dog training sport that brings together elements of dog agility and human parkour. Dog parkour is an interactive sport where handlers and dogs intentionally and creatively engage with the world around them. This includes: jumping, balance, circling around, climbing, and crawling on found objects or obstacles you come across in your local area. Sometimes called urban agility, canine parkour doesn't require lots of equipment or traveling to a designated training facility. Instead, you and your dog can play parkour games near your home, in your local community and anywhere else you and your dogs go.

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With parkour, your dog will learn to put their paws up (on cue) onto different kinds of objects, going in and going around different things. Parkour as a sport provides a fun opportunity to jazz up your everyday walks to add enrichment and engagement for both you and your dog and see your neighborhood in new light. Once you start training your dog everything you pass from a kid's skateboard ramp to boulders or picnic tables provide enriching opportunities to engage with your dog.

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Supplies needed:

  • Harness with a back clip that doesn't restrict your dog's movement.
  • Lots of treats that are high value to your dog broken into small pieces.
  • A leash
  • Your imagination!

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Earning parkour titles

In addition to being a fun recreational activity, canine parkour is also a competitive sport. The two main Parkour organizations for dogs are the International Dog Parkour Association and All Dogs Parkour . Open to dogs of all breeds and mixed breeds parkour titling happens via video submission meaning it can be done by dogs anywhere in the world. Additionally, because you are recording videos of your dog's performance it's an ideal sport for dogs who might be reactive or uncomfortable in crowds of dogs and people you would find at a regular dog show. Parkour titles become progressively more challenging from Novice through Champion with you and your dog demonstrating more complex and advanced behaviors as the levels progress.

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Getting started

Even if you don't have any plans to compete with your dog in parkour, using the parkour titling organizations requirements for different levels can be a great way to structure your training sessions / games with your dog. At the novice level your dog will demonstrate being able to put 4 feet onto obstacles when cued, as well as 2 feet onto an obstacle, putting paw pressure onto a (safe) obstacle that moves under foot, going under an obstacle, going between multiple obstacles that are less than twice a dog's shoulder width, jump over an obstacle, go around an obstacle and return to their handler, balance four feet on an obstacle that is the same width as the dog's shoulders, wait on a raised obstacle for 10 seconds, perform a sequence of behaviors in combination with different obstacles, and do multiple different parkour skills with the same obstacle.

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Parkour is a sport based on positive reinforcement dog training techniques. To teach your dog the different parkour skills it can be helpful to start with clicker training to increase which can help your dog to understand the different behaviors you are teaching. When starting with parkour you can use treats to lure your dog onto/around/under safe obstacles or shape the skills by clicking/regarding to capture a particular skill. The International Dog Parkour Association and All Dogs Parkour organizations both have great dog training resources to help you and your dog build your parkour skills. In addition, many dog trainers across the country teach canine parkour workshops, classes, or can provide individual coaching in person or online.

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Safety first

Safety with parkour is extremely important and is crucial to the foundations of the sport. If you are starting in parkour, you'll want your dog to have a supportive harness that allows for "spotting" your dog. Spotting means that the handler is able to support a dog on or off of higher obstacles and is able to catch/support their dog should they lose their footing to prevent dogs from becoming frightened or injured. Parkour is a teamwork sport and one of our jobs as the handler is to make sure we only ask our dogs to interact with safe objects, and that we help them safely engage with those objects.

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Parkour is not about seeing how high or fast your dog can jump or climb. Rather, it's about challenging yourself and your dog to find interesting and safe ways to negotiate and interact with objects in your environment. You might see on TV or on social media viral videos of dogs doing impressive looking stunts, climbing fences and buildings, jumping from high heights etc. These are dangerous behaviors and not part of what is generally accepted as parkour training, and not something you want to try to emulate at home.

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Vet checks

To begin competing, dogs must be a minimum of eighteen months old to ensure they are fully grown and developed before engaging in this activity. If you have a giant breed of dog, you may want to wait even longer as these dogs are particularly slow to develop. If you are going to get involved with parkour, make sure that your dog is healthy and in good physical condition to start this activity. If you are looking to increase the physical activity your dog is getting or starting a new higher impact exercise or activity it's a good idea to talk with your dog's veterinarian for a full examination to determine if this activity will be appropriate for your dog, and any higher impact parkour related activities like jumping you will want to avoid.

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Confidence building

In addition to being a lot of fun, one of the great things about canine Parkour is its ability to help a dog's confidence. Parkour can be extremely helpful for helping shy and nervous dogs become more comfortable in new surroundings and build their confidence when out exploring the world. In turn this build's a dog owner's confidence in their dog which can be helpful with other training goals. Parkour can also be a great activity to keep dogs focused on engaging with you as a distraction/ alternate behavior for dogs who might be reactive or nervous at the sight of other dogs or people.

In Canine Parkour, dogs are given cues to intentionally engage with different obstacles in the world around them like putting their paws up, jumping over, crawling under, and going around natural and man-made obstacles including trees, park benches, logs, boulders, retaining walls, or bicycle racks. Parkour dogs can build confidence as they interact with the world and many dog owners will start to see the world in new ways as everyday objects in your neighborhood turn into obstacles for our dogs to play with and navigate!

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