Why canine parkour is the perfect sport for athletic dogs
If you live in an urban area, you might have seen people jump off railings, climb walls, and descend stairs in some sort of urban obstacle course competition. They may have practiced parkour, a discipline that involves getting from one point to another (for example, from one ramp to another) using only your body. Well, now the dogs are joining them too.
Dog parkour – sometimes also referred to as “urban agility” – is a somewhat new dog activity that focuses on learning to navigate the world in new and creative ways. This can be done anywhere using the elements of space to balance, jump, crawl, climb, etc.
“Dog parkour is a great way to build dog confidence, build strength and fitness, boost focus and engagement, while giving your dog an energy outlet,” says Jennifer Malawey, Dog Trainer and behavioral counselor.
A very advanced parkour dog
Related: What Is The Elevator Game? Here’s why you need to teach it to your dog.
Additionally, Malawey adds that the beauty of dog parkour is that it is accessible to every dog-human team. “The obstacles you select and the environments you work in can change based on your dog’s age, size, fitness level and confidence so that everyone can participate and enjoy the benefits.” , she says.
How exactly do you get started in dog parkour?
One of the beauties of dog parkour is that it can be practiced both outdoors and indoors. Anna Ostroff, group class manager and trainer in behavioral therapy at School for Dogs, says “barkour” (the school’s own version of parkour for dogs) is great for city life.
“If you don’t have a lot of space, you can use obstacles around the house, such as chairs, ottomans, foam rollers, and laundry baskets,” she says. “If you transferred those same concepts outside, maybe you would use things like park benches, low flowerbed fences, traffic cones… we even used empty city bike stations like weaving poles.
Whatever you do, always start with the basics and find a trainer to start. Using positive reinforcement, Malawey suggests teaching your dog two-legged or four-legged signals, focusing on getting in, around, under, over, and through the elements. “Have your dog interact with safe and found obstacles, such as stones, logs, curbs, benches, poles and trees,” says Malawey. “Once you get started, you’ll start to see the world from a new perspective, identifying more creative uses for everyday objects. ”
Related: Pet Tag 101: What To Do If Your Dog Destroys Someone Else’s House
Benefits of Parkour for Dogs
Parkour is as much a physical exercise as it is mental enrichment for our dogs, according to Ostroff. “In ‘barkour’ classes, we not only help dogs develop their core muscle groups and balance, but we also work on the differentiation of cues – above against below, above against above – and on overall awareness of the dog. body, ”she adds.
By redirecting dogs’ attention, parkour can help distract from potential triggers, according to Malawey. “It can help reduce responsiveness and hypervigilance, reduce leash pulling, and encourage your dog to engage with you and be more careful.”
Go to a more advanced level of dog parkour
When your dog has a really solid foundation in the basics, you can move forward by choosing more difficult obstacles. “For example, look for objects that are smaller, taller, narrower, that have a different surface texture, or that move to the touch,” says Malawey. “You can also teach more difficult behaviors like pivots, gap jumps and emergency stops, and you can combine behaviors to create new, longer sequences. “
Ostroff says it’s always important that you go at each dog’s individual pace. “It’s important that the training is always fun for the learner and that we prepare their environment for success,” she says.
Is Parkour For All Dogs?
While changes may be needed for size, body shape, or health restrictions, Ostroff says almost all dogs can enjoy the sport within their own limits. “We are especially careful with young dogs that have not yet reached maturity, as you have to be careful of too much impact on the growth plates,” says Ostroff. “If we have a dog with an injury of any kind or with any health restriction, we work closely with clients to tailor it to the needs of their dogs.”
Malawey adds that official safety guidelines should always be followed and you should use common sense when deciding what height and type of obstacle you use during training.
“Certain parkour behaviors or obstacles should not be used unless the dog is fit, athletic, confident, self-aware and has confirmed growth plate closure,” says Malawey, who adds that the one of the fundamentals of parkour is to always allow your dog to choose. “Parkour is a great way to help fearful dogs gain self-confidence, as long as you always allow them to choose and don’t put them under pressure. ”
Finally, if there are any questions or concerns regarding your own dog’s specific physical limitations, Ostroff says you should always consult a vet before starting anything too strenuous.
Related: 5 Of The Most Common Mistakes First-Time Dog Owners Make, Expert Says