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There’s a new sport in town - and it’s fast, fun and open to everyone!
It is, of course, dog parkour.
If you’re anything like us when we first heard about dog parkour, you’ve got QUESTIONS... Is it dangerous? Is it just for certain breeds? What are the benefits? How do you learn the tricks? What things do beginners need to know?
So, we did the investigative work for you and quizzed dog parkour expert (she’s even written a book about it) and canine behaviourist Anna Louise Kjaer, from 4 Paws Canine Academy, about everything dog parkour.
Here’s our Q&A...
Anna: My family has always had dogs and I got my own dog when I was 10 years old. I was never that interested in traditional obedience training and instead started teaching my dog all kinds of fun tricks (using a trial and error method as no one taught tricks back then).
Years later, after qualifying as a dog training instructor, specialising in agility and tricks, I started to hear the term ‘dog parkour’ mentioned more and more often, and I realised that it perfectly described what I had been doing with my dog all along!
Another few years later, after much more experience, courses and training, I've now written a book about dog parkour and designed games-based methods to help owners teach dogs parkour tricks.
Anna: Dog parkour is simply using the environment around you to train with your dog.
So for example, when you see a tree in your environment, you think about ways to incorporate that tree into tricks training.
The same principle can be applied to benches in the city. In fact, it applies to every single object you might encounter in any environment.
Anna: The best part of the sport is that it is suitable for absolutely every dog, no matter the age or breed.
You can simply stick to certain exercises that take your dog's age and mobility into account. No one says that you HAVE to jump a certain height, or even jump at all. A lot of it is up to your own imagination.
Anna: The benefits are plentiful, but one of the best benefits is that it boosts your dog's confidence.
So if you have an anxious dog, training dog parkour can offer a confidence boost, and with time this boost will be able to transfer onto the specific anxiety your dog might be having and actually help decrease it.
Dog parkour is also great for boosting the relationship between you and your dog, as your dog will come to realise that no matter where you are together, it is always fun to be close to you.
Anna: You don't need any specific equipment to train dog parkour, as you can use anything in your environment or in your home. However, as with most kinds of training, you will need some kind of motivator and reward for your dog.
I always use high value treats whenever I start something new with my dog, and then I can always gradually decrease the value of the treat once he has mastered a certain exercise.
An important word of warning though: do not show the toy to your dog if it is in a position it could fall if it gets over-excited about getting the toy. Save it for the end of each exercise.
Anna: There are videos on YouTube of a dog that jumps from roof to roof and does some extreme-looking backflips. This is not the kind of dog parkour that I do with my dog, nor is it the kind that I would promote and teach.
Dog parkour, in my world, has to be kept as something safe for the dog. Safety measures are very important when training dog parkour so you don't suddenly expose your dog to potential dangers or injuries.
Dog parkour can easily be kept on a non-risk level - this would often involve the dog wearing a harness and a leash so you can easily support it if necessary, and keeping the height of the different objects involved small. You will gain the exact same outcome from using objects that are 5, 10, or 20 cm off the ground as an object that is 50 cm, 1 meter, or 5 meters off the ground.
Knowing your dog's capabilities and being mindful of what you ask your dog to do is really important. For example, your dog might be able to jump two meters off the ground over a high jump, but is there a good reason for asking your dog to do that? Chances are, it’s better to stick to a smaller jump which has lower risks associated with it.
Also, knowing the surface of the object you are using is also important, and how that surface might change under different circumstances. For example, as long as you never ask your dog to balance on wet wood, then you should be safe training in the forest.
Anna: To the dog, the owner taking part is important (it’s from this that they associate you with the fun they are having). But that being said, you don't need to be able to run around or jump over things. As long as you are able to support your dog, and teach it different tricks, then you will be fine.
Anna: There aren’t many local parkour training classes - yet. So if you're new to the sport and would like to get started, I would recommend my book on Dog Parkour which can give you a foundational understanding of the beginner tricks involved in dog parkour.
The book will also have several suggestions and ideas on how to do more advanced tricks with your dog within dog parkour.
If you're more into having something demonstrated to you as it would be in a real training class, I will soon be opening up my brand new online classes in dog parkour. You can find out more about them on my website.