Cross training: Parkour

Parkour is a physical discipline in which individuals move through their environment and conquer obstacles in their path. It includes climbing, balancing, jumping, running, vaulting, creativity and working past fear.

The International Dog Parkour Website

Dog parkour is also sometimes called urban agility. The International Dog Parkour Association (IDPKA), whose website is quoted above, has developed guidelines for titling in Dog Parkour. There is a Training Level, suitable for puppies & optional for all dogs, then Novice through Championship levels. The levels get more physically challenging as you progress from Novice through Expert levels. The Championship level is a unique title that focuses on the relationship you’ve developed with your dog through parkour, and the philosophies of the sport. All titles are awarded based on video submission, so it’s a program open to people anywhere in the world.

Parkour is a fantastic way to cross train your disc dog, building skills useful for disc in a different environment. Here are a few reasons I think parkour benefits a disc dog.

  • Parkour is easily incorporated into leash walks. This is perfect for those of us who live in urban environments.
  • Parkour is fun! It may encourage you to take your dog on more walks. This can increase your own fitness level as well!
  • Dogs build body awareness. Since every obstacle they encounter is different & many are unstable, they learn to evaluate the obstacle, and how to move their bodies to be successful. It’s important to note here that IDPKA supports “spotting” dogs doing parkour, using harnesses & leash techniques. It’s required that you spot the dog at certain heights when submitting video for titles. This allows you to let the dog figure out new challenges in a safe way.
  • It supports thoughtfulness when using their bodies. When a disc is involved in training, the dog’s drive for the disc can override caution. Parkour, on the other hand, is generally a more deliberate activity. The lessons they learn doing parkour can help them be more sure footed when doing disc.
  • It builds confidence. By gradually increasing the difficulty level, and by performing the same behaviors on a wide variety of obstacles, the dogs gain confidence in their abilities.
  • Many of the behaviors used in parkour are the same ones you will use in disc. Doing parkour will help them learn & generalize those cues.
  • Doing parkour builds core strength, which will have huge benefits in disc.
  • When playing disc, many times your focus is on your role in throwing. In parkour, your role is to watch, support & spot the dog while they perform behaviors. This process allows you to really watch your dog move, and you can gain valuable insight that way. Are they uncomfortable turning a certain direction? Do they hesitate to rebound off of certain types of obstacles? You can see changes in their movement that may indicate injury, or notice muscle groups that could use some conditioning, and see if there are any types of moving objects they’re uncomfortable with.
  • Interacting with unusual obstacles can give you ideas for new freestyle tricks!

If you’re interested in starting parkour, the IDPKA guidelines can provide a nice structure for learning. It’s not necessary to go through the titling program. Their Facebook training group is supportive of those training for fun, as well as those pursuing titles. And if you’re the type of person who is motivated by earning titles, their titling program can motivate you to get out there & start moving.

To get started, check out the International Dog Parkour Association website and the Dog Parkour Training Facebook Group. If you’re in the Columbus area, there are also parkour classes available at Adventure Unleashed. There are also online classes available at Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, with an advanced class running in August, and the next beginner class scheduled next April.

Here is a video of Blaise the Parkour Dog, to let you see what parkour is all about!

Video Link for Email Subscribers
UPDATE 8/4/16 – An additional Parkour titling venue has been developed, called All Dogs Parkour (ADP). You can join their FaceBook group to learn more.

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