Does your dog love to jump, climb, balance and race? Do they have the agility of a leopard, the speed of a cheetah and the desire to conquer challenging heights and jumps? Then, dog parkour might be just the thing they need. If you are looking for a new activity to do with your dog and like getting in some exercise yourself, you could even parkour with them! If they get good enough, they could become a championship title holder. Even during quarantine, your dog can compete. Sound interesting? Read on.
Dog parkour is rooted in human parkour. Human parkour is a training method that uses agility to navigate obstacle courses in urban settings. It was developed in France in the late 1980’s. The goal of the method is to get from point A to point B in the fastest and most efficient way, without using equipment. Although it originated in France, parkour is practiced all over the world. Britain was the first country to recognize parkour as a sport in 2016.
What is Dog Parkour? Dog Parkour, sometimes called “Barkour”, is similar to human parkour. It is also a training method that uses agility in urban settings. Parkour is different from classic agility training for dogs because it is less structured and done using obstacles found in the typical urban setting – benches, rocks, railroad tracks, fences, fire hydrants, posts, walls, poles, trees, and garbage cans.
Dogs jumping and landing on very narrow or small posts or beams causing them to balance on their paws. For example, dogs are trained to jump from one post to the next, forcing them to place all 4 paws on a small surface in order to balance. When a human does it on two legs, it is pretty amazing! How dogs do it with 4 legs is baffling.
Some of the most interesting parkour moves we found were:
Dogs running/climbing up trees, ladders, poles, fences, and walls. In these activities, dogs use their strength, agility, and speed to quickly run up a vertical incline. To teach dogs these skills, they can start off learning to walk up and down ramps.
Dogs jumping over stairs, fire hydrants, fences, large garbage cans and bike racks. It looks even cooler when their human does it with them!
What breed of dog is it for? Any healthy dog that wants to participate can. Size doesn’t matter. Age doesn’t matter. Championship title holders include all dog breeds from tiny Chihuahuas to mid-sized Border Collies to big and muscular Bullmastiffs. As long as your dog is able, you can try dog parkour! Be careful with ill, weak, injured, or nervous/reactive dogs. The first stop would be the vet to find out if there are any health issues to consider. The next would be to find out if your dog is interested. You could take them to a dog parkour training school (if they can handle group learning) or take them to the park with some treats and find a tree to climb up, a bench to jump over, a beam to balance on, or a series of rocks for them to jump on. The key is to take it slow and have fun!
How do dogs compete for titles? To compete in dog parkour competitions with the International Dog Parkour Association, you can submit a video of your fur baby doing a trick. The association has rules about competitions that you have to follow. The best part is that titles are given to dogs at all levels – training, novice, intermediate, expert, championship, and specialty. Since tricks are video taped, the competition is quarantine friendly. It is also a great way for dogs that have difficulty being around other dogs and people to participate - they can learn from you and compete with just their favorite humans around!
Dogs should be leashed when practicing or learning parkour. They will have to be leashed in any videos you submit for competitions too. You should also check the environment for any sharp or hazardous objects before your dog starts practicing. You’ll want to check surfaces for splinters, places your dog’s paws or claws could get caught and slippery surfaces they could fall off. We also recommend bringing a water bowl for drinks and a towel to wash muddy paws after practice.
What other sport can my dog try? If you think dog parkour sounds interesting but want to look at different options, you could also consider the more structured and traditional dog agility courses and competitions. In these activities, dogs use many of the same skills as they learn in parkour, but they go through man-made obstacles like tunnels, ramps, and other typical agility structures.
There are dog agility training schools and structured competitions for the sport as well. The competitions are timed so this sport is great for dogs with a lot of energy and those that need to keep busy.
There are other extreme dog sports you could try, like dog surfing, dock diving, dog lure coursing, dog flyball, disc dog, treibball, and dog skijoring. Stay tuned! We will run these down for you in the coming weeks.
No matter what sport or activity you choose to do with your dog, you will be happy with the bond you create with your dog and the quality of life they will have, by allowing them to do something enjoyable with you by their side.