Looking for something new to do this spring? Dog Parkour is a fun and imaginative canine sport that transforms your surroundings into a playground for your dog.
For too many dog lovers, a walk in the park is anything but. Your dog drags you from shrub to shrub, lunges towards every squirrel that hops by, and puts on the brakes whenever he sees a canine friend approaching. With so many distractions, it can be nearly impossible for him to pay attention to you. If you want your dog to focus on you during your walks, you need to give him a reason to do so. One way to do this is by turning your walks into a game that you and your pup can enjoy together. That way, you don’t have to compete with all the exciting things in his surroundings; in fact, you can use them as part of the game! This is the basis of Dog Parkour, a fun new sport that can transform the on-leash relationship between you and your dog.
What is Dog Parkour, anyway?
Dog Parkour turns your surroundings into a playground. Unlike Parkour for humans, the canine version is not about daredevil tricks, but rather about creative interactions with everyday objects that turn them into “environmental features” your dog can jump on, crawl under, and squeeze between. That boring old tree stump? Teach your dog how to hop up on it and do a trick. A fire hydrant? What a perfect object to circle. That park bench you pass every day gives you the opportunity to teach your dog how to duck under an object, or jump up and walk along it. In other words, Parkour gives you and your dog an entirely new outlook on leashed walks. The two of you are no longer pulling each other in opposite directions; now, you’re on the hunt for environmental features to tackle as a team.
By practicing some of the simple Parkour exercises in this article, your dog will be reminded how fun it is to interact with you, and as a result, he’ll listen more and pull less. Practicing basic Parkour has the added benefit of burning your dog’s energy, both physical and mental. A 20-minute walk around the neighborhood is unlikely to tire an energetic dog, but a 20-minute walk that includes a dozen Parkour exercises has a much greater impact. A more productive walk helps ensure your dog feels relaxed and satisfied. Whether he’s excitable or anxious, Dog Parkour gives his mind and body something practical to do, which helps take the edge off.
4 easy Parkour exercises
Here are a few ways to get started in Dog Parkour. (Note that these may not correspond to the requirements of titling organizations; the goal here is to just have fun!) In all cases, keep your dog’s safety and health in mind. Dog Parkour isn’t about learning death-defying stunts; rather, the goal is to provide enrichment activities for your dog in a controlled and stress-free way.
“Two Feet On”
This involves the dog putting his two front paws on an object and holding his position for at least three seconds. You can start with very low objects, like a flattened cardboard box or a low tree stump.
- With your dog on leash, point to the object and encourage him to put his front paws on it. You can also lure him onto the object, but let him approach at his pace. No pressure!
- When his front paws are on the object, mark “yes” and reward with a treat. Give a release word such as “okay” to signal him to dismount, and spot if necessary. Repeat this sequence until your dog fully understands it.
- Add a verbal cue, like “paws”, right before you point to the object. Mark and reward when he’s on the object.
- As he gets better at putting two paws on many different objects, pause for a second before marking and rewarding. Over time, make the pause longer and longer, working up to three to five seconds.
In this exercise, your dog will go under an object such as a park bench. Start with something that has plenty of clearance, so he doesn’t have to crawl.
- Set your dog up on one side of the environmental feature. Ask him to “stay” and walk to the opposite side.
- Call your dog and encourage him to come to you by walking under the object. Mark and reward once he comes to you.
- When your dog is doing the exercise consistently, add a verbal cue like “under” before calling him to you. As time goes on, you can ask him to walk under lower objects that require him to duck, then crawl.
This exercise asks the dog to walk between two objects that are positioned closely together, like two trees or street signs. The training sequence is similar to “Under”.
- Put the dog in a “stay” on one side of the two objects. Position yourself on the opposite side. You should both be as close to the objects as possible, so the distance between you is very short.
- Call your dog. When he walks between the objects, mark and reward.
- Once your dog is doing it consistently, add a verbal cue like “between” before calling him to you.
This teaches your dog to circle 360° around an object, such as a fire hydrant or tree.
- Use a treat to slowly lure your dog around an object, so he walks a circle around it before you mark and give him the treat. Repeat this many times, until your dog can smoothly follow the treat.
- Fade the lure by doing about three reps where you lure with the treat, but don’t give it to him. Instead, give him an even tastier “surprise” treat from your other hand or your pocket. This teaches your dog that it’s good not to be lured.
- Finally, use an empty hand to make the lure gesture (now it’s actually a cue). With every rep, make your cue a little less dramatic.
- Add a verbal cue such as “around” before you start the sequence. Continue to gradually reduce how dramatic your cue is, until you can simply point to the object.
Now that you have all the tools to get started in Dog Parkour, it’s time to leash up your pup and hit the road!