Parkour is one of the most accessible dog sports there is. All you need is a dog, a harness, some treats, and some imagination. That’s it! A lot of people don’t know where to start though. Here are 5 basic Parkour maneuvers and how to teach them.
If you are brand new to Parkour check out our article What Is Dog Parkour.
4 Paws Up. For some reason dogs love jumping up on obstacles and if you start rewarding them for doing so it won’t take a lot of encouragement once they have the hang of it. Start out with a low obstacle, holding a treat right around where their chin normally sits and lead them onto the obstacle. Once those paws are on say “Yes” and reward. We are never pulling our dogs on to obstacles or picking them up and putting them on them either. Doing this will undermine their confidence and if they feel like they don’t have an option to say no, the likelihood of injury will rise when you start doing harder obstacles and maneuvers later on.
2 Paws Up. It can be hard to convince many dogs to only put two paws on something. They just seem to prefer jumping up on things. To help against that urge, start off by only asking them to put two paws on obstacles that they can’t jump onto. Seek out narrow obstacles for this one. Lead them towards the obstacle with a treat, once there hold slightly higher than their nose and slowly lure them up until two paws are on the obstacle. Say “Yes!” and reward right away. After they have done this a few times, wait a couple seconds before marking, “yes!,” and rewarding them. Get them used to waiting for at least 5 seconds before delivering their treat.
Over. The goal here is to get our dogs jumping over obstacles without putting their feet on the obstacle. If you start with something wide or high, you will probably find they will put their feet down and jump off the obstacle increasing the impact of the landing. Find something narrow and low to start. There are a few ways to work this one out. One is running up with them. Show your dog that you have a treat and run up towards the obstacle. When you get there you can do one of two things. Go over the obstacle yourself and then turn to encourage them to jump over or, simply toss the treat over the obstacle. You can also set them up in a stay several paces away from the obstacle walk to the other side and call them. If they jump over “Yes!” and reward, if they go around, just set it up and try again. You always want to reward low so you start to create a nice arc jump. That means they land gracefully, front paws first.
Under. One of my favorites is ‘Under.’ It is a little less natural than some of the other basic Parkour behaviors, so it may take a little more encouragement for a shy dog in particular. Find something relatively narrow and with a gap large enough that they barely have to dip their shoulders. Lead them up to it and put a treat right in front of their nose. Slowly use that treat to lure them under the obstacle. “Yes!” and reward once that tail clears the obstacle.
Through. Another fun and unique parkour behavior to work on is ‘Through.’ At first it can seem difficult to find obstacles to work on this one with, but after some practice you will start to realize how many fun and interesting things there are to go Through out there. There are a couple ways to teach this one. The most effective is to lead them up to something like a split tree, thin one is best. Ask them to wait right in front of the split, go around to the other side of the trees, stick your hand through with a treat and lure them through. “Yes!” and reward when their hind legs pass through. After they have done this a few times, try leading them up to the obstacle and instead of stopping, toss a treat through. This should cause them to head right through after the treat. This way they can learn that you may ask them to go through something while you are on either side of the obstacle.
Dealing with fear. Sometimes these behaviors can be intimidating and interacting with new obstacles can be scary for some dogs. Parkour should help with confidence but if handled wrong we can also degrade that confidence. Dealing with timidness in the right way is vital to help instead of hurt. We should never be pulling them towards or putting them on any obstacle for this series. When your dog is afraid of something you really can’t move too slow to help them overcome that fear. Keep these sessions short and sweet and always end on a positive note. Avoid asking for just one more and end with some play or a bit of a walk before you resume the training. Start off by seeing how close they are comfortable getting to whatever obstacle is spooking them. Reward them at that spot repeatedly, then ask for just a little more and repeat at that spot several times until you get up to the obstacle. If you are looking for paws to get up on something, start off by rewarding one paw over and over, then the second paw etc. If going under is the problem, repeat the steps to get them up to the obstacle then reward just the nose going under, then the rest of the head, then the shoulders etc, until you get them all the way through.
So go out, get creative and have fun learning some new behaviors with your pup! Want to learn more? Check our Intro to Parkour Mini Series here.