Parkour Dog 1- Orientation

Welcome to Parkour Dog 1! This course begins with an orientation section where we will cover the history of Parkour & how it was developed for dogs, gear for humans and dogs, safety regulations & rules to prevent injury, how dogs learn and what training we will be using and a few hands-on training exercises.  Once orientation is complete we will get going on our parkour skills!

 

What is Parkour?

History

Parkour was developed in France by Raymond Belle and is a training discipline based on military obstacle course training.  It’s a sport focused on building one’s physical and mental abilities through strength conditioning while interacting with the environment. Raymond’s son, David, and his friends further developed Parkour with their self styled Yamakasi, during the 1980s.  They were featured in films and documentaries in the late 1990s to 2000s which helped popularize Parkour.

Philosophy

Parkour is just as much about overcoming mental and emotional barriers as it is about conquering physical obstacles.  It is about a state of mind rather than the ability to perform a set of actions.  By enhancing self-confidence and critical thinking skills it allows an individual to overcome everyday mental and physical hurdles.

In 2007, the Parkour.net portal began a campaign to preserve Parkour’s philosophy against sports competition and rivalry.  While it is an activity that can be practiced in a group the idea of the sport is still about the individual journey.

Dog Parkour

Dog Parkour concentrates on the developing teamwork between a dog and its human as they learn to challenge themselves through navigating the environment in new exciting ways.

Although it is a non-competitive sport, titles are still available and can be earned via video submission through the International Dog Parkour Association and All Dogs Parkour.  This sport promotes mental and physical health by regulating training methods and restricting activities by the size of the individual dog.  These limitations make Dog Parkour an excellent activity for any age or mobility.

Proper Gear

Please note that most of these items are simply suggestions and not requirements, items that are required will be listed with an asterisk (*) next to them.  Some of the items listed are clickable links to the actual products, most are on Amazon.

Gear for you:

  • Treat pouch or Training Vest
  • comfortable clothes that are easy to move in
  • Gloves to assist with gripping the leash if needed
  • Cell phone or camera with video capabilities
  • Tripod for cell phone or camera
  • Treats- Ask your dog what kind they prefer!
  • Poop bags- always be respectful and responsible by cleaning up after your dog
  • Water bottle/bowl for yourself and your dog (see treat pouch above as it’s a kit!)
  • Backpack for carrying all the things around

Gear for your dog:

  • *Back clip body harness, unless your dog is small straps should be a minimum of 1 inch wide.  We like these harnesses by Ruffwear, Embark Pets, and Hurtta
  • *Leash, 4-6 ft
  • Long line, for working up to off-leash skills or for send out’s in busy environments
  • Collar for tags is fine, but cannot be connected by a leash to the collar

 

Safety First!

Safety plays a major role in Dog Parkour and we consider it more important than learning any of the skills themselves.  In this lesson, we are going to cover every aspect necessary to keep you and your pup practicing Parkour safely.  As we go over each rule we will also provide visual examples.  As well as assignments for you to practice at home!

Harness & Leash Attachment

When using a leash it must ALWAYS be attached the back of the harness.  This rule exists because we routinely use the leash to spot our dogs when they are jumping onto or off of high obstacles.  If the leash were attached to the front of the harness or a collar of any kind your dog may sustain short term or long term injuries.  Your dog should also be wearing their harness at all times UNLESS they are working off leash on ground skills only (under, through).

Spotting

Assisting your dog with approaching obstacles, gaining balance on obstacles, and getting off of obstacles.  When maneuvering obstacles that do not require a send out remain close to your dog and be ready to catch them if needed.

Leash Spotting

To spot your dog with the leash grip the leash within 12 inches from their back.  Keep the leash tense as they approach an obstacle and get their balance.  Be ready to steady or catch them with your other hand.  When they are moving off the obstacle provide assistance by putting tension in the leash again allowing them to land softly by alleviating some of the pressure.

 

Lifting

You can lift your dog to assist them when getting off of obstacles and by catching them if they start to fall.  You may NOT lift them onto obstacles, as the dog needs to show confidence in doing the task themselves.

Off-leash vs on-leash and long-lines

Your dog should be on-leash at all times unless you are working a ground skill such as under, through, or fly.  If you are working a send out skill such as fly, your dog may be on a long line if you are in a busy area.  Handling of the long line must demonstrate safety, the dog must have plenty of room to complete the task without being jolted or tripped by the leash.

Obstacle Height & Substrates

Shoulder height rule

No dog should ever jump off of an obstacle onto hard surfaces (concrete, rock, etc) that is above the dog’s shoulder height.  If the dog is jumping off onto a soft substrate (grass, rubber, etc) the height may be increased to twice the dog’s shoulder height or no more than 42 inches.

Other height or size requirements may be listed for specific skills to earn titles, these may be different between the separate organizations.  Please refer to the organization for which you are submitting a video too.  These height limitations are in place to prevent injury to your dog.

 

Consent

As Parkour is about your journey as a team we want to make sure that each team member has the ability to both opt-in and opt-out of participating.  This can happen at any time during training, practicing, or filming.  It can be frustrating when we, as humans, set out to accomplish a specific goal only to find out that our dogs have other plans.  It is important to recognize when your dog just isn’t into it or maybe they feel the task is too difficult to continue.  Parkour is a great way to learn to read your dog’s cues as well as honor their requests.

Cued with Confidence

  • All skills must be intentionally cued and dogs must perform each skill with confidence.  Handlers may touch their dog at any time to ensure safety but not to “help” a dog perform a task such as lifting onto an object.
  • Food may be used as reinforcement for performed skills but not as a lure to get the dog to perform the skill.
  • Corrections cannot be given at any time.
  • Collars, if worn, must be visible in all videos.  No prong collars, choke collars, shock collars, slip leads or head halters are allowed.

Environments

Playgrounds may be used as long as dogs are permitted on property and children are not present.  If a child is already present, find a new location.  If a child approaches while you are using the playground, find a new location.  This is both a safety measure and honoring the community.

Always be respectful when using public spaces or someone else’s property.

Train for Success!

Parkour’s focus is on the mental and physical well-being of its practitioners which is why using reward based training is the best option for you and your pup.  New to rewards based training?  Learn how to increase your dog’s confidence and abilities quickly by teaching them that training can be fun!

Why we use food

Food is known as a primary reinforcer, it is something a dog needs in order to survive.  Water, shelter, and procreating are also primary reinforcers but the food is undoubtedly the easiest one for us to provide.  Plus, the dogs like it!  It is also easy to carry and handle and we can switch flavors and control portion size easily.

The ABC’s of Operant Conditioning

This is the foundation on which all living creatures learn.

Antecedent + Behavior = Consequence

An antecedent is a cue that signals the animal to perform a behavior. (word, hand signal, environmental signal)

The behavior is a specific task that is performed immediately after the cue takes place. (sit, shake, chase)

A consequence happens immediately as a result of the behavior and will determine whether or not the behavior is repeated.  A pleasant consequence will reinforce a behavior, thus making it more likely to happen again.  An unpleasant consequence will punish a behavior, thus making it less likely to happen again.

For example, if you cue your dog to sit with a hand signal, then they sit, and then immediately get a cookie it is likely that the next time you present the hand signal they will sit again.  However, if instead of a cookie you delivered a shock via an e-collar, the next time you present the hand signal the dog is not likely to sit again.

Seems simple enough right?  Well not so much.  We still need to go over how to get a behavior, teach a cue, and make sure our timing of the reinforcer is clear enough that our learner understands what made it happen.  We are going to discuss these in reverse order so that all the pieces make the most sense.

Marker Cues

A marker cue is also known as a bridging stimulus, it communicates to the learner that 1) they earned reinforcement for performing a specific task, 2) the earned reinforcement is coming, and 3) how that reinforcement is being delivered.  It may sound a bit complex now but once we break it down it will be much easier to understand.

We are going to take our ABC equation above and manipulate it a little bit.

Antecedent + Behavior = Marker Cue = Specific Consequence

Okay, so you cue your dog to sit with a hand signal, the dog sits, you then say “yes” and present a cookie in your hand, the dog knows it can take the cookie.  Dog’s, like people, have different personalities and enjoy different types of reinforcement.  Some dog’s like to take the food from our hand and others would prefer to chase it or catch it.  Using different maker cues to communicate to your dog how their reinforcement is being delivered can keep training fun and exciting.

Clean Loop Training & Adding Antecedent Cue’s

We can also use the delivery of the reinforcement to set our dog up for practicing the next repetition.  So instead of saying “yes” to our dog after they sit what if we say “find it” and then toss the food away from us.  Now, after they retrieve the reinforcement and come back we can ask for another sit and start the sequence over again.  This is clean loop training, where we have set up the environment and our training plan in such a way that we can practice repetition after repetition without unnecessary disruption.

Now that we are able to predict when our dog is going to perform the next repetition we can add our cue.  After our dog retrieved the tossed cookie and comes back we can say “sit” then allow the dog to practice the next repetition which leads to the mark and reward. And repeat. Now we have a behavior on cue.

Getting the Behavior

There are many ways we can get our dogs to perform behaviors but for this class, in particular, we are going to focus on Luring, Capturing, and Shaping.

Luring

Luring is a training method where we use something the animal is interested in, generally food, and use it as a sort of magnet to get our dog’s to perform a task.  Then we would mark with a marker cue and deliver reinforcement.  For example, if we were teaching a dog to sit we would magnetize a piece of food to its nose and slowly move the food up and over the dogs head until the dog leaned back into a sit.  Then we would mark and reward.

Luring is not without its challenges.  For instance, if we do not remove the food lure soon enough the dog may become reliant on the presence of the food in order to perform the behavior.  Another challenge is that in order to lure we often need to move our bodies in ways we do not plan to in the final form of the ABC sequence.  For teaching sit, we typically have to bend over and move our arm in such a way that we can lure the dog into position.  So not only do we need to remove the food lure but we also need to phase out the bending over and arm motion.

We will be using luring in this course but our goal is to show you how to use luring successfully.

Capturing

Capturing is a training method where we set up the environment in such a way that makes it easy for a dog to perform a specific behavior that we can mark and reward.  These behaviors need to be something that the dog is likely to perform on their own such as sit, down, or stretch.

Capturing also has its challenges.  If we were trying to teach our dog to lay down using this method we would likely set up a neutral environment with a nice plushy bed.  But if that dog wasn’t in the mood to lay down we may be waiting for quite a while before we are able to capture the first down.  And if we were looking for a behavior that a dog is physically capable of but has never shown interest in trying, such as jumping onto an object, we would really be waiting for a long time.

Capturing can be a very important step for removing the food lure when using the luring method.

Shaping 

Shaping plays a part in just about every aspect of training as it focuses on marking and rewarding for successful approximation towards a final goal behavior.  However, it can be used all on its own in a similar fashion to capturing.  When shaping we would set up the environment in a way that encouraged our learner to perform a specific task.  However, instead of waiting for the dog to perform the specific behavior in its entirety we would mark and reward any small step the dog took that got it closer to the goal behavior.  In the example above, we would mark and reward the dog for any look or movement in the direction of the bed.  We would slowly raise criteria until the dog got all the way on the bed and then, finally, laid down.

Just like the methods listed before it, shaping also has its challenges.  Some dogs can become frustrated and confused with shaping while others get stuck at offering one step unable to progress further.

In this course, we will show you how to set yourself up to shape your dog successfully.

Changing Environments

Once we get a behavior on cue it is important to change the environment in which we train to build reliability.  It is believed that a dog needs to practice a new behavior in 3-5 different contexts successfully before they are considered to fully understand the behavior.

Orientation Homework

Before we move on to learning some Parkour skills we want to make sure you have a good start with your safety skills and marker cues!

Marker Cues

As we will be using our marker cues during our safety skills practice it seems like a reasonable place to start.  We are going to focus on 5 marker cues:

Yep- dog takes food from the hand- Stand still with hands at your side, say “yep” then reach for a piece of food and hand it to your dog.  Repeat several times.

Find it- dog chases tossed food- Stand still with hands at your side, say “find it” then reach for a piece of food, show it to your dog and drop it on the ground.  Repeat several times working from a dropped treat to a tossed treat.  We want your dog to hear “find it” then look at your hand to see where the food is going to be tossed.  Tracking the food should be easy for them.

Paste- dog follows food in hand- This is essentially food luring on cue.  Stand still with your hands at your side, say “paste” then reach for a piece of food, hold it to your dog’s nose then start to lure them forward.  As they step forward to follow the treat allow them to eat it.  Repeat several times working up to more and more steps and movement before feeding them the treat.

Take it- dog takes food from the ground-Ask your dog to sit or lie down (wait or stay helps if they know it), stand still with hands at your side, say “take it” then reach for a piece of food and place it on the floor between you and your dog. Repeat several times.  If they are good with their wait/stay cue you can begin to place the food on the floor first before saying “take it”.

Remember these marker cues will be used to reinforce our dog and to reset them for the next repetition.

Safety Skills

Leash spotting- This video shows you 3 different ways to hold the leash when spotting your dog.  Most dogs will try and escape the pressure of the leash which could be a potential hazard when using leash pressure to assist them off of an obstacle.  This video demonstrates how you can teach your dog to be comfortable with the leash pressure that we will be using for spotting.

Lifting

Additional Skills

While there are no pre-requisites for this class, a good wait cue will come in handy.

Know your dog’s size

It is important to be familiar with your dog’s body so that you are able to choose appropriate obstacles for them.  This handout is designed to assist you in becoming familiar with the different body measurements we will be using in this class.  The form is designed as an easy reference guide so that you may measure obstacles with a measuring tape or you can use your own body for reference.  For instance, I know that Jude’s hock height is equal to the length of my hand, wrist to fingertips.  Click the picture below to download a pdf version.  

Be sure to download this lesson, complete with video links, so that you may keep it for your records, once the course is over you will no longer have access to them.  Orientation PDF

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