Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Summer of Parkour

Summer has been excellent so far!  I have spent so much time training with all three dogs, and we have all been enjoying it thoroughly!

And . . . Dean Dog, Tessa, Bandit, and I have gotten into something new this summer . . . dog Parkour!

I really had not intended to get involved with this.  Do I really need one more dog sport on my plate?  Not remotely!

However . . . 

When Tessa got close to earning her C-ATCH, I really wanted to try to find something that she and I could do together that would be a big reward for her for all of the years of work and commitment that Tessa has put into our Agility.

When I saw some dog Parkour videos around on the Internet, I knew right away that it was something that Tessa would just eat up.  She loves to do anything that involves interaction with "stuff" - Agility, fitness, you name it!

A good friend of mine took the Parkour class that was offered by the Fenzi Academy in the spring, so she and I made a deal - she would teach me about Parkour and I would teach her some skills that I learned in the class that I was taking with Bandit.

A couple of friends of our were also interested, so we all got together for an introduction.  At some point I made the decision to work with Dean instead of Tessa, at least to get started.  He is mostly retired now and I thought it might be something that he would enjoy.  I figured that Tessa and I could always jump in later on.

At our first lesson, we worked on some of the basics that we would need if any of us wanted to video for the Training Level Title - Four Feet On, Two Feet On, Under, Through, In.

Dean had a great time.  I enjoyed working with him because he had the chance to dust off some old skills and use them in a fun, and kind of different, context!

But I do have to say - training for Parkour is . . . . different . . . from most of the training that I do.  Normally I am training with the ultimate goal of creating behaviors that will be fluent in the ring, with me not having food present (usually), that will be performed under a certain cue structure.

However, Parkour really is about movement.  Although we cannot lure with food in the videos that we submit for titling, food can always be in a pocket for immediate reinforcement after the behavior is completed.  And hand signals are welcome, as long as they are used as targets, not lures.

So, when working with Dean on the Parkour behaviors, I was much more focused on what Dean was actually doing with his body than I normally am.  And I found that to be a very, very good thing.  Dean clearly enjoyed the shift in my focus, and I did, too.

Everyone in the group had such a great experience that we got together a week later and we all filmed our submissions for our Training Level Titles!

Here is a compilation of Dean's Training Level video clips.  And, I just found out this past week that Dean did earn his Training Level Title: PKD - T

Once I did this with Dean, I found that I simply had to give it a try with both Tessa and Bandit.  I had returned to my original thought that Tessa would just love every second of it, and it became very clear to me that Parkour could potentially be an excellent confidence builder for Bandit.

So, we dove in with some training at home!

Tessa's first Parkour training session:

Bandit's first Parkour training session:

The difference in their attitudes toward this is quite striking!  Actually, Bandit and I have done some work since this first video and he is already getting more confident!!

Here is a video of his first outdoor training session:

So, now I am working with all three of them on this, and we are having a really nice time with it!

One of the things that I love most about this discipline (I think of it as a discipline more than a "sport", and maybe I will write a post about that later on) is that I really can customize it to the dog that I am working with for his or her greatest benefit.

For Dean, it is something we can enjoy from time to time as a fun retirement activity.  I am hoping to film with him for the Novice level, but I plan for us to take our time and get our videos gradually and really enjoy the process.

For Tessa, it is a format where she can use a lot of her Agility and physical skills in new and fun ways.  We are also in the process of filming for Novice.  I could see going on to try Intermediate with Tessa after that!

And for Bandit, it is great for confidence and him learning what he can actually do!  He and I are working on the skills that he needs for Training Level, and are gradually creating the videos that we will need to submit for that tile.  Bandit could go all the way through the levels with this, and I am kind of hoping that we will!

I find that I really appreciate the opportunity to work toward titles in this discipline.  That gives me a specific structure to guide my training and goals, and it provides motivation to actually get out and work with my dogs on a consistent basis.

I believe there are a few different Dog Parkour titling organizations out there.  We are working on our titling through the International Dog Parkour Association.  So far the experience has been good.

I look forward to continuing on with this through the rest of the summer and into the fall!