Parkour and tricks are two of my favorite training techniques. Why? Because they help build relationships, develop and hone training skills for handlers, provide brainwork and physical exercise for dogs, and take the stress of “he HAS to” out of the training. If you aren’t familiar with Parkour, check the website, http://www.alldogsparkour.com/ It’s a great sport, and really is for ALL dogs.
Today I edited a video of my 19 week old Great Pyrenees puppy, Vidar, taking a first try at learning some Foundation Parkour skills.
(To see the video: https://youtu.be/fW4IbOzQo0g)
Why do I think he needs to learn these things? We may actually do the “competition” part of the sport, submitting video of him performing the skills on Environmental Features in various locations, for titling, but my main goal for him is to learn body awareness and agility. (I’m not speaking of the sport of agility here, but just being able to move his body well through space) As I said, Vidar is a Great Pyrenees, and at 19 weeks, is almost 60 pounds. His work partner Eloise is 15 months and toward 100 pounds. So he is a big, galumphy puppy, who is only going to get bigger! Vidar and Eloise are Livestock Guardian Dogs in their professional capacity, but they are also much loved pets, and since they do come inside the house, play with our other dogs (one of who is 13 pounds), and interact with children and guests regularly, they need to have good control of their physical bodies, and good body awareness.
The added benefit of doing Parkour with the Pyrs is the opportunity for relationship building. Pyrs are typically independent, working on their own to keep predators away from the livestock and the farm. They are well known for their “intelligent disobedience”, which in their case means not coming when called if there is something they believe needs to be chased off. This has earned them the reputation of being “stubborn” and difficult to train. They are neither. Using positive reinforcement, (making it worth their while to do the work you ask), makes them as easy to train as any other dog. If they want to be with you, and are mentally stimulated, they are much less prone to try to expand territory, and become “disapyrenees”, which is another thing they are known to do. Some people will tell you that this kind of relationship building and interaction “ruins” them for guarding livestock, but I have the photos of Eloise taking on two coyotes at once to prove them wrong!
Another benefit of adding Parkour exercises to their training routine is, by building that body awareness and physical strength, they will be more sound and safer in their work of chasing coyotes and other predators off the farm, over all types of terrain, through the woods, over rocks and downed trees, and across long expanses of open space. We live on 800 acres of varied terrain on the side of a mountain, so they travel a lot of ground, over and under and through obstacles.
The video is just Vidar’s very first experience trying out some obstacles, so what you won’t see is a lot of sophisticated training, cues, stimulus control, or anything other than the two of us playing with stuff, and Vidar getting treats for being a brave boy and trying new things.
So enjoy the video, even if you only notice the cuteness that is my fluffy cloud of a puppy!