Ep. 9: Getting in on Canine Parkour

Mar 4, 2020

There is a fun new game in town and it is Canine Parkour. It helps build confidence. It cultivates and nurtures the relationship and bond between dog and handler. It is FUN!

Learn more about Canine Parkour in this podcast episode. We speak with Lori Timberlake of Do Over Dog Training who points out how wonderful this activity is, who should be playing this game (hint: everyone) and provides some previews of the her new online Canine Parkour program.

You want to listen to this episode, you NEED to listen to the episode. Enjoy!


Dianna L. Santos

Lori Timberlake


Be certain to check out Lori's online canine parkour courses:

Learn more about the International Dog Parkour Association here.


Dianna L. Santos (00:01):
Welcome to the Play to Train Podcast. In this podcast we talk about all the fun ways we may be able to do training with our dogs. It doesn't need to be stuffy and boring. In this episode, we have the very distinct privilege of having a conversation with Lori Timberlake of Do Over Dog training where she talks about the super fun activity of canine parkour, something that all of us can do with our dogs while we do the right types of modifications. Before we start diving into the episode itself, let me do a very quick introduction of myself. My name is Dianna Santos. I've been a professional dog trainer since 2011. I love doing positive reinforcement training. I'm super passionate about things like Scent Work and I love it when people are having a good time with their dogs. That's what we should be doing. Right. Without further ado, let's have a listen to the conversation that we have with Lori all about canine parkour. So I want to thank you so much for joining us today for this episode. It's so nice to speak with you. Could we maybe start off with you letting us know, how did you first start getting involved with Canine Parkour?

Lori Timberlake (01:03):
So about three or four years ago, I was taking a class locally with my dog and we loved it and then I just got really busy and stopped doing anything with it.

Dianna L. Santos (01:14):
So what got you back involved in parkour? What was the thing that you would say like, wow, I really missed this and I want to go do it again?

Lori Timberlake (01:22):
So it was interesting. I stayed in the parkour Facebook groups and I kept seeing, so I live in New York State and Ohio is next to us and the founders of International Dog Parkour Association are out in Ohio, and I saw that they would offer seminars and workshops and I'm like, boy, I'd love to go. And then every weekend was a nose work trial or I had something going on so I couldn't do it. And then they were offering an online instructors course and I'm like, well, I don't really want to be an instructor and I don't really have time for this, but I just think it's fun and I want to learn more about it and get my dog back into it. And they were offering, it was available for CEUs for CPDT and I said, well, I do need CEUs, so maybe I'll just take the course, get my CEUs, have a little bit of fun with it, and then be on my way. And that is not what happened.

Dianna L. Santos (02:14):
So you fell back in love with it all over again.

Lori Timberlake (02:17):
Absolutely. And new love. I learned so many more things in the instructors course that I didn't know before. That just opened it up to so many more dogs, opened it back up for my dog, which I thought was maybe a little too old. I didn't want her jumping off things and hurting herself. I mean, she's going to be 11 this year, so I thought, well, I really can't do it with my dog. Why am I even doing this? Other than I like the activity, but I've learned so much more since I took the course. So it's really for all dogs and I love that.

Dianna L. Santos (02:47):
So can you talk a little bit more about that? I know when people think parkour, they think of the videos they see online or people jumping off of roofs and they go, okay, hang on a second. I really don't want my dog doing that.

Lori Timberlake (02:58):
Exactly. That's what I was thinking too. That's really cool looking and fun. If you have a super fit 2-year-old border Collie, but one I would think, what's that dog going to look like when it's 10 years old? And again, I just thought it wasn't available for our dogs, but the way they put their program together, and I know there are other groups out there, but I'm specifically involved with the International Dog Parkour Association. It should be an individual journey. The story I keep telling people is right now currently I have a 12-year-old Lean Berger with arthritis in my class and he is rocking it. He is doing awesome, but he's not jumping off buildings. He's able to do the activities but in a safe way. He's not jumping off really high things. There's things that he does for PT anyways that he's actually encouraged to do.

So a small little jump, I think we had a jump maybe, I don't think it was even a foot high the other day, and he could do that and is actually encouraged to do that for part of his physical therapy. So it's working great for him. They also have different title tracks. If you even want to title your dog, you don't have to and I'm sure we'll get to that later in the podcast, but you don't have to. My dog, we might not even go to intermediate because I don't know if I want her doing tic-tacs, which is kind of like jumping off a wall. I don't know if that might be too much for her at her age, but we don't have to do that either. We can do parkour for fun or we can take a different title track and still submit things.

Other things, which I'm sure we'll talk about. I'm jumping way ahead. I'm so excited about this topic in case you can't tell, but yeah, all dogs so young dogs can do it. They're just being modified. So we don't want puppies doing these crazy jumps. There are rules of how high your dog can jump on or off of things so that they're not being injured. Spotting and safety is huge with International Dog Parkour Association so that our dogs aren't jumping off things that are too high for them or they could get hurt. So they really, really focus on the safety aspects so more dogs can be involved.

Dianna L. Santos (05:05):
That all sounds really great and the fact that it's very thoughtful is going to be reassuring to people and the fact that you can customize it depending on what you feel is appropriate for your dog, whether it be their age, their physical abilities or limitations, that's all really great. So as far as what parkour actually is for people who are like, yeah, I still have no idea what this is. So what exactly when you were to get involved in parkour, if they were to take one of your classes or to work with you, what are the types of things they would actually be doing?

Lori Timberlake (05:36):
But parkour is going out and exploring the world around you and learning how to move through it. So that's human and dog parkour. So what that means is how do we interact with our environment? So again, you can modify that however you'd like. And I really wanted to focus, especially here being Buffalo and wintertime. We can't really do outdoor parkour classes, although we could have this winter because it wasn't too bad. But my indoor class, I want to focus on all the skills and make sure everybody knows the safety aspects and cover all that stuff first. So things we covered were two feet on, so putting two feet on an object and then four feet on putting four feet on an object, which believe it or not, those both sound very simple, but once your dog knows four feet on, it's really hard to make sure they know the difference between four feet and two feet because they want to jump on everything then.

So we did spend a lot of time on that. The difference between two feet on four feet on balance, which is going across something narrow about the width of your dog and making sure that we're spotting them and they're not coming off under is going under something lower than their shoulder height over is going. Something about their elbow height is about as high as we really want them. And these are all novice. They get harder as you go up through going something about the width of your dog's shoulders in, which I just think is the most fun. And it's just so funny watching dogs get in objects. So putting your dog in a box. Some of my group, they practice on their own once a week also, and they had a whole bunch of luggage, so they were having their dogs go in the luggage and the pictures were just adorable for that moving object, having your dog get on something that might move or wobble a little bit so that they can kind of balance on that backup. Backup can be a little bit more difficult for some dogs that haven't learned that before. So we spent a bit of time on backup around, which is going around an object in two different directions, and I think those were all the things we covered for novice. So there's definitely more as you go up the different levels, but that's what we kind of focused on our last six weeks and they had a blast with that and it kept 'em plenty busy during those six weeks.

Dianna L. Santos (07:47):
That all sounds like a whole lot of fun. And also I'm assuming that it really is fun, not just for the dog, but also for the handler, which is really helpful. So when they're training all of this, are they using markers? Are they using yeses or clickers or treats or toys? How are they going about teaching this?

Lori Timberlake (08:06):
Yeah, so one thing at least I learned through my instructor training is we try not to do a lot of luring and the only reason for that is luring isn't bad. And sometimes we need to maybe start with a lure just so the dogs figure out what they're doing. But when the dogs are following the treat, then they're not concentrating on the object they're supposed to get on or through or under or around. So we do a lot of shaping, which was new. Some of my students were excellent at it. Some it was very new to learn marking either using a yes or a clicker or shaping the behaviors because they're just not used to that. And some of the dogs were waiting for tell me what to do. So we had to work on that a little bit because the shaping just works really well for parkour because we don't really want the dogs following the, we don't want 'em following off an object or getting on something that they're afraid of, which is another part of parkour is giving our dogs a choice and not making them do something, not forcing them to get on an object like it's okay, I'll just put the dog up here and then they know it's okay.

No, we want the dogs to figure it out and do it on their own. So that's where the shaping really comes in. And it was fun to go back to my old training chops, which I haven't been doing for the last few years, and do some shaping with other people's dogs. It was fun.

Dianna L. Santos (09:26):
What this does is it focuses on the handlers really listening to the dogs and the dogs leading the training. And that's basically what shaping is all about, is allowing the dog to offer behaviors that the handlers and capturing with their marker, whether it be a clicker or a yes, and then rewarding them for that correct estimation of what it is that the person was looking for. And all of that is really building up skills for anyone who likes to have their hands in multiple buckets that these kinds of skills that you're developing in parkour absolutely would be beneficial in other kinds of dog training, whether it be just day-to-day stuff or also for other dog sports. So could you talk about that at all as far as any overlap that you've happened to see with your clients or that you can see in the future of how people doing parkour with their dogs, it would also be beneficial in other activities?

Lori Timberlake (10:18):
Absolutely. Well, the first thing that came to mind when I first started off as a dog trainer, my focus was fearful dogs and we were doing basically, we didn't call it that, but parkour. We were doing confidence building. We were having the dogs get on objects, try to interact with things. And I think a lot of people do this in their daily life anyways. A lot of my students said we would go to the park and we'd have our dogs do this kind of stuff all the time. But the differences, again, we're focusing on making sure the dog has a choice and that we're not just making them go up on this really cool brick wall because it would be a good picture. I'm sure we've all seen that before and making sure that they're doing it safely also, which the spotting and making sure dogs aren't going on things that are too high and stuff like that.

So for confidence building, which isn't really a dog sport, but very helpful for all dogs, whether they are a little bit shy and fearful or just a regular dog that might just be nervous about certain things. The confidence building is great. And then I think for dog sports, any dog sport, having a dog that thinks and isn't just waiting for a command, tell me what to do and I'll do it. I think that I can't think of a dog sport that wouldn't be helpful for anytime our dog's thinking and trying to figure stuff out. That's awesome. It's great.

Dianna L. Santos (11:39):
So as far as people who may be at different points in their journey, particularly as far as dog sports is concerned, so you may have someone who has a new puppy and you may have someone who has a dog who's retiring from a sport. Would both of those people benefit from parkour or one more than the other?

Lori Timberlake (11:55):
I think both would. I mean for puppies, just getting them out in the world, interacting with things, and again, learning how to learn how to figure things out and not be told how to do stuff perfect for puppies. Again, just making sure we're staying really safe. And then of course dogs that retire, we can't do agility anymore because that constant jumping and constant force on the body might be too much for a 10, 11, 12-year-old dog parkour. We can go back a few steps, we don't have to do that. We don't put that much pressure on the dog's body. So I think for both it's great. And dogs that are currently doing sports like that, it just gives them something else to do. I had a few students that were also taking agility and so they were familiar with a lot of the behaviors that we were learning, but they were just doing 'em in a slightly different way. So I think it was great for all of those dogs. Perfect.

Dianna L. Santos (12:48):
That is fantastic. So it's just a good thing for people to know when they are learning about new sports. Well, is this a good thing for my dog? Basically, it's good for all dogs as long as you just adjust it. So could you just give us a little bit more information about how the spotting works and how that feeds into all the different exercises that you do?

Lori Timberlake (13:08):
Absolutely. So one thing, at least with International Dog Parkour Association is the dog is required to wear a harness just so that if we need to give them a little bit of a lift, we're not choking them by the neck, but we're kind of holding the whole body and basically what we want to do, say they're getting, and it's hard to explain in a podcast without a video, but if they're getting off an object, we just want to have our hands there and maybe just give them a little bit of lift on the harness so that their whole body isn't landing, if that makes sense. We're just giving a little bit of help as they're getting down from anything high. If they're doing something narrow, we just want to make sure we're there and we're ready to grab. If they're starting to fall or deciding, you know what, this is too scary.

I don't want to do this. We don't want them to just jump off. We want to make sure we're there to help guide them off. Those are the two main ones. It's mostly getting up on things like a four foot on or a balance are the two probably most important. Everything earn over, and again, I'm talking about novice. Once we get to gap jumps and things like that in intermediate where they're jumping from one object to another, again, we want to make sure we're there. So in case they miss or they decide, nope, didn't really want to do that jump, we're there to catch them so they don't get injured.

Dianna L. Santos (14:21):
Okay. So it's basically a safety precaution in order to make sure that you are there, particularly in the beginning when they're first learning, that you are there to help them. And if they decided, yeah, I don't want to do this, that they don't unsafely try to bail out.

Lori Timberlake (14:36):
Exactly. And I'll add too for the title. So everything, well, they just started adding some in-person evaluators, but up until now all the titles have been through video and you have to show the spotting on video if you're blocking your dog or if you're not spotting, they're not going to accept the video, they're that they care that much about the safety, that they're not going to let people just do crazy things and then still get their title. So it's very important that we do the spotting

Dianna L. Santos (15:06):
And that's a good thing. It's good each organization is going to be focusing on different things regardless of the dog sport. And the great thing about what you're talking about with this organization is they're focusing on safety, which is going to set a lot of people at ease because again, we think jumping off of roofs and things like, oh God, I'm going to break my dog. So it's really great that they have such a great focus on safety. So you were talking a little bit about their competitions and that they were, initially they were doing them virtually and now they're doing it in person. Did you want to talk a little bit more about that?

Lori Timberlake (15:38):
Yeah, I think it just came about this week where only the novice and the training levels, so training levels for dogs, I believe it's 15 months and younger, so it's kind of like a modified height. So it's pretty much the novice behaviors, but even lower heights for dogs under 15 months. So now they have evaluators where you can go kind of like maybe a canine good citizen test where you would go and they could actually watch you do all the behaviors and approve you in person. Where in the past you would just take little YouTube videos, send them all in, somebody would watch them and then get back to you. So it's kind of nice. Now, it might just as a sports getting more popular that we could have local people actually watching the novice titles and being able to pass you right there. I kind of like that.

Dianna L. Santos (16:25):
So are you an evaluator or are you working towards becoming an evaluator? Because of course you have nothing but time.

Lori Timberlake (16:31):
Right. In all my free, so I didn't even want to get into this and now I love it and I'm full in. And then when they made that announcement this week, I said, what do I need to do? Do that? So you need your championship title, which is something that I was planning on working on the spring. And it's just a lot of video, a lot of behaviors you need to get. It's going to take some time. It'll probably will take me at least spring, summer before I can get all of these. And then once you have your championship title, you can apply and as long as you're a certified instructor, which I should be, I got the A. Okay. It's just not on the website yet, so that should be official, official soon. So you have to be a certified instructor through them and then have your championship title, which I will be working on. And yes, of course this is on my to-do list. It'll happen Sunday, maybe not tomorrow, but probably within the year we'll get this done.

Dianna L. Santos (17:26):
That's very exciting. And this is even more exciting for people who are listening to the podcast because you are going to be offering parkour classes. So did you want to talk about what those are going to be about?

Lori Timberlake (17:37):
Yeah, absolutely. So again, the reason for parkour is you should be out in the environment out and about doing this on your walks, doing this when you go on a hike. But I think it's really important to learn the behaviors safely and with less distraction. In fact, one of two of the students that are in my class, they helped me out with my videos in order to become an instructor. We had to do some videos and send them in first, and one was the 12-year-old and the other was at the time 15 month old German Shepherd who was like, wow, really distracted outside when we met to do our training video. So having, for her being inside and there was still other dogs around, but less distraction, she could concentrate better and actually learn these things where I think if you just go out to a park and try to do it on your own, it's going to be a lot more difficult.

So I like the idea of the online class because you can get all of the information of exactly what they're looking for, how to do it safely, make sure you're trading under their philosophy, which means we're not making dogs do things and putting them up on objects and saying, there they did it. They're on that scary thing. So in the online class, we're going to cover all that so you can work on all these things at home. And then once you have all the skills, then you can go out and have fun and go out and parks and start taking videos and submit them for a title if you wish.

Dianna L. Santos (19:04):
That sounds very, very, very exciting. So just for people who may be interested in the course, do you know how long the course is going to be as far as number of weeks?

Lori Timberlake (19:13):
I'm guessing six. We did it in person in six weeks and we were able to cover everything. And again, not everything is mastered in six weeks, but we're able to cover all of the behaviors needed for a novice title. And that's all I'm going to focus on at first is novice and then we'll work on intermediate and the other stuff as time permits, but I'd at least like to get the novice course up pretty soon.

Dianna L. Santos (19:35):
Well, that is super exciting and we will make certain that we let everybody know the moment that that course is available and so that they can all get their parkour fun on. Is there anything else that you wanted to let everybody know about parkour, why they should be doing it or anything else that they need to know?

Lori Timberlake (19:51):
Well definitely check out the International Dog Parkour Association website so you can see all the different titles and different ways can go about getting them. You don't have to just do the standard novice, intermediate, they have specialty titles where you can just do a whole bunch of four ons, four on all kinds of different objects. And my thing with titles, and we were talking about this with my students, is not everyone needs a title. You don't need a title. I don't really need a title in parkour, but by having something to focus on, it makes us all go out and do it. So I don't know if other people are like me, but that's kind of my goal. If I have a checklist, then I'm going to try to get these, make sure I'm doing these things when we're out and about. So it should be fun. You don't have to go for the titles, but they kind of give me a little bit of incentive. So that's great. They have all different ways to get them, I guess that's all I can think of right now.

Dianna L. Santos (20:44):
When people are earning titles, how does it work through that organization? Do they just have to submit one set of videos, fulfilling requirements, or they have to submit three sets of videos of the same requirements? How does that work for that organization?

Lori Timberlake (20:58):
Yeah, most of them are just one for each, but for novice, you have to have three different four feet ons. But other than that, everything else is just one of each. They just want to make sure that you're showing the dog getting on, you're showing them get off, everything's safe and that you're doing the proper spotting. So if you're blocking the dog or things like that, redo the video. Just don't even. And also, they have a Facebook page. I think it's open to all organizations that do parkour, but a lot of people will submit videos there like, Hey, how does this look? So if you weren't sure something was right or not, people always jump in and say, ah, you might want to reshoot that, or, Hey, that looked good. So definitely check out some of the Facebook parkour groups also.

Dianna L. Santos (21:40):
Perfect. Well, I want to thank you so much for talking to us today about parkour, letting us know that this is something we can all do with all of our dogs. The fact, the way that it's focusing on safety while having fun and also giving the dog choice, I think this activity is definitely something that people should add to their list. I want to thank you so much for joining us today, Laurie, thank you so much for taking the time.

Lori Timberlake (22:00):

Dianna L. Santos (22:01):
As you can see, there's lots of different reasons why we may want to do parkour with our dogs. This is a really fun activity, and it's even better that there are organizations like the one that Lori was speaking about, that you'll be able to also earn titles with your dogs. So we'll make certain in the replay page for this podcast, we provide some links will you'll be able to learn more about those online courses that Lori was talking about as far as how be able to train parkour and also information about the organization itself. Thanks so much. Make certain that you are always playing to train, and we look forward to seeing you soon.