The dog days of summer may be over, but the City of Nanaimo parks and recreation department says people can get active with their canine companions into early fall.
A course called ‘introduction to dog parkour and urban agility’ is being offered on the Bowen Park complex grounds until Oct. 2 and uses parkour techniques, training that takes its cue from military obstacle courses and involves jumping and climbing. The class will see owners and dogs working together to scale benches, logs and stairs, hopefully strengthening their bond in the process.
“Parkour is an awesome sport,” said Christina Young, instructor and professional dog trainer. “Any dog can do it: puppies, old dogs, young dogs. It can build your relationship with your dog, it can be used to build confidence in your dog, give your dog some mental stimulation and it can be done anywhere.”
Young said dogs can jump on anything, put their front feet up, go up stairs, go around trees and walk along logs and cement barriers.
“We do a lot of arounds – around trees, around different obstacles – weaving through posts, hopping up and off of logs, benches, under benches, around benches,” said Young.
Participants must bring a properly fitting harness for their dog, which should be comfortable around other dogs and people. If owners are asking their dogs to jump up, Young said the harness will provide support and she wants participants to be able to spot their dogs safely if they’re asking them to jump up on items that are high.
Owners should bring their dogs’ favourite treats in order to provide incentive.
“We use lots of cheese, or cookies and treats so the dogs do these behaviours in order to earn the things they love, so they end up loving the behaviours themselves,” said Young.
Owners and dogs will learn to interact more when they go on walks, according to Young. Owners can engage their dogs and have more fun, she said.
Deborah Beck, City of Nanaimo recreation coordinator, said if people are going to get out and get active, it only make sense to get their four-legged friends involved as well.
“It’s really fun and … if you have your children with you, they can come along and learn how to do it. The whole idea of play, playing with your kids, playing with your pets, being outside and being active – throw it all together,” said Beck.
The dog parkour course runs on Tuesdays until Oct. 2 and goes from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the upper picnic shelter at Bowen Park. For information about registration, visit www.nanaimo.ca and click on the recreation and parks tab.
Beck said there aren’t any plans to change the course name to ‘Barkour,’ although she does like the idea.
“There hasn’t been, but I think that would be really fun,” Beck said with a laugh.