Welcome To (Super-Queer) Parkour For Canines
This outdoor activity might be gayer than softball!
Bad at softball? Like the outdoors? Have a dog? Looking for a fun way to impress other lesbians this spring? I've got a new sport for you! Canine Parkour! You might have heard some of the sporty dykes talking about parkour—the human version where they are vaulting, jumping, climbing off of walls, trees, playground equipment. Basically, it's about turning the world around you into an obstacle course. I have zero athletic ability, so you won't find me springing over logs and rebounding off fences, but there is a new canine sport that's much more my speed. Canine Parkour is an individually motivated dog sport designed to get you and your dog off the couch, into the parks and into the community interacting with the world around you.
The recently-formed International Parkour Association is an organising group providing structure to the sport, and has developed a titling system where dogs can compete to earn different levels of titles. One of the advantages of parkour over other dog sports is that you can compete from virtually anywhere; the titles are all earned by submitting video of your dog performing the designated maneuvers of increasing difficulty. Each title - training, novice, intermediate, expert and champion - requires dogs to perform skills including four feet on, two feet on, balancing on narrow objects, going through, and in, objects, and rebounding off of objects.
The sport is highly individualised and designed to allow dog/handle teams to compete against themselves, but I think it could also be a great way to bond with your dog loving queer buddies! Pick a local park and decide on a regular time to meet up with your dogs to train instead of going to the bar. You'll save you money, and your dogs will be happy to not be stuck at home alone without you!
What I like most about parkour is the focus on engaging with the world around us. Now, everywhere I look, I see possible parkour obstacles! Unlike with some other dog sports like agility, with parkour I don’t have to buy or find a place to use a lot of special equipment. Living in NYC with extremely limited storage, this is a huge plus for me. Instead, my dogs and I get to explore our community looking for new 'obstacles' to practice on and experience new parts of our neighborhood at the same time. One of my latest finds was teaching my dog to weave in and out of empty bicycle racks! For years, my dogs and I have informally been incorporating aspects of parkour into our walks, jumping onto rocks, crawling under logs, etc.. My dogs enjoy learning new things it has always been a great way to incorporate training into our daily walks. I'm always looking for new things to teach my dogs and so the structure of the titling system and turning something we have casually played around with into a sport really appeals to me. I'm hoping to start putting videos together towards the first titles later this spring.
Interested in learning more? The International Parkour Association has some great info and resources in how to train the various skills your dog will need to master to start competing in the sport. Be sure to start slowly, especially if your dog has spent the winter curled up on the couch with you re-watching The L Word.
Safety is key for starting any sport, so be sure to start your dog very low if you are asking them to get up onto logs or to jump over obstacles. Young dogs shouldn't be encouraged to jump at all, and be cautious of how big you are asking adult dogs to jump. For safety, limit your dog jumping or doing parkour on raised obstacles that are over concrete. Repeated jumping on hard surfaces can cause injuries to your dog. As you start to train in parkour be sure to progress at a slow pace that feels comfortable to your dog to ensure they are having fun while learning new skills, and not getting worried.
One of the great things about parkour is that anyone can get their dog involved, regardless of if you live in a small town or a big city. I would love to see a lot of queer women competing in the sport - it seems like such a natural fit! What do you think? What other ways do you enjoy getting outside with your dogs to enjoy this great spring weather?