Have you heard about Canine Hoopers?
It’s a fun sport that’s ideal for dogs and owners of all ages and fitness levels. In contrast to agility, hoopers lack jumps.
Instead, the dog runs through hoops that are at ground level. The courses are flowing and don't entail the tight turns of agility, making it safer for dogs while still having the same pace and excitement!
Hoops, barrels, and tunnels are used instead of jumps or other high-impact apparatus, which reduces the risk of injury while also making it more affordable and convenient for pet dog owners to participate and practice at home.
A Brief History of Canine Hoopers
Hoopers is an interesting, low-impact, safe sport that first emerged in the USA under NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council). Its popularity spread primarily to Norway and Switzerland, and now it has reached the UK Hoopers is a great activity for bonding as it emphasizes how well the dog and owner can function as a cohesive team.
What is Canine Hoopers?
It's an entertaining dog sport for everyone, regardless of ability. Nearly every dog and owner can participate in this activity where dogs must maneuver through hoops, barrels, and tunnels without the dangers of traditional agility courses. It is a great way to bond with your dog because it is like agility courses without tight turns.
The primary equipment are hoops, barrels, tunnels, and touch n go mat. There isn't much for agility dogs to learn for Hoopers simply because they already have a grasp of moving ahead on cue, left and right turns, etc., while dogs without prior Agility training will pick up the new skills very quickly using shaping methods to learn.
How do dogs interact with the equipment?
- Hoops: Stand-up hoops with a smooth pattern of arcs and straight lines for dogs to run through. Dogs LOVE this!
- Barrels: These are meant for dogs to go around, in both directions, depending on the training requirements. Zoom!
- Tunnels: Either 1, 2, or 3 meters long and 800mm diameter tunnels is for running through in a straight line.
- Touch n Go Mat: Dogs run across these mats to the next piece of equipment, ignoring poles at the corners (the floor is lava!).
After learning the fundamentals, you can certainly perform the task at home. The hoops or barrels could be worked on independently, or you could even set up a small course in your garden. Hoopers equipment such as our dog walking accessories can be kept in a shed or garage since it doesn't take up much room.Simples!
Rules and regulations include:
- Competitors must make sure their dogs are properly trained to a safe standard for the type of competition they are entering
- Dogs suffering from a contagious or infectious disease, or who have had contact with any dog suffering from a contagious or infectious disease within 21 days of a show, shouldn’t be taken for a show
- Coercive techniques such as corporal punishment, rough handling, and the use of head collars, choke collars, prong collars, semi-chokes, and spray collars must not be used.
Training for Canine Hoopers
Canine hooper training demands methodically maintaining your dog's attention while communicating with your dog during the training. You'll probably laugh a lot at first when your dog interacts with the training tools for the first time. This is because they might run around rather than through and walk past rather than go over the various obstacles. This is good news, though, because you will be able to notice the improvements as your training gradually advances.
Let's get started!
- Set up your hoops (or other hoop-shaped equipment) first on a non-slip surface or grass in your garden. When your dog gains speed, stay away from concrete and patios because they are bad for their pads
- With your back to the hoop and your heels touching the end of the hoop, position yourself there while holding five pieces of food in each hand
- Have in mind that you don't want to overly excite your dogs here. Instead, simply get your dog's attention by having them in front of you and informing them that you have their food and that you are about to catch some fun
- Turn 180 degrees so that you are now facing the hoop once your dog shows an interest in what you are holding in your hands. To find where your hands (and consequently the food) went, your dog should move a few steps around you
- Give your dog a marker word as soon as it approaches your body a few steps (this could be YES )
- On the side of the hoop opposite your dog, immediately pour them some food or treats.
- Your dog ought to be able to see the tasty food or treats and move through the hoop.
- After finishing the food, your dog should turn around to see if you have any more food. Your dog should naturally move a few steps towards you to get back to the food because of how far away it is from you!
- MARK the first forward movement (YES), and then deliver the next piece of food on the opposite side of the hoop, aiming for at least 2 meters but ideally 4 dogs' lengths away from the hoop once more. The hoop should be crossed by your dog to access the food. They’re working for those treetos!
- Until all ten pieces of food have been consumed, keep marking your dog whenever he moves forward and delivering the food to the opposite side of the hoop. Give your dog a break, some time to sniff or cuddle etc. This is aaaaall about the bonding experience between you and your furry best friend.
- You can perform a few sets of 10 food shuttles a minute or two apart. If you take brief breaks in between that’s ok. Just adjust to your individual dog's level of fitness
- If your dog has accumulated value in the hoo and they LOVE it, there is no limit to the number of steps back from the hoop's side that you can take! It’s time to become a professional HOOPER,ha!
Tips and techniques for training
- Start with teaching dogs how to navigate the hoops without needing to lure them with lots of shaping
- Then add more hoops like pinwheels of hoops, arcs, and so on.
- Moving on to tunnels and barrels, ensure the dog is comfortable moving around the equipment in both directions
- Touch n Go Mat (Tango Mat) comes in around and typically doesn’t take long for dogs to learn
- Start linking different pieces of equipment together so dogs can learn to go through hoops and tunnels, around barrels, and across the mat to see how a course develops
- Moving on to direction changes, crossing from one side of a course to the other, sending dogs ahead, and more as you move on
Benefits of Canine Hoopers
- It can help with impulse control and is also great for mental stimulation
- It creates confidence, so it’s beneficial for nervous dogs
- It's also great for high-energy dogs because it helps them focus, and it's a great energy burner(feel the burn, lol)
- Older dogs can join the fun as it puts less strain on their joints than agility, and for that same reason, dogs as young as eight months can take part
- Hoopers, unlike agility, do not have any jumps. Instead, dogs navigate a ground-level course of hoops, barrels, and tunnels
- The equipment ensures dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds can participate without having to take sharp turns or bend down for tunnels or hoops
- Provides bonding and training benefits for owners to prepare both you and your dog for success while also making it enjoyable
- This is great for off-leash work because your dog will enjoy working closely with you (Did we just become best friends?).
Finding Canine Hoopers Classes and Events
The best step to start is by finding a qualified instructor. Canine Hoopers World instructors are highly recommended as they have gone through training with a Hooper's expert. You can search online for resources for information and support and also for the nearest canine hooper instructor
- Your dog will soon learn what to do without having to rely on the handler's arm movements if you simply capture their actions of moving forward
- Your marker word should only have one syllable or fewer. When you say your marker word to your dog, you are communicating two different things
- The first, implying what the dog has done is correct. The second means that your dog will learn to go searching for food when they hear their magic marker word
- Aim to bowl the piece of food at least 4 times the length of your dog away from the hoop and it shouldn’t be less than 2 meters from the hoop irrespective of dog size
- Stand still. This may be especially difficult for athletes.
To conclude, Canine Hoopers is a fantastic and enjoyable substitute for agility training for dogs in need of some low-impact exercise. This is a perfect place to start if you want to develop a pure adventure dog but don't want to jeopardize its limbs.
It is accessible for everyone, allowing those with limited mobility to learn distance handling so they can send their dog through the course rather than attempting to run alongside their canine companion.