The Sport of Canine Hoopers – An Introduction

We’re always interested in sports new to us and so we recently asked fellow dog sports enthusiast Hayley Laches to explain a little bit more about the dog sport known as ‘Canine Hoopers’.

Here’s what she and her friends put together for us…

Photo Credit to Zooming Pixels


‘Canine Hoopers is a fairly new dog-sport that has been gaining popularity throughout the UK. The dogs pass through hoops, tunnels and around barrels on a low-impact, smooth flowing course. The tunnels are 80cm diameter – much larger than agility tunnels. The larger tunnels, and the lack of twists and sharp turns on Hoopers courses, means the sport is all breeds inclusive; from tiny Chihuahuas and Daschunds to larger breeds like St Bernards, Great Danes and Newfoundlands. Another element of hoopers is the TanGo mat Tango mats are 900mm wide and 1800mm long. Mats must be made from a non-slip rubber material. It has marker poles can be free standing or can stick into the ground which are placed near each corner or the mat, the dog has to run across the mat making contact with at least one paw.

It is inclusive for people as well, those with limited mobility, mobility scooters and power chairs discover distance handling so they can send their dog round the course instead of trying to run with their canine friend. 

Dogs and their owners can accumulate points earned at Canine Hoopers UK (CHUK) competitions to progress through the five Hoopers levels; from Starters to Masters. Speed is not crucial to moving through the levels – slower dogs have equal opportunity to gain qualification points.

History

Canine Hoopers UK was formed in 2017. Clubs, societies and individuals are able to host Canine Hoopers UK shows, competitions and training by Accredited Instructors. Canine Hoopers UK strives to protect the long-term well-being of the dog by maintaining flowing courses of low impact obstacles and aims to be an inclusive dog sport making sure that this sport is accessible to all dogs and handlers. Canine Hoopers UK endeavours to promote only force free modern training techniques through the training and assessment and of their OCN Accredited Canine Hoopers UK Instructor Training scheme.

Instructors

All Accredited Canine Hoopers UK Instructors have been thoroughly assessed and only awarded accreditation when they prove their understanding, knowledge and teaching aptitude, meaning you are secure in the knowledge that your learning journey will be both fun, and safe, and that the instruction you receive will be to the highest standard. We are committed to making sure that all Canine Hoopers UK Accredited Trainers are consistently teaching to a high standard, they use only modern force free training techniques and are promoting everything this wonderful sport has to offer.

For those wishing to showcase their abilities, there are Canine Hoopers UK shows held all year round throughout the UK. Focusing on the partnership between dog and handler, CHUK competition courses will be smooth and flowing and can include optional handling challenges too for extra points! Unlike many other dog sports, progression is based on consistency rather than individual class wins.

Whether you want to compete or not, in training classes you can work through your Good Hoopers Awards. These awards are suitable for everyone and are great fun as well as providing a record of achievement of your hoopers skills!

Carol Bentley an advanced accredited instructor from the Dorset area quotes “The results of this modern training method speak for themselves! I’ve seen the difference Hoopers has made; ‘velcro dogs’ gain confidence and become unstuck, dogs lacking focus gain drive and dogs that couldn’t, or didn’t, previously partake in any other activity suddenly have a whole new passion and lease of life! You can see how much the dogs – and their owners – enjoy the sport. “

Faye Nemeth is an advanced accredited instructor near Carlisle Cumbria; “Phase Purple regularly hold shows involving canine hoopers and the numbers are increasing at each show. ‘hoopers is not just about running through hoops and sending around a barrel, if trained correctly it’s a whole different skill set to teach your dog. Some dogs that have had a go have been a little confused when they first had a go due to the fact that they had not trained the hoop as a different piece of equipment but when the foundations have been correctly trained the dogs definitely know the difference between doing a hoopers course and doing agility. My grade 7 dog, Jess, will regularly compete in agility and hoopers at the same show and she knows the difference between going over jumps and through hoops, there was one show where we did our agility class and ran straight over to do our hoopers class and Jess managed to win both of classes.”

Award scheme

Throughout Lockdown, Canine Hoopers UK have been running an online awards scheme. Specifically created and written to both provide instructors with some income during a difficult time, and to provide owners and dogs with a focus. Originally designed with 4 different levels (foundation, bronze, silver and gold), later a fifth Platinum level was released. Each level has daily training videos to watch to teach your dog new skills. At the end of each course, your skills are combined for the assessment. The Online GHA’s are designed to be done in gardens and even using make shift equipment from around your home (see the full list of suggestions on the website), my favourite suggestion being; a pair of wellies and a bit of hose pipe!

Hoopers really is accessible for all, it’s a non-expensive, fun and enjoyable hobby for dogs and handlers of all ages. Want to get stuck in and have a go?

To find out more information on hoopers, or to your nearest trainer or club go to https://www.caninehoopersuk.co.uk

How to get started training

Let’s get stuck in shall we and teach our dogs what a hoop is! I would advise using your dogs meals whilst training to prevent weight gain!

  1. Firstly, set up your hoop (or hoop shaped equipment) on a non-slip surface or in your garden on grass. Avoid concrete and patios as this won’t be good for your dogs pads once they gain speed.
  2. Stand with your back to the hoop, be so close to the hoop that your heels are touching the end of the hoop, have 5 pieces of food in each hand.
  3. Have your dog in front of you and just get their attention and let them know you have their food and that you are about to have some fun – note you don’t want to overly excite your dogs here.
  4. Once your dog wants what you have got in your hands, rotate 180 degrees so that you are now facing the hoop. Your dog should come a step or two around your body to see where your hands (and therefore the food) went!
  5. As soon as your dog takes a step or two around your body, give a marker word word (this could be YES or GOOD etc). Immediately bowl a piece of food out on the opposite side of the hoop to your dog. Your dog should see the food and travel through the hoop to go and eat it.
    NOTE – aim to bowl the piece of food at least 4 times the length of your dog away from the hoop. (no less than 2 metres from the hoop regardless of dog size.
  6. Once your dog has eaten the treat, they should turn around to see if you have got any more food. Because of how far away from you your dog is, your dog should naturally take a step or two back in your direction to get closer to the food again. MARK the first step forwards (YES or GOOD etc) and now deliver the next piece of food on the far side of the hoop, again aiming for no less than 2metres but ideally 4 dogs lengths from the hoop again. Your dog should pass through the hoop to get to the food.
  7. Repeat this action of marking your dog for taking a step forwards and delivering the food to the far side of the hoop until all ten pieces of food are gone.
    Give your dog a break, a cuddle/sniff time etc.
  8. With short breaks between the sets of 10 treats, you can do a couple of sets a minute or two apart. Be sensible with this and adapt it to your own dogs fitness level.
  9. Want to progress? If you think your dog now understands what you are asking, take 1 step back from the end of the hoop. Continue to mark your dog for travelling towards the hoop and deliver the reward on the far side ahead of your dog.
    If your dog has built value in the hoop, there will be no limit to the amount of steps back from the side of the hoop that you can take.

Important things to remember:

  • Make sure not to wave the treat around to lure the dog to come towards the hoop – simply capture your dogs actions of moving forwards and they will quickly learn what to do without needing to rely on handlers arms actions.
  • Keep your marker word short, ideally 1 syllable. Every time you give your marker word, you are signalling two things to your dog. The first being that you are indicating what the dog has done is correct. The second tells your dog that the reward is now going to be delivered. This means that your dog will learn to only go looking for the treats when they hear their magic marker word.
  • Stand still – this can be especially hard for humans, especially sporty ones!’

Final note from K9 Trail Time

We think this is a great introduction to Canine Hoopers and we’d like to thank Hayley and her team for sending over details of what the sport is and how to get started for our followers – if you’re thinking of something new this year, do get in touch with Hayley for more information.

Training provided by Hayley Laches of Taming Canines. Hayley is an advanced accredited instructor who offers both in-person training and online training through Dog Sports Direct to your home.

For more information please visit:
www.tamingcanines.co.uk

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