News, Training

Cock-a–hoop for Hoopers!

There’s an exciting new sport to hit our shores and now “Hooper-holics” are being found in every corner of the UK. Sarah Hamblin of Canine Hoopers UK (CHUK) talks to Everything Agility about the exciting upsurge in Hoopers as both a competitive sport and a great activity with your dog.

The first thing you notice about Hoopers is that it is super FUN for both dogs and handlers.  Based on the dogs’ love of running at their natural gait, Hoopers allows them to take us out and join them in their favourite thing – running at full speed –  with their favourite human in tow.

The second thing you’ll notice it that it is free flowing and low impact;   there are no tight turns, abrupt deceleration, weaves or standard contact equipment which makes it great as a fitness activity either on its own, alongside agility or other dog sports or, in many cases, a perfect outlet for dogs with previous injuries, those with age against them or particularly large or tiny breeds.

So What Exactly is Hoopers?

Hoopers is a sport in which dogs follow a set course to pass through hoops and tackle other obstacles.  Recently described as “croquet with dogs” (but without the mallet!)  the similarities are astounding.  There are different competitive classes containing various equipment ranging from the obvious hoops to large format tunnels, barrels and a variation of an A-Frame.

Canine Hoopers UK is dedicated to being breed-inclusive.  Hoops are roomy and only 80cm tunnels are used, making it comfortable for large and giant breeds to negotiate as well as those with tiny legs. In one training session I recently hosted both a St Bernard and a Mini Daschund  – both had an absolute blast and ran the same courses with ease! Tunnel entries are always straight and there are no tight wraps, turns or weaves which make it great for ‘long wheel based’ dogs and those not quite so bendy. Equally, large breed contact equipment is used in the form of either a lowered A-Frame or a variation of an A-Frame with an extra connecting plank, more akin to a very low, wide dog walk, all designed with the dogs’ comfort and joint longevity in mind. A show can schedule a maximum of 1 class per day that includes contacts but runs including standard classes, pairs teams and specials are unlimited.

Purely Positive Training

Hoopers training is purely positive, reward-based and uses choice games and free shaping to work a dog’s mind as well as its body.  The results speak for themselves! We are continually being contacted by people who have started Hoopers with their agility dog and can’t believe the difference it has made… ‘Velcro dogs’ are becoming unstuck, those lacking focus are becoming driven and what pleases us the most, those who couldn’t or didn’t previously partake in any other activity suddenly have a whole new passion and lease of life. Hoopers is so straightforward at the base level that anyone can have a go and try it for themselves and there are Accredited Instructors nationwide.

Competing in Hoopers

In competition, dogs are measured using the length of their ulna, that’s the long bone in the dogs foreleg. This might seem a strange way to measure, but actually the length of the ulna of an adult dog will generally remain the same, whether it is awake or asleep, standing up, sitting down or flat out, fluffy or sporting a new haircut! At present awards are split for large and small dogs but the size categories will increase as we see more dogs competing throughout the UK.

There are also 5 levels to progress through via the accumulation of qualifying points, not class wins. This means that any dog that runs clear gains the same standard progression points, regardless of class placings and who ran fastest.  The emphasis is on free flowing, not breakneck speed!  This also means that a lolloping Leonburger can progress at the same rate as a whizzy Whippet and that success is borne of good training and handling and not purely natural athletic ability (…..something those of us ‘big boned’ handlers can more than appreciate!).  Also, progression is specific to a class type, so if you have never competed in a Touch & Go class (containing a contact), you would still progress in all other classes in which you compete. The choice is yours to make the best decisions for your dog’s health and happiness.

Courses at Starters level are straightforward and encourage the dog to follow the line of the course and keep moving forwards. For the handler however there are handling challenges such as Challenge Lines (that  you must stay behind to earn extra points) Bonus Boxes (which earn you extra points if you are within them for certain parts of the course) and further up the levels, Distance Handling Boxes, designed to test the mettle of partnerships negotiating trickier courses from a specific spot on the course.

The key thing to remember is that distance handling is purely optional, so if you would rather clock up your daily steps and run with your dog then great! Equally, if you don’t want to, or find it difficult to run then Hoopers lends itself so well to distance handling and even rewards it with bonus points, making it a great option not just for dogs, but for handlers with mobility issues too.  Handlers are most welcome to use wheelchairs, walking aids or even place a stool into the course before they start.

As well as the chance to compete, we are currently launching our Good Hoopers Awards, an exciting, non-competitive award that assesses dog and handler over set criteria to be crowned a “Good Hooper”.  Bronze, Silver and Gold plus a foundation Puppy award all test the basic training, behaviours and skills required, in a non-competition environment.  Awards include a certificate and beautiful rosette.

Canine Hoopers UK host competitions throughout the UK as well as Good Hoopers Awards sessions and workshops from Accredited Instructors.  There is a large crossover from Agility, Rally and Obedience as well as other dog sports, so if you run a show and would like to add a CHUK ring to the schedule please get in touch.

-oOo-

Want to join in the buzz? Then get involved! There are Accredited Canine Hoopers UK Instructors nationwide.  You can find out more about training, shows and even how to become an instructor via our website, where you will also find our rules and regs.  You can also join us on Facebook by searching Canine Hoopers UK.  As with any canine sport, we recommend using good old fashioned common sense and ensure that your dog is fit, healthy and capable.  Please seek veterinary advice if you are unsure whether Hoopers is right for your dog.

www.caninehoopersuk.co.uk

www.facebook.com/groups/caninehoopersuk/

(Photo credit: Shh…! Creative Event Photography)

 

 

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5 Comments

  • Angela Lucas 4th June 2018 at 3:08 pm

    I am pleased to see my invented term HOOPERHOLIC in print.

    Reply
    • admin 4th June 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Great!

      Reply
  • Chris 6th June 2018 at 11:56 am

    We do a little hoopers at the end of our obedience class. Admittedly this means only a few minutes a week but my dog is sooooo slow to pick this up! Agility clicked much more quickly. How long can it take for a dog to click that they are being rewarded for going through the hoop, not just following your hand? I practice at home too and she’s still not getting it. Any tips?

    Reply
    • admin 6th June 2018 at 12:33 pm

      Hi Chris. I will ask Sarah to answer your question.

      Reply
    • Sarah Hamblin 6th June 2018 at 2:00 pm

      Hi Chris, building the foundations of hoopers is really important and once they understand what the reward is for it all comes together very quickly. If your dog hasn’t ‘clicked’ yet maybe go back to basics, work on free-shaping with just one hoop until they fully understand, then test this understanding by moving away from the hoop very gradually, once they are strutting their stuff with one, go back to adding in more hoops. The more value you put into one hoop the quicker it will all come together for you. Hope this helps!

      Reply

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