Mini American Shepherd taking a barrel in canine hoopers
Reef going around a barrel. Credit: Jacob Henry

Let’s start at the beginning- what is hoopers?

Canine hoopers is a dog sport that originated in North America, coming to the UK in around about 2016.. It aims to be a full inclusive sport for all dogs and handlers, low impact for the dogs and with emphasis on training skills rather than a handler’s own physical ability to get themselves around a course. Dogs navigate a course made up of hoops, barrels, tunnels and a touchngo/tango mat (a large non-slip rubber mat that the dogs run over). The courses are smooth and flowing- there’s no sharp turns or twists. Dogs are trained to have a fantastic understanding of the obstacles.

What are the benefits?

  1. The inclusivity for dogs: The tunnels are much larger than agility tunnels, shorter as well and always straight which makes them more inclusive to larger dogs who would have to hunker down to get through a 60cm diameter agility tunnel. There’s no jumps! Therefore very little impact on joints so again suitable for giant breeds but also tiny breeds, and even dogs with some mobility issues like arthritis. This also makes it a great sport to start younger dogs on before they get into higher impact sports like agility. AND it’s a fantastic, fast, flowing sport for athletic dogs as well.
  2. The inclusivity for humans: Can’t sprint around a course with your dog? No problem! Want to sprint around a course with your dog? No problem! We train the dogs to understand and have value for the obstacles. They will be able to look ahead for the next obstacles themselves and be able to follow directions by verbals or body motion.
  3. It’s a fun bonding activity for you and your dog. Spending time together, learning and having fun can improve your relationship while getting in the daily exercise AND mental stimulation which I truly believe tires them out more than any running could!
  4. It’s confidence building. Got a velcro dog? Hoopers can help unstick them, they gain confidence in being able to work away from you thanks to that fantastic training!
  5. It’s a brilliant foundation sport for agility. All of these independence skills they learn transfer over from hoops to jumps so you are able to train a lot of agility skills without needing to introduce any impact in the early stages.
MAS doing canine hoopers
Reef flying through a hoop. Credit: Jacob Henry

So why is it the next big thing?

Hoopers truly is so much fun, it’s inclusive for everyone and so easy to practice at home as well on a low budget. Dogs can start at any stage of life and handlers can come in with any ability. Why would you not want to do hoopers!?

How do I get involved?

Well if you’re on the North Coast we run hoopers classes working through the Canine Hoopers UK Good Hoopers Awards, rewarding teams for training achievements from foundation up to silver level at present. Spoiler alert- the awards come with amazing rosettes! Details of upcoming classes can be found here: Foundation Hoopers – Causeway Dog Training

If you are not so lucky as to be on the North Coast with us you can find a Canine Hoopers UK accredited instructor in your area using this map.

And lastly, if you want to get making your own hoops, I made a video tutorial. They are cheap and easy to make, don’t take up much space and make training at home even more fun!

I hope to see you hooping soon!

Deaf dog performing canine hoopers
Flash speeding through a hoop. Credit: Jacob Henry
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