There is a speedy dog sport in town! And it's growing in popularity. Super-inclusive and super-fast—is Canine Hoopers the next sport for you and your dog to try?
What is Canine Hoopers?
Hoopers is a fun, fast-paced dog sport testing your dog's speed, flexibility, and focus. Dogs run through a series of U-shaped hoops laid out in a fast, flowing course. It has all the excitement of agility without the high-impact jumping. Hoopers is the perfect starting sport for young dogs or older dogs with limited mobility who still want to get out and have some fun.
Hoopers is low-impact and high-speed fun for dogs and owners of all shapes and sizes.
Where did Dog Hoopers start?
Canine Hoopers started in the US, supported by the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC). It has since grown in popularity and spread across the world. Canine Hoopers has a particularly big following in the UK.
What are the benefits of hoopers for dogs?
Hooper is a low-impact sport, meaning it is suitable for dogs of all ages, including puppies. It is also a great way to keep older dogs fit and mentally stimulated if agility or flyball aren’t suitable due to mobility concerns.
Hoopers requires your dog to be focused on you. It works their brain to ensure they complete all of the obstacles in the right order, under your direction. It’s fast-paced and exciting for them, helping to keep them fit and mobile whilst improving their obedience and bond with you, their handler.
Who can get involved with Canine Hoopers? Is it suitable for all dogs?
Hoopers is an incredibly friendly and inclusive canine sport. Anyone can get involved; you just need a dog and a bundle of enthusiasm.
Hoopers is unlike many other canine sports because there is no real training age limit for dogs. As long as puppies are fully vaccinated and have some early obedience skills, they are welcome to start Hoopers training.
Dog agility has a starting age limit because of the high-impact nature of some of the obstacles. Jumping is not recommended for young puppies when their musculoskeletal system hasn’t matured. It puts too much strain on their joints. Canine Hoopers has no jumps and is low impact, so it is suitable for all ages. It is also fab for older dogs who need to keep their brains and bodies busy without the added stress on their joints that comes with other dog sports.
Hoops are 80cm tall, so even large breed dogs can get involved. Courses at Hoopers competitions tend to be smooth and flowing with few sharp turns that could be a risk to the dogs. Nonetheless, the speed and technicality still make for challenging, complex courses. Hoopers courses consist of a number of hoops laid out in a specific order. The course may include other low-impact obstacles, too, such as tunnels to run through or barrels to navigate.
Essentially it’s a matter of the fastest dog wins, but extra points can be awarded if you take on optional challenges. These include handling from a distance, tackling an extra handlers challenge, or navigating your dog around the entire course from one specified spot. Often the extra challenges are more difficult for you as the handler and rely on your bond with your dog and their focus on you.
Can you do hoopers at home?
Of course. You can learn dog Hoopers at home or practice what you have learned in your Hoopers training. There are also various online courses and plenty of resources available on the internet.
Canine Hoopers equipment can be purchased online, or you can make some DIY options from sections of flexible PVC piping. Just make sure whatever you use is lightweight so as not to injure your dog if they make a mistake and hit it.
Where to learn Hoopers
Search your local dog training schools for group or 1-1 Hoopers classes. There are various Hoopers organisations across the UK who run both training classes and competitions. You can find a canine hoopers instructor here.