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Fun, free running, and fascinating...

Focus, fun and fascination of hoopers for Moby, the Staff. When Angela Lucas tried to explain Hoopers to a non-dog owner, the response was 'Oh, sounds like croquet with dogs.' When you take away the fact that we donít roll the dogs into a ball and hit them with flamingos, they're not far off. Angela Lucas - or shall we say 'Queen of Hearts' -  explains why she likes the new dog sport which is taking the agility community by storm.

A hooper is a item made of plastic which looks like a large croquet hoop or half a hula hoop. It's large enough to allow an Irish wolfhound run underneath without stooping. That was part of the initial attraction of Hoopers as a dog sport for me. It truly allows all dogs, whatever breed, to enjoy an activity.

Hoopers was the creation of a lady in America called Amanda Nelson. She began an agility society called North American Dog Agility Council, which devised all sorts of low impact and distance handling classes. Amongst them was a category called Hoopers.

Starting out
One of the things which really appeals to me about Hoopers is it's simplicity which makes it accessible to many owners with limited cash, space and/or both. For a small budget and a little understanding of DIY, you can put together four Hoopers to start teaching your dog. The hoopers can fold up into your car. They are cheap to repair or replace if they break. And most importantly, they can't hurt your dog.

Using just three easy to source items you can create fun to run rounds of Hoopers. It doesnít matter the size or age of the dog. I have seen them all come into the ring with an uncertain handler, knowing nothing. Within five minutes, they are capable of completing a round of Hoopers. The smiles on the faces of the handlers, the wagging tails and happy eyes of the dog speak volumes to the trainer. That is the fun and fascination of Hoopers.

There are only three main items you need:-

  1. Hoopers

  2. An 80cm diameter 1 metre tunnel

  3. Something rounded like a barrel

A Rottweiler owned by HOOPERHOLIC member Sharon ErensteinWhy rounded items? This is because itís kinder to ask your dog to bend slightly than to twist itself double. A dog can maintain it's balance better and regulate itself if turns are an arc. Imagine my delight when I saw gentle turns around a cone or bucket were taught as the beginning of Hoopers. I had been teaching this to my dogs for 20 years!

The challenge of working your dog from a distance is another draw. As a person who has never been an athlete, I was finding the agility courses far too long for me to move round. When I found that Hooper competitions tested your ability to work your dog from a central spot - or from behind a line - that suited me to the ground.

But to me, the icing on the cake is Hoopers really  is accessible to the vast majority of dog breeds and ages. You can use a Hooper to introduce a puppy to shaping methods, a bucket to introduce or improve turns with no jumping strain, and the golden oldies love the bigger tunnels and the smoothness of Hooper courses.

Frequently Asked Questions

Look at this girl go! 1 year of Hooper training for Chihuahua Minx.There seems to be three main questions.

1. My dog doesnít do distance work. Can I run with my dog?

Yes, you can. Hooper courses start with 15 obstacles, set between 3 or 4 metres apart. Higher levels will have larger gaps. This encourages distance handling for the totally new team in hoopers. But I have also seen dog who have not worked away from their handler, demonstrate confidence using Hoopers, by speeding up! Hooper competitions in the UK allow you to choose how to run your dog.

2. My agility dog is used to bigger gaps. Can they do Hoopers?

There is speculation fast dogs find the turns in starter Hooper levels difficult. Most dogs, taught from the beginning, learn to moderate and develop a regular consistent gait around Hooper courses. It enables them to make corner turns without turning sharply. So, I would say, yes. Even with an experienced agility dog, it would do no harm to start with basic hooper training exercises to allow your dog to adjust. Learning about course designs and using the barrels and gates to align your dog assists. There are plenty of people in Europe and now the UK able to do both agility and hoopers without detriment to their dog.

3. Is it only for veteran and injured dogs?

No, Hoopers is for all dogs and all handlers, especially the older ones as they do not have to stoop or slow for tunnels which are short and high. There is no jumping and no wrap round on Hoopers courses. Hoopers gives the fun back to the oldies we love. The emphasis is on the dog able to move freely and at a consistent pace around the course.

During the last three years that I have been showcasing the sport to others, I have never seen a dog without a 'smile' after having had a go. From the smallest to the tallest, the lack of having to judge when to take off or the difficulty of tight turns seemed to make dogs relax more, engage their natural running pace and move freely. It benefited the handlers, too. Lesser mobile owners, unable to keep up with their dogs, found a new relationship blooming. Instead of having to run and think and keep their balance, they could concentrate on communicating clearly and having fun.

Hooperholics South UK
Investigations led me to find other pockets of people all around the country who were doing Hoopers. What a shame I thought that no one was talking to each other!

So, that's why I started out to promote Hoopers. My older dog, who was retired due to the start of arthritis, became my demonstration dog. We could continue our partnership started in the ring as I visited clubs and enthused to others. Then I got a puppy. I am prepared to swear that his training in his first year - on mainly Hoopers - really transferred into his agility training.

And that what's led me to being part of a national movement in networking on social media and why, after all my efforts, Hooperholics South UK was born.

With enthusiastic friends who are all principal Hooper trainers in the South, competitions are being held. Relationships with more experienced Hooper trainers in Europe are being made, so that Hoopers in the UK can be fun and properly taught. Progress leagues and award schemes are available, so whatever the standard you want to reach with your dog, the fun and fitness of Hoopers is there for you.

For more information, email

About the author...
Angela Lucas
lives in East Sussex. She has been involved  helping people with their dogs for over 20 years, some times painfully gaining her knowledge through personal experiences.

She has always been an active member of clubs in her area and runs her own rally, agility and Hooper lessons as Angela's Canine Academy.

Angela has been training her own dogs for over 30 years, competed in Obedience, Working Trials, Agility, Rally and Hoopers. As a paragility handler, she joined the PAWC team in 2012  and was the first team member to win a podium place. In 2016, Angela and Bizzy became world Paragility Champions at the Czech republic. 

Using her knowledge as an Approved Instructor and judge and with the assistance of other enthusiasts, Angela is setting up Hooperholics South UK.  

For more details contact: Angela Lucas Hooperholics Manager on m. 07415 859360 or email

First published 19th October 2018


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