It's not rocket science...
By now most of the agility community will have heard of a comparatively new sport called Hoopers. Recently Hooperholics UK founder and lead instructor Angela Lucas took a look back her early efforts, and she really had a laugh. Compared to how she now approaches training and handles her dog, she thought that she looked like a banshee! Her words, not ours. And that was only four years ago!
Hooperholics was a term I coined when I got hooked on Hoopers. Right from the start, I just loved it especially as it could genuinely be done by each and every dog. I also liked that there was no need to go running round adjusting the equipment. One set suited all.
It was after I started holding Hooperholics workshops and public demos that I realised just how much fun - real fun - the dogs and handlers were having by going back to simple flowing courses and doing away with a lot of complicated moves. It seemed to relax nervous competitors and de-stress the dog.
& long term benefits
Agility folk are often told to be energetic - move, run and act excited- so when they change tack and begin to look more towards 'blending' their commands and signals with the dog's actions, they improve their own training skills. Hooper training is not about telling your dog, but assisting it when needed. There is far more of the attitude work with your dog, not tell it, and this approach makes Hoopers what it is.
Hoopers, because of the distance aspect, and teaching the independence, benefits dogs who can be so easily aroused by excited handlers trying to keep up!
Hoopers on a low key scale is core exercise, fitness therapy. Some with older dogs have said it has been beneficial with subtle bend or curving using a large barrel Teaching foundation Hoopers sets young dogs up for balance, co-ordination, gauging stride learning to run naturally.
In over four years of showing people Hoopers, and countless numbers of dogs, I can honestly say I have seen them all leave with a smile. Hoopers has a magical effect. It just makes you smile.
Viva le Belly Button!
First she explained how it was not always necessary to rely on your body and/or constantly shouted vocal signals. We learnt that if you used more of your body to focus on your dog as it went around the course, you could better time essential cues and reduce the arm signalling. We called it the 'Belly Button Method.'
There is no need to over complicate things for the dog just because it is working at a distance. Indeed, the simpler the better. It makes it more fun for the dog which should be your prime objective.
I don't see training Hoopers as 'my dog can do this simple exercise, let's make it harder for them.' It should be 'this is fun for my dog, let's challenge my skill as a handler and get same result standing on my head.'
People at the few competitions my fellow instructors and I managed to attend in 2020 were gob smacked by our apparent lack of arm signals, and machine gun verbals, and standing in one position for the whole course. This is what HUK has taught from the very beginning - and it works.
Tips for those starting out
Tips for those already a part of the Hooper world
Instruction on tap
There is also a website www.hooperholics-uk.co.uk which includes a free show calendar to showing any Hooper show for the year ahead. Details of accredited instructors will be added to the website.
For more information about Hooperholics UK, contact Angela Lucas by email
About the Author
She successfully went on to compete in Agility, Working Trials, Obedience, Rally and now adds Hoopers.
She was instrumental in starting the Hooper activity in the UK and the founder and Lead Instructor for Hooperholics UK, a Hooper society dedicated to spread the enjoyment of hoopers.
As part of her agility interest, Angela helped to promote and raise awareness of the international event PAWC which is an international competition for disabled agility handlers. After competing as part of the British team representatives for several years, she won her group in 2016 and her dog Bizzy was awarded PAWC Champion.
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