THANK YOU to Jeff Riedl, NATCh-3 “Muncher”, 3 time AMBOR National Champion, for this excellent introduction to Hooper’s.
Jeff operates www.agilityevents.net We recommend this website for listing and searching events in any agility venue!
NADAC’s Hoopers class is unlike any other test in the agility ring. The dog’s physical demands are minimal, after all – going through a hoop is pretty much just a matter of flat-surface running. The challenge of Hoopers is entirely focused on the ability of the handler and the dog to work together as a smooth flowing team. It is the responsibility of the handler to direct the dog through the hoops on an efficient path so they can collect the needed hoops and complete their course in the least possible time. It’s all about timing, running lines, and flow. Wasted steps are wasted time, but a smooth and flowing path is also much faster than many starts & stops or sharp turns to get from one place to the other.
Hoopers is a handler strategy game. General guidelines are set out as to what a team needs to accomplish, but ultimately it’s up to the handler and sometimes the dog as to what their ‘course’ will actually look like.
Looking at the Hoopers course, you’ll see four hoops which are marked as “Non-Test” Hoops, one or two “Finish” Hoops, and all the other hoops are parts of various “Test” sequences. The basic pattern to remember is three non-test hoops, then a test sequence, two non-test hoops, then a test sequence, one non-test hoop then a sequence … followed by a dart to the finish hoop. Novice have it a little easier, Elite have an extra requirement to earn their Q’s.
The non-test hoops are always very clear to see, in a straight line down the middle or either side of the ring or sometimes cutting diagonally across the course. The test sequences can consist of a 3-Hoop Pinwheel, a 4-Hoop Arc, a serpentine, a threadle, a circle, a box, a wrap, or a numbered sequence. The judge previews all sequences at the start of the walk-through so everyone understands what will be accepted as a successful test attempt. If needed, the team can attempt a sequence as many as three times before having to move on. As long as the correct number of Non-test hoops and Test sequences are completed within the specified course time, the team can earn a Qualifying run.
More Uses For Hoops
Overall, Hoopers is a unique, fun, and challenging game. As a bonus, the class has brought us a great new tool for training our dogs foundation skills and refining our handling. Remember, the hoop (really an upright Arch) is a no-impact obstacle. No climbing, twisting, or jumping is required so it can be used to teach all the basic directionals at a very early age. “Go, Wait, Here, Out, Tight, Switch” – imagine working on all these commands and having a solid understanding of these important tools before your dog even reaches the age of being ready to start jumping!
My students all start out with a set of four hoops or their back-yard practice. Hoops are economical, light weight, easy to transport, store, and don’t need a lot of room for training. Getting a dog ‘directional wise’ before learning the performance requirements of the other obstacles makes the process of training up a novice dog much more efficient by building a stronger bond between the team mates and by focusing the handler on the importance of their own body language when guiding a dog around the ring.
For those who are experienced in the sport and just want to sharpen their skills, the Hoop is also an ideal training tool. Unlike the hang time for a jump, or the containment time of a tunnel, there is almost no execution time for the dog to get through a hoop. That means the dog is always aware of the handler’s position & path. I believe anyone wanting crisp, clean handling lines and the ability to run with a smooth flow should consider using hoops as a regular part of their practice routine.
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