Teaching Your Dog to "Jump Through a Hoop"
Dr. Amy Wolff
Teaching your dog a few simple tricks is fun and entertaining for both you and your pet. It's best if your dog knows and reliably responds to the basic obedience commands of sit, stay and down before teaching him to perform tricks. Most tricks are built on basic obedience work anyway and, in the process of being taught "the basics," your dog will have learned to pay attention to you during training sessions.
If your dog has an orthopedic problem, check with your veterinarian before proceeding with more advanced training. Even relatively simple tricks can place unnecessary stress on bones and joints that are in any way compromised.
Successful of training of your dog hinges on rewarding the desired behavioral response in a timely fashion. The most valued rewards differ from dog to dog: For some, food it is the most powerful reward, for others, praise or petting are what they crave. Some dogs will do whatever their owners want them to just to have a little playtime. Find the reward that best motivates your dog to learn and stick with it. Work with your dog daily in 5 to 15 minute sessions. Keep training fun, and end sessions on a high note with reward for a job well done. If you feel yourself getting frustrated or tired, quit and try again later.
To teach your dog to jump through a hoop, you must first get him used to the hoop as an everyday object. A hula-hoop works well for this trick since it is durable and inexpensive. Leave the hoop out for a day or two and allow your dog sniff it and become used to its presence. For the first step of the process, with your dog on a lead and the hoop flat on the ground, walk your dog around and over the hoop. Give a little food treat as he clears the edges of the hoop. The object is to get him used to stepping over the edges of the hoop without hesitating.
When your pet becomes comfortable with this simple procedure, the hoop should be set on it's edge for the next stage. You can support the hoop by tying it to stakes in the ground, or have a partner hold it upright. Any method is okay as long as the hoop's stable enough that it won't move or fall over as your dog begins to move through it. Using collar and leash, have your dog wait in the "sit" position on one side of the hoop. Toss the free end of the leash through the hoop and then go to the other side of the hoop and it pick up. . Give the command "hoop," and then gently pull your dog through the hoop, giving him a food treat as a reward once he is through it. As his confidence builds, raise the hoop a few inches off the ground. Now he will have to take a hop-step or a little jump to get through. Raise the height of the hoop slowly. Don't exceed a height that your dog can reasonably jump. Dogs master this trick fairly quickly and it sure is impressive for your friends and family.
Continue to practice the hoop trick over and over. Always use a happy singsong voice and lots of positive reinforcement. Eventually, your dog will understand the game and will enjoy being the focus of attention.
The keys to success in teaching your dog tricks are patience, practice, praise, and persistence. Every step your dog takes in the right direction should be rewarded as if he has just won the lottery. Tricks are fun – and learning how to do them should be fun, too.