Guest author Bob Ryder has the easy steps to teach your dog to jump through a hoop.
This is Bob Ryder, sitting in for Jolanta Benal in The Dog Trainer’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Teaching and Caring for Your Pet. I run Pawsitive Transformations Dog Training in Normal, Illinois, and I'll bet it hasn't been long since you had to jump through some completely fun-free hoops. Trying to get an appointment at the doctor's office, trying to enroll for next semester's classes, trying to get your driver's license renewed - jumping through hoops usually means tedium and frustration.
This week, I’m going to persuade you and your four-legged best buddy that jumping through hoops is a fine way to spend quality time together!
As with any new behavior, we start in kindergarten and gradually work our way up to more advanced levels once our dog has mastered skills at the level we're working on that day or week. And notice this – when I say "mastered," I mean not only competent at the necessary moves, but happy and confident, as well! Training should always be a joyful experience for all involved.
Step #1: Approach with Care
When I begin teaching a new student to jump through hoops, we start with a hula hoop lying flat on the floor nearby. I don't direct the dog toward the hoop at all. I simply wait for her to check it out on her own, and reward her with a click/treat for looking, approaching and/or sniffing it. With more tentative dogs, I might lay a few treats in and around the edge of the hoop. Even the most fleeting glance or sniff toward the hoop earns a click and a treat. Some warm praise always helps to wash that treat down, by the way!
See also: Train Your Dog with Food Rewards
Once the dog is approaching the hoop deliberately, I wait for her to put a paw or two inside the circle before I reward her. Then I start to hold out for all four paws. Moving in and out of the circle is next. All this while, the hoop is lying flat on the floor. When the dog is happily coming and going from the circle and I can tell that she’s doing it purposefully, I raise the edge of the hoop on one side onto the toe of my shoe. At this point I reward for the same movement in and out of the hoop. If my student is at all skittish, I go back to rewarding for looks, sniffs, and approaches toward the now slightly tilted hoop and build from there. I've even been known to use more and more delicious treats. (What treats does your dog just adore? It helps to know!)