If you have ever been to the circus, you'll remember that act where the man comes out with his dogs and those big hula hoops. He holds the hoops high in the air and his dogs leap through and run around and leap through again, as fluently as a ballerina's grand jeté. Maybe you thought, "Wow, I wish I could get my dog to do that," but maybe you didn't know how, or if it was even possible, to train your dog to do that. Training your dog to leap through hoops is easy, and pretty soon, he'll be leaping through the air just like any professional circus dog.
Step 1: Let your dog get used to the hoop. Set it on the ground; click and treat when he approaches it. Step 2: Have a helper hold the hoop (do not elevate the hoop) on the floor in front of him. Step 3: Call your dog or lure him through the hoop. Click and treat as he walks through the hoop. Repeat this a few times so he will get used to walking through it. Step 4: Hold the hoop a bit higher and tell him to "Leap!" Click and treat if he jumps through the hoop. Step 5: Keep on giving the hoop more height, clicking and treating each time.
Caspian wasn't so sure about the hula hoop when we started out. Each time I got it out, he would slowly back up a step, then another, and finally leave the room. But I soon taught him that it wasn't anything to be afraid of. Now, jumping through hoops is one of his favorite things, and he rarely requires a treat to do it. I sure did start out with treats, though! Each time he approached the hoop, which was lying motionless on the ground, I would click and treat. Then I had my helper hold the hoop upright as I guided Caspian through the hoop. He tried to go around it at first, but eventually he cooperated. Each time he went through the hoop, I clicked and gave him a treat. Soon, I thanked my helper and took the hula hoop, raising it a bit in the air. "Leap!" I told him. Since he already knew Leap, he jumped right through. I clicked and treated. Each time we did it again, I raised the hula hoop just a bit higher. Soon, he was jumping through them at a very decent height! As we practiced this trick more and more, we started using smaller and smaller hoops.
My dog hits the hoop every time! It is OK to click and treat if your dog hits the hoop starting out. But soon you will want to eliminate this unwanted behavior by not clicking when any part of him touches the hoop. He will soon learn that he has to clear the hoop before he gets his treat.
Tip: "Try using hoops of various sizes. Start out with a standard size hula hoop, but as your dog perfects the trick, try decreasing the size of the hoops. It's quite a spectacle to watch a full grown dog leap through a tiny hoop!"