Three Simple Steps to Teach a Polka Puppy a Hoop

Historical footage recovered from our cloud archive, the Polkanado puppy learning the Hoop behavior. This was her first shot at the skill and you can see she got it right away. Now part of that is because she is not only super cute, but she’s super smart, but this simple 3-step Hoop technique we’re going to cover right here is extremely elegant and effective.

This video is part of the 4th installment of DiscDogger Weekly, an online show in playlist format produced and hosted by Pawsitive Vybe.

Set Up

The set up is simple. You will need an obstacle or a wall, a comfy space with good footing to work on, and some yummy cookies.

Step 1 – Arm Out Toss Cookie

The first step is to get close enough to the obstacle to touch it with your outstretched arm. Hold a cookie in the hand of the outstretched arm and toss the cookie with a simple flick of the wrist as illustrated in the video.

Tips: Make it impossible to pass you without going over the arm. Mark Attention (Eye Contact) and toss the cookie as a reward for the behavior and to reinforce connection with the handler. Keep your arm low enough so it is a no-brainer decision to chase the cookie.

Step 2 – 1 Arm Out 1 Arm Up Toss Cookie

After a few successful reps add the upper arm well above the dog (don’t rush to get a hoop) to get the dog used to the weird pressure provided by the lurching handler creating the hoop.

Take your time. Apryl does this really fast, 1 rep. And you can do that, but it is not advisable. Get a few reps before getting here and before moving on. Keep it simple and easy. There is no need to rush.

Tips: Same as before. Rewarding with Action by marking Attention is a great start. For the most efficient learn, present the top arm first, then the lower arm. The top arm will start to be a predictor of the lower arm prompting the dog to generalize the physical cue much faster. This is a Prompt Switch.

Step 3 – Close Hoop Toss Cookie

After several successes with Step 2, close the hoop. You can close this fully or you can slowly close the hoop. The choice is yours. Do what feels right for you and your dog.

Keep the hoop low until your dog is really firing through on the presentation of the hoop itself.

Tips: Same as above. You can Reinforce with Action, again, Attention is a great skill. Create the Hoop quickly and sharply with your arms instead of slowly. This quick presentation will help the dog take it as a simple task. You can create the hoop as a cookie for the Attention behavior to reduce the perceived challenge of the behavior.

Both Directions?

You can do this in both directions, like back and forth, instead of in a single direction as illustrated in this video. It’s quick, efficient, and fun and leads to a high rate of reinforcement, many CPMs (cookies per minute).

Working in both directions also allows you to work both clock and counter directions. You may switch the bottom arm or keep it the same. The choice is yours.

Adding the Verbal

Resist adding the verbal cue until the dog is really solid on the skill.

When you do add the verbal, give the verbal and pause a moment. After a moment’s pause, quickly present your hoop. This pause will help the dog reflect on what is being asked.

If you were rewarding with action, do the same here. Wait for eye contact and give the verbal cue as the cookie for Attention then quickly present the hoop after the verbal. This will bring back the memory of your path to this point and properly prompt switch from the physical to verbal cue.

Good luck and Happy Jamming!

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