The Rip Van Wrinkler, XXI, Issue 3, August 2017

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Training Conversation
Trick Dogs and Hoopla
More chasing socks.

Regan Stone - Trick Dog Performer video

Trick Dogs and Hoopla 

By Susan Kamen Marsicano

Way back in 1974 or 5, I was in Central Park, in Manhattan, near the zoo, and I came upon a fellow wearing white face, miming, with a Min Pin, and a huge Doberman, who was wearing a turban. Both dogs were sitting in place on small round platforms. Greta, the Min Pin, snuck up behind Llyod’s back and knocked over his sign (about the act), and ran back to her place. The crowd roared. This was Lloyd Steir, with Greta and Whiskey; later appearing in the original Big Apple Circus.


Whiskey & Greta

Closer to home, I ran into Llyod in SOHO, while walking my young basenji, Blush, and we got talking. We ended up making a deal that I would make 50 finger puppets of Whiskey for a childrens’ hospital benefit, in exchange for dog training lessons. All this happened, and I walked down to his loft about once a week for months, and he shared with me some of his "German" dog training tricks. Blush loved this; she was a brilliant girlie.

Bomabwa Blushing Bride

 I assisted at some performances and loved watching sophisticated SOHO audiences believe (they wanted to) that Whiskey could actually add and subtract. He’d ask the crowd to pick an addition or subtraction, such as 2 plus 4, and Lloyd would say, “Whiskey, count”. He’d have number plackets set in a circle, and Whiskey would circle and, never fail, pick up the correct number. Llyod said the hardest part of this trick was teaching the dog to circle. What the audience didn’t notice in the “hoopla” was the click in the back of Llyod’s mouth. Whiskey heard his cue, always.

So, Llyod taught me how to teach a dog to jump a hoop, or Hoopla. He said the thing to have the dog pay attention to was going back and forth; the old distraction method. I got Blush a 15” embroidery hoop, which I still have for my dogs today. She loved her hoop, and her music, which was a piece from Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood. As soon as I turned on her music she came to heel.

Another resource for me was Carol Benjamin. I have her 1982 book written with Cap’t Haggery, “Dog Tricks”. They describe teaching the hoop, and she illustrates fabulously, as always. Remember Carol Benjamin wrote a mystery story with a basenji detective? She asked me lots of questions about the breed while researching it. I believe it was called, “This Dog for Hire”, published 1996.

Carol Benjamin illustration

I’ve been teaching my current dogs to jump the same hoop, and even jump through in tandem. One begins by resting the hoop on edge on the floor and luring the dog through, and back the other way, and then treat. Repeat this until the dog gets it, and then, with great patience, start lifting the hoop off of the ground, always holding the hoop at the top and switching hands as the dog goes back and forth. When the dog begins to actually jump, rather than walking through, one can add the word, “Hoopla”, and begin to hold the hoop on the side (rather than the top). Try it! It’s too much fun!

Tandem is even more fun. Here's some freeze frames of their first lesson together:



Recently I took 5 of my dogs to an AKC Trick Dog testing/evaluation. It was held at an agility facility, which was very convenient for my dogs, who know agility, as many of the tricks are based on stuff they already know. For the novice trick dog title, 5 tricks are required for dogs who have the CGC, and 10 tricks are required for dogs who do not have CGCs. Each trick must be done twice, so as to prove the first time was not a fluke, in front of the evaluator. They had a great time and all passed. I might have gone on to the intermediate level, but we ran out of time; so next opportunity.

This is the AKC Novice Trick list:

___ Balance beam (walk on low board a few inches off floor)

___ Bark on cue (“Speak”)

___ Crawl (dog on belly, crawls at least 5 feet)

___ Fetch it and give (ball, toy, etc- bring to handler, release)

___ Find it (find treat hidden under cup)

___ Get your ___________. (Leash, brush, name of toy)

___ Get in (gets in box)

___ Get on (gets on low platform or step - 4 paws)

___ Hand signals (down, sit, or come) _______________

___ High five

___ Hold (3 seconds)

___ Jump (thru a low hoop or over a low bar)

___ Kennel up (go in crate, stay in until released)

___ Kiss (point to cheek)

___ Paws up (2 front paws on low stool or step)

___ Push-ups (sit, down, sit, down, sit, down)

___ Shake hands

___ Spin in circle

___ Touch it (hand or target stick)

___ Tunnel (agility tunnel or child’s tunnel)

___ Other: Handler’s choice:_______________________

___ Other: Handler’s choice:_______________________

Oakley Meriaux studying the trick dog list.

Gilda, my youngster, for example, did these: Walk on a plank (up-ramp dogwalk set between two low tables), cup trick (she picked the one with treat from 3 cups), Hand signal (down), Jump (agility wing jump set at low, at 8”, Puppy sits and downs, Spin in circles in front of me, Touch my palm, Tunnel – long agility tunnel, macaroni shape, Get on a platform (agility timeout table), and Handler’s choice, go back and forth through her hoop (the trick being the back and forth). The whole thing took a very short time, <5 minutes. Try it! Most of your dogs can do this stuff. And it’s fun for them.

Their testing was held at an agility facility, with LOTS of distractions.

Another kind of Hoop. Occhi years ago.

Chasing socks in Sandy Eggo
Tamara Allen photos starring Tippy and Stella.

See more in the August 2014 Wrinkler - LURATICS/Knock Your Socks Off.

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