I’ve been doing a lot of reading on various boards and agility groups about striping poles (on weaves and jump bars) vs. not striping them, and what the disadvantages are to each. One of the concerns is that sometimes tape can peel (on weave poles) and poke a dog’s eye or worse if the edge is sharp, actually cut it. Or it might catch and pull your dog’s hair leading to dropped bars on jumps or refusals if your dog is sensitive. So while tape has been used for decades, and can be occasionally checked for safety, the other option is painting the poles. This option is labor intensive, but safe and long lasting if you use the proper paint and don’t leave your bars out in the weather.
Which begs the question to stripe or not to stripe! Though not common and it may come as a surprise to many involved in agility competition, you may encounter poles that are not striped. Others place the striping at the top of the pole, out of your dog’s line of sight. This raises the question, “Will it throw your dog off?” Believe it or not, that is up for debate. One reader commented that his dog missed the weaves completely not once, but 3 times before finally ‘seeing’ them. The reader claimed it was due to the fact that at home they only practice with striped poles. Still others rebutted that issue saying that dog’s don’t pay any attention to the stripes, and if the dog missed the weaves it was probably for other reasons.
It would seem that even the clubs are not yet unanimous on this issue either The AKC Requires striping on the weave poles stating, “Poles must be striped with a contrasting color so as to be visible to the dog. At a minimum, stripes must be placed at approximately 10 inches and 20 inches from the ground.” UKC Recommends stripes stating, “It is recommended that the poles be striped with colored paint or tape to appear more visible to the dog. While not preferred, plain poles are allowed.” And while CPE Recommends striping stating, ” Bands of colored tape, along the length of the pole, are recommended for better visibility.” USDAA and NADAC make no mention of it in their rule books that I could find.
On the flip side CPE and AKC Require striping on jump bars merely stating, “striped for visibility.” USDAA Requires striping stating, “All poles and rails shall be marked with contrasting colors through striping or banding.” And UKC Requires coloring, (known for their diverse array of jump obstacles) stating that bright and contrasting colors are to be used on pole and plank hurdles to aid in visibility for the dog. Yet, NADAC makes no mention of it in their Equipment Specs manual.
My suggestion for this dilemma?…Use both! For your weave pole you can stripe them half way up and alternate between using the striped set and the plain set by flipping them over. If you know you will be competing in NADAC then you may want to leave some of your jump poles plain as well. Alternate them from time to time. We know that dogs see contrasting colors best, but your dog should learn to negotiate the weaves and jumps with and without stripes so you don’t have any surprises in competition.