Do You Practice Jumps and Weaves With or Without Stripes

Peyton-WeavesI’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.

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Posted in Dog Agility Equipment

Turn Your Dog Agility Nightmare Runs Into Good News

DogPatOh those very first dog agility competitions can be such an overwhelming experience with all the emotions and stress of both you and your dog.  Add to that a bad run and many may be discouraged enough to never come back.  I know we can get busy with their own routines and prep for competition, but there is a tiny thing you can do that could mean the world to another fellow competitor.  You will have to go out of your way, however, if you see someone with a bad run and disappointment, fear or confusion is flooding their face, your supportive words may not be much but they could make a huge impact on them.

Some of our readers have shared their stories of how big a difference it made to them to have a total stranger, yet fellow comrade take the time to talk to them after one of those horrid first runs.  You don’t have to be a trainer or a scholar, just share your “first time failures” so they don’t feel alone.  And for you veterans, I would encourage you to encourage at least one novice handler at your next trial.  Watch their faces and seek them out.  It’s possible that because of your kind words, they will stay the course and not give up.

“I purchased a run for both AKC’s Novice class, as well as the Jumpers & Weaves class.   Sadly, I didn’t qualify for either.  I don’t remember what happened.  I think my dog knocked a bar for one (automatic elimination) and who knows, maybe she ran out of the ring on the other one.  (It wouldn’t be the only time, so that’s why I don’t remember!).  I was SO discouraged.  I remember, however, this nice woman coming up to me and encouraging me with her own story.  She said that a good many people don’t qualify at their first trial.  I sure appreciated her encouragement.”

DancingBeagle wrote:  “One of the best things I ever learned is that it is not what we say to people, but what we cause them to picture. When I see someone having a bad day, I try to tell them why I see them as a future star and point out everything that they did right. So often, we focus only on the one thing that went wrong or the fact that we didn’t Q, that we often fail to see that our dog may have had an amazing performance on some (or all) of the other obstacles. For me, it helps give me a sense of accomplishment regardless of the actual outcome.”

Sideway shared:  “I remember my first competition, it was a disaster! But the nice lady that caught my dog when she ran out of the ring as well as the judge encourage me.  At a competition last month I was watching this little boy I say is must be around 9 years old running his Sheltie. The last day I could tell that this dog had had enough.  The dog never left the start line and then ran out of the ring.  I went to see the boy and told him my story and that whatever happens to you in the ring has happened to somebody else.”

Take those dreadful moments and turn them into gold by sharing with others that you see struggling.  And we would love to hear more of your stories of when someone else’s kind words helped you stay the course with your dog and the sport of dog agility.  Just put it in the comments for all to gain confidence that they are not alone.

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Bar Jump Safety in Dog Agility

competition_jump_freestandingThere is a rising concern in the safety of the bar jump standards and their jump cups.  Unlike the jumps used in horse jumping, the dog agility jumps have permanent jump cups at every measurement for ease and speed of height changes in competition.  This has lead to injuries sustained by dogs when they hit the standard incorrectly and catch a higher jump cup with their face or limbs.  The biggest issue has been with the older standards that are made from welded angle iron on metal standards coupled with a bottom brace bar used to create a “fixed base” design.  Again, made for durability and solid structure for competitions these heavy and rightly so, sturdy designs have little to no give when a dog collides with them.

Here is some good news on the subject, in a study done by I. Martin Levy, M.D., Charles B. Hall, Ph.D., Natasha Trentacosta, and Monica Percival in conjunction with Clean Run magazine.  Only about 1% of all injuries in and out of the competition ring reported by the 1,600 responders were to the head of the dogs and less than 1% of all injuries to dogs occur to the eye.  Out of all the injuries reported associated with the bar jump only about 2% were to the head and about 1% to the eye itself.  However, if your dog becomes one of those in the 1% you will agree that the standards and jump cups need to be as safe as possible.

economy_jumpFor home practice and even small clubs it is fairly easy to make the change with our economy jump set.  This jump utilizes a smaller pipe size and a SINGLE pair of snap-on “cups” to hold up the top bar.  Like our competition jumps, the top bar displaces (falls off) if the dog hits it, and the bottom bar is “fixed”, allowing you to pick up the jump and move it without the bars falling off.  The top bar is adjustable by sliding the jump cups up and down.  The cups are designed according to AKC standards. Click HERE to read more about this super set up that is economic and versatile.

For a sturdy design that is still more forgiving is the freestanding base of our competition grade bar jumps.  New improvements have made our Competition Jump simply perfect.  It starts by meeting all the standards for AKC, USDAA and TDAA trials. There are 12 height adjustments from 4″ to 26″ (every 2″) and the heights are clearly marked (engraved) on the side bars for quick and easy changes.  The jump cups are permanently fixed and will not slide off their measurement.  Click HERE to read more about this affordable and safe competition grade PVC bar jump with freestanding base.

So what can be done to increase the safety of our dogs in competition?  The use of PVC standards and the total elimination of the older metal style bar jumps should be the first step.  Where possible the freestanding bases provide further protection to dogs jumping as they will have even more give upon impact.  Many organizations have already begun the change over to PVC standards.  This alone makes a huge difference as any PVC jumps, fixed or freestanding, are far more likely to give on impact and the edges of the PVC cups can be made smoother.  On a competition course it may not be efficient to use the independent standards, but having PVC instead of metal is a huge step in the right direction.

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Posted in Dog Agility Equipment, Dog Health and Wellbeing

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