Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dogs can't see yellow bars....

An interesting thing happened at a trial recently. I won't say where or when - but I volunteered to course build the excellent courses. I was on the list for another job - which I had finished earlier in the day - but when it came time to build the course there weren't many volunteers or workers out there moving around equipment. In an effort to speed up the process as the trial day was taking way longer than it should, I stepped over the ring gating, grabbed an armload of bars and began setting wings, standards and bars in approximate locations around the course so that the folks with the wheel would be able to set the bar and have the correct standard already there. As I pulled another bar from the barrel of jump bars a nasty condescending voice came from behind me "Don't use the yellow striped bars - don't you know that the dogs can't see them? Sheesh!". It was as if I was a 3 year old child who had just tried to put the square peg in a round hole.
I was shocked - for a couple of reasons. First - if you're a course-builder and you don't play well with others people aren't going to sign up to help you build courses. Course changes can go quickly - exhibitors like it when courses building goes quickly, judges like efficient change-overs - no one wants to start the day at a trial at 7:30am and finish the day still at the trial at 8pm - long days aren't in anyone's best interest. Poor treatment of volunteers is increasingly becoming an issue - not just at one trial in particular- but at every trial. I don't think workers (volunteers) really care about the regifts in a worker raffle - but they do care about being treated as a valuable part of the trial - yelling at workers who are doing their job doesn't benefit anyone.
There are a lot of one-ring trials now that are guaranteed to fill 330 runs with opening day mail with long waiting lists. As a result there's a lot of "if you don't like it don't come to my trial" vibes - I know several exhibitors who have been told that if they don't like something (as simple as a request for their Q ribbon from the day before - after the trial finished at 8pm the last ribbons were never put out) that they ought not to come back to the next trial. Clubs used to routinely offer title ribbons and toys for placements - The toys aren't important to me, but I know how important title ribbons are to novice, open and even excellent exhibitors. Some of these trials are "sponsored" by national parent clubs as fundraisers for other endeavors. Is this is how you want your breed club portrayed?
Second (and now we're back to the yellow bars) what does it matter of dogs can see yellow tape or not? Surely the bright white jump bar should be a clue to the dog that there's a bar there. If my dog is relying on blue (or orange, red, green, black, purple, etc) tape to judge where the jump starts and finishes I haven't done my job teaching him what the rules of the game are - and more importantly what his job is relative to my expectations of him in the sport of agility.
To be honest I don't use tape on my bars. Plain white PVC pipe - no tape, no colors, no contrast. The bars at waggles are similarly untaped. I have never - ever - seen a dog fail to recognize that a jump bar is part of the obstacle in indoor lighting or even in direct sunlight. Tape or no tape - a bar should be a bar.
Our dogs are smart - why don't we give them credit for their intelligence? Why must we make excuses for things that just aren't a big deal? Train your dog for things that aren't within your control - and yes - I believe that the color of jump bars falls into that category. I will also think twice about volunteering to course build under chief course builders that just aren't pleasant to work with - after all trial workers are volunteers and we pay to play this game...

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