Thursday, March 5, 2015

True Colors: The color of your training props may make a bigger difference to your dog then you think

Recently I downloaded the app ColorDeBlind for my iPhone and have been having quite a good time seeing the world through a rough simulation of how my dog sees things. I use the app most often to see if the color treats and toys I am using in my training are easily enough for my dogs to find on the footing Im training on. I have a training bag full of different color treats and toys for all the different footings I encounter while Im teaching and training. I find the app very helpful and I believe it has helped improve the training of forward focus in many student dogs as well because we can now use a variety of rewards from highly visible for the beginners to low visibility for the more advanced. We can also use low visibility toy rewards for dogs who go over stimulus threshold or are too visually distracted and vise versa. I have also found some other very interesting uses for the app, including how I select the colors of my exercise props (ie FitPaws gear, etc) as well as what colors I use on the striping on my weave poles and jump bars.

I shot the below photos while working with a student using stride regulators for a running contact performance. The students dog is a 12” jumper with multiple championships so this training was strictly for maintenance. The stride regulators I use in my training differ in size, shape and location/placement on the equipment according to each dogs natural length of stride as well as length of leg, back and overall structure. So the placement of each props is forever changing, however all most of my stride regulators are red in color and always have been. At my training facility my equipment is all purple with red contact zones so I can blend the props into the contact zones. I choose red as a zone color specifically because of the fact that it is a color the dogs don't see. On the that I took the below photos however, I was teaching at another facility where they have blue equipment with yellow contact zones. I thought I would share some of the photos I took of the props to show how we see them vs how the dog sees them. 

Human color view from side of aframe.
This prop is a wooden dowel secured to the aframe with eye hooks on each end of the dowel and paracord strung through them so the paracord can be tied under the plank to secure the prop. I use different diameter dowels depending on the training. I also use flexible drain pipe (same as the dog walk prop below) if I need a larger height prop. I use red paint on most of my props but Ive also used other colors depending on what Im training. I prefer the prop extend out past the width of the frame to aid the dog visually to its presence. Placement of all props are customized to the needs of each individual performance. There are absolutely no standard locations for using props on any obstacle.
Dogs color view from side of frame

Humans color view facing downside of frame
Dogs color view facing downside of frame
Humans color view from top of frame. This photo is taken at the eye level of the dog in training.

Dogs color view from top of aframe.
This photo is taken at the eye level of the dog in training. With the prop in this location the top of the contact color shows above the prop making the prop more visible. Changing the prop color and/or the contact zone color would increase or decrease the props visibility.

Human color view facing down plank of obstacle.
For these props I use flexible drain pipe, the kind you put on the ends of your downspouts off your gutters to divert rainwater away from your structure. I cut the flexible pipe down and can extend them beyond the edge of the dog walk slightly. I paint them red with a paint made for plastic and attach them with paracord tied under the plank.
Dogs color view of dog walk from side

Humans color view from top of down plank.
This photo is taken at the eye level of the dog in training.
Dog color view from top of down plank. This photo is taken at the eye level of the dog in training. Note: it is intentional that the props are set so the dog can not see the second prop nor can the dog dog see the yellow contact zone at this angle and at this location on the plank. This placement is a necessary part of my training protocol for what we were teaching that day.

For more great information on how dogs see (color and acuity):