If you haven’t checked out my author page, let me tell you this: I live in Georgia. And not only do I live in Georgia, I live in southern Georgia, where it does not get merely hot in the summertime — it gets downright boiling. That can make it difficult to exercise your dog while staying cool.
In my neighborhood, you have a few options when it comes to exercising your dogs. You can let them roam (no leash law here), walk them around the neighborhood (asphalt roads), or you can do exercises in your backyard. When it’s only May and the temperature is in the triple digits, you can bet I’m not walking the dogs through the neighborhood. Last year, Axle scared me to death on a walk when he overheated and spent an hour laying in the shade to cool off.
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I’m also definitely not letting my dogs roam, although many people in my neighborhood choose to. That leaves me with the backyard … but what can we do? Axle doesn’t fetch, Remi half-fetches, and they both need exercise that is fun and encourages bonding. Enter the flirt pole.
A flirt pole is really a giant cat toy for dogs. They’re easy and inexpensive to make, and man, do they work! I finally made one after numerous people suggested it and Jessica Dolce wrote this cute blog post about them. I was super excited about making my first one, and happy to explain to the cashier in my local farm store why I needed PVC pipe, rope, a dog toy, and pretty duct tape. While she thought it was super cool, some customers didn’t think so. In fact, they decided I must be a dog fighter, especially because the cashier greeted me with, “Hey, how’s that Pit Bull?” I’m sure it didn’t help their image of me when I mentioned I’d really love to have a doggy treadmill.
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Apparently, the customers asked the cashier whether she had ever met my dog, and did he have scars. Actually, Axle does have scars. He has a few. They don’t know his background, or mine, but somehow they did the following math: Flirt pole = dog fighting tool to increase aggression. Flirt pole + Pit Bull = dog fighter. They weren’t the only ones who believed this. I’ve spent a lot of time directing people toward BAD RAP’s video about flirt poles, as well as explaining what a wonderful tool it is.
We have other things for the dogs to play with outside, but the flirt pole is in a class of its own. Basically, you play with a dog with the flirt pole like you would a cat. They chase it and try to catch the toy on the end. When they do catch it, you have them drop the toy, leave it and come to you, where they should be told to sit or lie down. You can reward them with a click, a treat, a “good boy/girl,” or a simple scratch behind the ears. Then it’s off to chase the flirt pole again! This engages you in your dog’s play and doubles as an obedience challenge. You are teaching your dog to listen to you in a moment of high arousal — chasing and catching. After only a few times with the flirt pole, Axle would voluntarily drop the toy and come sit at my feet.
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I am disappointed that some people automatically jump to a negative conclusion over such a wonderful and useful tool like the flirt pole. Tools are what we make them. Haven’t you read about Wallace the Pit Bull? They used a spring pole and weight pulling as part of his training. These things are also often associated with dog fighters, but they shouldn’t have to carry that stigma. Doggy treadmills, flirt poles, spring poles, and weight pulling are actually fantastic tools to exercise and train your dog with.
Axle loves the flirt pole. Whenever he sees me bring it out, his whole body begins to wag with his tail! Remi is still wary of it, but she loves to snatch the toy when it’s on the ground, then quickly drop it and come sit at my feet for a treat. We’re loving the flirt pole, and I’m quick to tell anyone who will listen how awesome it is, particularly for these hot summer months. I’m sure I’ll still run into a few people who will think I’m a dog fighter or something else crazy like that, but I hope I can help them see just how great a tool a flirt pole can be when used in the right way.