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A photo of a pole with a long line and toy attached

Flirt pole. Image courtesy of Pat Koven LVT, KPA-CTP, LSHC-S, FFCP Elite

Q:  What is a flirt pole, and how do you use it?

A:  A flirt pole is a popular training tool for dogs, using a long pole or handle with a rope or string on one end and a lure or toy on the other. This tool is effective in engaging and exercising dogs and training them to modify certain behaviors, including leash reactivity, excessive jumping, and hyperexcitability.

When selecting a flirt pole, it is important to choose one that is sturdy and of appropriate length, usually around four to six feet, to maintain a safe distance from your dog. These poles are available for purchase, or one can be crafted using PVC tubing and a clothesline, with knots tied at both ends of the pipe to secure the clothesline in place.

The next step involves attaching a safe and durable toy, suitable for interactive play, and capable of withstanding your dog’s biting and pulling. Toys made from durable materials are often recommended for this purpose. Then, it’s time to find an appropriate place for flirt pole play. This space should be free of obstructions or hazards that could harm the dog. Ideally, a backyard or fenced-in area. If the activity takes place indoors, make sure there is enough space and consider using a smaller flirt pole. Introducing the flirt pole to your dog involves allowing them to sniff and investigate it without initiating play. This step is important for identifying and reducing any potential fear or anxiety your dog may have towards the new tool.

Once your dog is comfortable, begin interactive play by moving the toy in enticing ways, such as dragging it on the ground or making quick, darting movements. Encourage your dog to chase and catch the toy while you maintain control of the pole.

Incorporating behaviors, such as “sit,” “take it,” “drop it,” and “down” on a mat, is a valuable aspect of flirt pole play. This practice aids in the development of impulse control and offers opportunities to reinforce desired behaviors in the presence of distractions. It is important to monitor your dog’s intensity and duration of play. Since flirt pole play can be physically demanding, watching for signs of fatigue is essential, and providing breaks is necessary to prevent overexertion. The play should be stopped if your dog appears in pain or breathless.

Three dogs playing with flirt pole on a deck

Image courtesy of Pat Koven, BA, LVT, KPACTP

Always end the fun on a positive note. Ending while your dog is still engaged and excited helps create a positive association with the flirt pole and maintains their interest in the activity. Safety is important during flirt pole play. Avoid jerking or yanking motions to prevent straining your dog’s neck or causing injury. Close supervision is needed to make sure that they do not swallow or ingest any part of the toy. Prioritizing your dog’s safety ensures that the flirt pole remains a beneficial and enjoyable training tool.