Flirt Poles


A flirt pole (also called a ‘flirt stick’ or “rag work”) is a piece of exercise equipment that encourages AW a dog to exert a lot of energy in small space and help physically condition a dog to be perform better in certain competitions such as dog agility or Schutzhund.

WHAT IT IS

A flirt pole is constructed of a long stick or pole made of a light wood, like bamboo, or a light plastic, like PVC, with a long string or rope attached at one end. Attached to other the end of the rope is a lure such a dog toy, hide, rag, or other item depending on goal of exercise and conditioning. The pole is typically 3 to 5 feet long with the rope about the same length and the construction is similar to a fishing pole.

It is called a flirt pole because the trainer or owner uses the lure at the end of the string or rope to ‘flirt’ with a dog, get their attention and make the dog attracted to the lure but not letting the dog actually catch the lure.

HOW IT IS USED

The owner or trainer holds the pole and through a variety of motions, moves the rope which moves the lure. The owner generally stands in one place while working the pole in a way to make the lure at the end of the rope “active” or moving. By standing in one spot and rotating to swing the pole in around a circle, the lure will move around quickly in a wider circle. Swinging while dragging the lure along the the ground will create an effect of an animal running or an object escaping. In turn, the dog will run to chase the lure.

By flicking and quickly jerking the stick, the trainer causes the lure to “change directions”. Jerking or swinging the stick higher so the lure is in the air entices the dog to jump while attempting to catch the object.

The trainer moves the stick to move the lure so the dog cannot catch it easily. Depending on the dog’s ability this may mean moving the stick (and lure) faster than the dog, snapping the stick to change directions, or swinging the lure in the air, just out of the dog’s reach.

Occasionally the dog will, or is allowed to , catch the lure. This is a necessary part of the exercises, as animal experts assert that never getting a reward for their hard work makes many dogs distraught and unbalanced. (For this reason, bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs have been found to become mentally unhinged if they never find bombs or drugs and are occasionally taken on dummy missions where they have successful finds.).

Additionally, once the dog has caught the lure, the trainer can engage in pulling exercises by tugging at the pole and encouraging the dog to pull back (creating a ‘tug-o-war’) in order to keep its prize.

When the trainer is ready, he or she give the dog a command to release the lure and may continue swinging the pole for the session or end the session.

WHAT IT DOES /WHY IT WORKS

Dog’s have a natural prey drive built in them to go after and kill prey. 1 This is prey drive. In dog training, prey drive can be used as an advantage because dogs with strong prey drive are also willing to pursue moving objects such as toys [Prey drive].

The flirt pole encourages physical activity and stimulates mental activity from the dog (running, jumping, watching, planning, changing direction) by enticing the dog’s prey drive by offering a constantly moving lure. With the training moving a long pole and a flexible rope, the trainer can easily use momentum to make the lure move fast , change directions fast and move at variable heights. The more the trainer can maneuver the pole and string to make the lure emulate the way a small animal moves (even if the lure is non-animal such as a rag), the more interest the dog keeps in the object.

Even though the basis of the flirt pole is engaging the dog’s prey drive, it is not necessarily increasing the drive. In fact, may trainers like to use the flirt pole to give dogs an opportunity to express prey drive in a non-destructive way, and use the flirt pole as a part of the training and socialization.

USES

In general, dogs that are inclined to run, jump, and chase enjoy the play time with this type of equipment that allows them to indulge in their natural tendencies. Flirt poles are often used in specific types of dog training.

  • Schutzhund – it also teaches them skills that they will need later in protection work. NO REF Prey drive is important in protection work because they use it to target the moving helper and to hold on tight once they get a grip on the sleeve.
    • Targeting skills, making the lure run and dance, she will have to use targeting skills to capture it.
    • Grip – tug on the rope and she will have to hold it tightly or the animal will escape. Trainers also work with flattened plastic bottles as a lure. It’s hard to hold onto and teaches the dog that to get the lure, he’s going to have to bite down hard and hang on to keep the lure.2
  • Dog Fighting – Several types of equipment are used to train and condition fighting dogs and during a fight A flirt pole is used to entice the dog in any conditioning or exercise3. The flirt pole encourages running and chasing a hide encourages prey drive.
  • Lure coursing – Using a flirt pole with a cloth or rag is common with trainers who train for protection sports, lure coursing, and other activities where high prey drive is desired (and is referred to as “rag work”)”.4 The moving of the rag encourages the development of prey drive; catching the rag and the shaking of the rag afterwards build confidence.
  • Professional Breeders –. Some trainers and researchers (Pfaffenberger, Fox, Scott and Fuller, Appleby, Freeman) encourage stimulation and socialization periods early in a puppy’s life, especially dogs that will be working dogs. . This creates dogs that have solid temperaments and are well-socialized. Flirt pole skill exercises are often encouraged as a part of that conditioning in order to create acceptable outlets for the prey drive, which, along with bite inhibition training, decreases the likelihood of a puppy using his prey drive in an inappropriate manner.
  • General use – Some dog owners and dog walkers who need to exercise their dog but are unable to walk the dog (person is able to walk, walking is may be dangerous for person or dog), use a flirt pole to exert their dog’s energy.

HEALTH EFFECTS

Exercises with a flirt pole are used to improve a dog skills (in particular for competitive dogs) and improves canine health (for any healthy dog).

Flirt pole exercises tend to build skills in fast running, quick stops and change of direction, coordination (chasing/catching target), jumping and landing, and balance in general. More specific skills some dogs need include shaking and hanging on to lure.

These type of exercises can foster strengthening heart and lung function, improving balance, fine-tuning motor skills, and strengthening muscles and joints. Any exercise for dogs helps in releasing anxious energy (which leads to destructive behaviors) and maintaining healthy body systems in good health.

However, the type of activity that a flirt pole encourages is for healthy dogs. The opposite is true for very young dogs under a year or dogs that are not in good health such as obese dogs or dogs with joint problems or dogs with heart problems. Health risks include muscle and joint injuries, especially if jumping is involved since poor landings result in injury and over-exertion (too much hard running). In addition, without proper training , getting the lure away from the dog may be challenging.

REFERENCES

1 Canine Eergonomics: The Science of Working Dogs, ed. William. S. Henton, p. 185

2 Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield, by Michael Ritland, Gary Brozek, p 117

3 Veterinary Forensics: Animal Cruelty Investigations, Second Edition. Edited by Melinda D. Merck.© 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2013 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Chapter 13—Animal Fighting pg. 243-253

4 Guide to Raising Superstar Dogs, Jerry Hope

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