DIY Grooming: Getting Started!

The decision to groom your non-shedding dog at home instead of taking her to a professional groomer can be very rewarding.  You will save money, spend more time bonding with your dog, and enjoy a new skill that will improve will time.  The downside is that you have to learn how to clip, shave, scissor, trim and make your pup look beautiful and there can certainly be “growing pains” along the way.

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Make a game plan.  Think of how you would like your dog to look.  Google some images and print them out.  It is surprisingly helpful to just have a photo of your end goal to reference.  Watch videos on YouTube.  Find a book on how to groom your specific dog’s breed (or mix of breeds.)  Avoid being overwhelmed by not just knowing how you want your dog to look, but by also knowing how to get there.

Make grooming time rewarding for your dog. Try to remember your dog’s point of view.  Dogs don’t naturally adore standing on a grooming table and being clipped or scissored, especially if you are slow and learning how to do a new skill.  Get your dog used to being on the table by just putting her on there and giving her some delicious treats and scratching that favorite spot behind her ears.  Get your dog used to the equipment that you will be using before simply turning on a noisy clipper and getting to work (scary!).  Turn the clipper on, snip the scissors in the air beside your dog, run the dremel and share some treats with him.  It is good to know how your pup will react to the tools you will need to use before putting them into practice.

Be patient!  Take a moment and imagine a time that you were trying to learn to do something new.  Maybe you were a natural?  Or maybe you struggled and felt a little frustrated, but after some practice and determination, you got the hang of it.  Now: you are not only working to learn a new skill…but you are in partnership with your living and feeling best buddy.  You two are a team, working on a cute haircut together.  If you are trying to clip your dog’s foot and she keeps yanking her foot away, or he will not stand still while you are trying to concentrate and you feel yourself get frustrated…just stop!  Take a break, you and your dog probably both need one, and try again when you both feel a little more relaxed.

Pace Yourself.  You don’t have to groom the entire dog in one sitting.  Not only will it take practice and time for your skills to improve (and therefore, your speed to increase.), but it will take your dog some time to grow used to remaining on the grooming table for a long period of time.  I groom my standard poodle regularly, and when we first started out I would do only one body part at a time.  One paw a day.  The face on a different day.  Over time we have built our stamina up to being able to do everything at once, but it took time.

Respect your equipment. Understand what your clipper blades are designed to do (the length of hair they will leave on the dog.)  Remember that the blades can grow extremely hot with use, feel them often while you work and be sure to give them time to cool, or switch to a different blade.  Grooming shears are extremely sharp, make sure that your dog is holding still when you use them and be cautious when you are trimming near the skin.  A sudden movement from your dog could result in an injury.

It grows back!  Take it easy on yourself, learn to smile.  Your dog probably won’t look perfect on your first few attempts, friends may tease you about that “homegrown haircut” that your pup is sporting.  Just keep practicing, you will be surprised how over time the whole procedure will feel more natural to you.  Just because your dog looked like a walking haystack the first time you gave him a haircut is no reason to be discouraged!  It definitely grows back, your dog forgives you for making him look silly, and the best way to improve is to keep practicing!

K9 DIY: Make some quick & dirty 2×2 weave poles

Project difficulty level: Really easy, especially if you have the hardware store cut your PVC for you. If you can snap some Tinkertoys together, you can do this

Widget and I have been playing around with some backyard agility recently, and she’s been steadily working her way through my motley collection of (mostly homemade) equipment. We’ve been having fun jumping and tunneling and playing with our DIY’ed contact trainer, so recently I started thinking about starting to teach her the weaves. My favorite method of teaching weaves is the 2×2 method that Susan Garrett developed (here’s the link to the video explaining the method, which you can buy or rent on bowwowflix; there are also several good explanatory videos on YouTube). However, doing 2x2s requires a slightly wonky equipment setup that’s a little different than your standard channel or competition weave setup. The only place where I have access to ‘real’ equipment has channel weaves, so if I wanted to teach Widget weaves using 2×2, my choices were a) drop $250 + shipping on a nice 6-pole set of Versaweaves, b) make or buy some stick-in-the-ground weave poles or c) attempt to put something together using PVC in my back yard. Now, if money were no object, I would get the Versaweaves and never look back (those things are awesome!); however, you’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t have $250 just burning a hole in my back pocket, so I relegated that idea to the ‘someday!’ list. Lots of people love option b, the stick-in-the-ground method; however, I live in the desert where the ground is hard as a rock and not amenable to having pointy things stuck in it. Also, one of the things that’s always annoyed me about the stick-in-the-ground method is that it’s hard to keep the spacing between the individual poles consistent, and the idea of having to bust out my hammer and my measuring tape every time I wanted to move a pole seemed a little unfun to me. So that left me with option c!

Before I begin, here are some obligatory caveats:

1) The drawback of using PVC for weave poles is that there’s a piece of PVC running under the dog’s path as they run, which can have a small impact on their gait going through the poles. The weave poles at lot of training clubs are made of a long flat piece of metal that connects the individual poles together; this flat piece of metal sticks up about a 1/4″ off the ground. If you build your poles the way I’ve outlined here, with 1/2″ PVC, the connecting bar will stick up twice as high as the flat metal bar variety. My dogs have not had a problem adjusting to this, but it annoys me. If you’re working outside, one way to get around it is to scoop a little bit of dirt over the center bar to level things out (or alternately, to dig a very shallow channel to set your poles in). But just so you know, it’s a compromise that you make if you’re doing it this way.

2) The weaves aren’t precisely to competition standards, largely because of the center bar thing. This doesn’t really bother me: I know some people like to have precise replicas of competition equipment in their backyard so their dogs never have to adjust to anything different in trial settings, but for me, the most important thing is to have something that I can afford that works pretty well and allows me to train at home. Plus, I figure that equipment varies between clubs anyway and it’s not a bad idea to teach my dogs that the game is the same even if the gear looks a little different.

3) I used 1/2″ PVC here, in part because it was cheaper and in part because I like my poles to be a little springy: however, if you want something a little sturdier and closer to competition size, you should use 3/4″ PVC. Just make sure to get 3/4″ fittings to go along with the larger pipe

4) The directions here are for weaves with 24″ spacing. If you are a hardcore USDAA person, you can adjust this down to 18″ pretty easily. That said, if you’re a hardcore USDAA person, you probably bought Versaweaves as soon as you got your import border collie puppy, and you’re probably sitting there in your Vibrams and Clean Run pants giving me an icy Teutonic glare through the computer screen RIGHT NOW.

So, for the rest of us, here’s how to build some cheapy 2x2s. The materials cost me $22.79 at my little local kind-of-expensive hardware store, and the poles took me 20 minutes to build (and that was including picture-taking time), so even if you are broke and scared of DIY projects, you can do this one, I promise. I recommend having the hardware store cut your PVC for you: unless you have a chop saw, it’s a little annoying, and they can usually knock it out for you in about three seconds at the hardware store (often for free!)

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K9DIY: Make your own Dog Training Platform!

In the last 6 months I have totally fallen for platform training, it is: fun, it helps train position for sports, it is great for confidence building and for tricks.  Platforms are an aide and a way to help your dog be “right”, every time.  I love training my dogs and watching them think and training with platforms is yet another fun way to do that and spend time with them.  When I first wanted to make my own platform, I found this awesome video that details how to make your own training platform – and since it helps me to see things laid out visually, I wanted to make a blog post about it.

Here’s What You’ll Need:
Interlocking Foam Floor Mat Squares (I recommend having 4 of these.  You can find them at Lowes or Home Depot.  The higher density of foam that you can find, the better!  My platforms are made out of some pretty cheap and light tiles, though, and my girls never seem to mind or tip them.)
Duct Tape
Marker
Ruler/Tape Measure
Serrated Bread Knife

You will also need your dog’s measurement.   If you are just starting out with training on a platform, I think it is best to err on the side of larger.  You want to set your dog up for success.   A larger platform is easier for your dog to get all four feet onto – and it can easily be cut smaller at a later time as you desire.  A tape measure will work just fine for this but I prefer a fabric measuring tape or rule since two of my dogs are on the sensitive side and the noises of a tape measure seem to make them nervous.  (Don’t let it touch my feet!)
My corgi Ein demo’s here and I would probably plan on making his platform 20 inches long and 8 inches wide.  The first platform that I made was for my poodle Perri, and I made it 10 inches wide and 30 inches long.

Please ignore the pitbull foot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The foam squares are 24×24 inches, so not quite 30 inches.  I connected them and measured out a length of 30 inches (not including the little locking pieces – which would be cut off.) and then widths of 10 inches.

After you measure your rectangles and draw your marker lines, take the serrated knife and cut the foam.  You will also want to cut the little “nubbies” off the outside of your rectangles, since you will not need them when you assemble the platform.

And you should end up with this!

Cut in half along your marker lines to make two separate, identical rectangles…

Now here repeat the process.  You can make your platform as tall or short as you would like.  My platforms are made of four idential foam pieces stacked on top of themselves – but adding more height can be helpful.  Sometimes dogs can struggle with keeping feet on top of the platforms and adding an extra foam piece or two for more height can be helpful with that.  Remember – you can always add or take away from platforms as you see what your dog needs!

Rectangles cut, assembled and ready to be made into a platform!

I stack all four pieces on top of each other and just tape them very very tightly together with duct tape.  The tighter you can go the better – everything should be very snug.  I like to start the duct tape on the underside of the platform and wrap it around , overlap the starting point and end on the top of the platform.   Repeat along the length as much as you like – in my opinion more tape is always better!   Too little tape or pieces taped together too loosely can move around when the dog is using the platform.  It is also a good idea to have the foam side facing outward on both sides of your platform – it will be more grippy that way.

Yes this is a different platform than the one originally shown in the photos. I did not photograph the taping process on that first platform!

The finished product!

And remember – these platforms are very customizable.  If you have “scraps” from your platform construction save them.  You may want to widen your platform at a later date and it is nice to have extra foam pieces.   I made the platform pictured above a few months ago and it has since been cut in half with the two pieces widened and customized for both of my dogs.   Molly needed a far longer and wider platform , while for Perri I wanted a shorter and wider platform to work on sit position.

Our current platforms, after many “surgeries”.

Creating “additions” is simple.  If you mis-measured your dog and she is struggling with a too narrow or too short platform you will need to figure out how much more length or width you would like to add on.  For Perri’s platform on the left, I liked the length but wanted to add roughly two inches to the width.  I measured four strips two inches wide and matched the length to the length of the existing platform.  Cut them out, stacked and taped them together and added them onto the platform.  As long as you tape snugly and thoroughly, the dog will not notice that the new foam pieces were not part of the original platform!

Have fun!  Watch out – knives are sharp.  I only cut myself one time making my first platform and that is a record for me.

Coming Soon! Fun Things to do with a platform and your dog!

K9DIY: Fabric Dog Collars

My name is Lindsey, and I’m addicted to dog collars. And by addicted I mean.. I have a trunk full of them. My dogs have wardrobes- collars for Christmas, Halloween, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Snowmen collars, palm tree collars, striped, spotted and argyle collars. Some of my collars are hand me down collars from my previous dogs, and a few are even nearing 20 years old.

My trunk of collars

My trunk of collars. To be fair, I also have harnesses (tracking, walking, and guide dog varieties), a few backpacks, some puppy coats, and two search and rescue jackets underneath all those collars. So it’s not *all* collars in that pile.

A sampling of a few collars

A sampling of a few collars

I even have a bookmark folder chock-full of bookmarks of dog collar websites such as http://upcountryinc.com/ and http://www.felinefido.com/ among others. My favorites are the nylon with ribbon collars, but I also have leather collars, fabric collars, polypropylene collars, grip-rite collars, ASAT (all season, all terrain) collars, and even plastic collars.  I am addicted. It wasn’t long before I decided to start making my own, both nylon ribbon and fabric varieties. If you’d like to learn to make a fabric one, grab some fabric and your sewing machine, and follow along!

Materials:

  • Sewing Machine (while you can probably do this by hand- I’m not that patient, and my hand stitching is not that strong. I recommend a sewing machine!)
  • Fabric, if buying new fabric, I recommend buying about 1/2 a yard- even then you’ll have plenty leftover. Long scraps work well, too.
  • Thread (and an empty bobbin you can load with with your thread)
  • Collar hardware- a triglide slide, a side release buckle, and a D ring.

First- you need fabric. You don’t need much, even scraps will work, depending on the size of your collar and/or dog. I usually go and buy 1/2 yards of types I like, and have plenty of fabric to make lots of collars off that 1/2 yard. You want to go for fabrics that have a narrow pattern. As the collar will be at most 1-2 inches wide, if you have a large, elaborate design on the fabric, you won’t see it well once it’s made into a collar. I like to judge the pattern by how it looks on the skinny edge of the bolt at the fabric store. While you’re there, you’ll need to pick up some thread, and some medium to heavy weight iron-on interfacing. I’ve made them with sheer weight as well, which works, but the stiffer the interfacing, the stiffer the collar, and the better it stands up to abuse.

Fabric!

Fabric!

You’ll also need some collar hardware. If you have an old smelly collar lying around, you can wash and reuse the hardware if it’s still in good shape. If not, you can order from a variety of places on the internet- my favorite is Country Brook Designs: http://www.countrybrookdesign.com/. They also sell nylon webbing for ribbon collars, but that’s for another tutorial.

Materials

Materials (note, my buckle here is not from country brook- it’s a recycled buckle that came off a collar from a dog I once pulled from the pound for a rescue group. It was too decrepit to save, so I salvaged the hardware).

Your thread color is up to your personal preference. Some people may like a matching thread color, some may like a contrasting color. It’s entirely up to you- for this tutorial, I’ve chosen a red that matches the candy canes on the fabric I’ll be using.

Make sure to wash and dry your fabric first, so that any sizing is removed from the fabric, and so that it shrinks if it has a tendency to do that.

I have pre-measured patterns that I made out of the paper that comes with interfacing that I usually refer to for collar sizes. You can use my sizes here, or you can measure a current collar your dog has. You want to add a couple inches to the length to account for folding and sewing the edges, and you want to multiply the width by 4.

Or you can use my pre-measured sizes here:

Large (1″ wide collar) : 4″ x 34″
Medium (3/4″ width collar): 3″ x 25″
Small: (5/8″ width collar): 2.5″ x 19″

I’ve never had occasion to make anything smaller. Being primarily a Dalmatian/Labrador & Golden Retriever/German Shepherd owner I have one or two tiny collars that most of my puppies grow out of inside of 2-3 weeks (or they’re large enough to fit a ‘small’ size as soon as they come to me), so I’ve never made a tiny-size collar, but if you have a collar you can measure- go for it!

Once you’ve cut your fabric out according to the size you’re making, you’ll want to cut an identical one out of the interfacing.

My cut fabric

My cut fabric

My interfacing

My interfacing

Because the interfacing will be ironed onto the inside, you can cut two or three different pieces, as long as the total length and width of your fabric is covered with interfacing. I cut two 4″ x 17″ pieces instead of a single 34″ piece.

Once you’ve got your pieces cut, follow the directions on your interfacing for the correct iron temperature, and iron the interfacing to the backside of your fabric.

Ironed on interfacing.

Ironing on interfacing- the first piece.

It should look like this when you're done- interfacing all along the backside of your fabric

It should look like this when you’re done- interfacing all along the backside of your fabric

From there, we want to set the iron to the correct temperature for the type of fabric you’re using. My fabric is cotton, so I set my iron to the cotton setting. Once your iron is heated, fold your fabric in half “hotdog style” a.k.a. along the long side of the fabric, just once, and iron a crease. (and you thought after elementary school, you’d never use the phrase hotdog style to refer to cutting and folding again!)

It should look like this:

Ironed in half

Ironed in half

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After this, you want to fold in and iron over your edges, like this:

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Once you have a nice crease, open your fabric, and fold the edges of the fabric into the center one at a time, and iron, like so:

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That center ironed crease should help guide you as to where to fold the leading edges of your fabric to in order to make sure your collar is even.

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If you’re very dexterous, you can probably do both sides at one time, but I’m not, so I do one side, then the other. However you do it, you want to end up with both sides ironed down.

From there, fold it like a taco, with the edges tucked inside, and iron the whole collar:

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One long collar

One long collar

After the ironing and folding you should gather your other materials. You collar should look something like this, at this stage:

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Load your bobbin full of thread, and set up your sewing machine.

Loading my bobbin

Loading my bobbin

While you can use any variety of stitches for a collar, I prefer a straight stretch stitch- it’s much stronger than a regular straight stitch.

My sewing machine's settings.

My sewing machine’s settings.

Load your collar under the foot, position your needle, and prepare to sew all the way around the edges of your collar.

Ready to sew!

Ready to sew!

Sew down the side, sewing closed the opening. When you get to the end, position the needle down into the fabric to hold its place, then lift the foot up, and turn the collar 90 degrees.

End of the fabric

End of the fabric

Needle down, foot up

Needle down, foot up

Turn fabric 90 degrees

Turn fabric 90 degrees

Sew like this all the way around the collar. Back stitch the final narrow side, and trim your loose threads off.

Sewn all around

Sewn all around

The first piece of hardware we’ll sew is the triglide. Thread one side of the fabric around the middle.

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Pull it through about an inch or two:

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Again, you can use any type of stitch you like. I prefer to use a small zig zag stitch for this part, and keep the stitches tightly together, almost like applique. Stitch down the width of your collar, sewing the loose end back to the collar itself.

Like this

Like this

I like to add a second line for good measure.

IMG_7348Next, string the male part of your side release buckle through your collar, then fold the fabric back through the triglide

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Next, slide the D ring onto the collar. *Make sure to put the D-ring on next, BEFORE the female part of your side release buckle.*

D-ring first!

D-ring first!

Next, the female half of the side release buckle

Next, the female half of the side release buckle

Pull the end of the fabric through the buckle, then sew the free end back to the collar. Again, I use my zig-zag stitch.

Sew the free end down to the collar

Sew the free end down to the collar

Slide the D-ring down against the end you just sewed, and then sew another line next to the buckle end. Sew as close to the buckle as you can get.

Second line- nearest the buckle.

Second line- nearest the buckle.

It should look like this

It should look like this

 

Next, we’ll sew one side of the D-ring, again with another line of zig-zag stitches. Move your needle over a tad bit, and make another line of stitches.

Now it should look like this

Now it should look like this

As soon as that is done- you want to push the D-ring up against your line of stitches, and sew the other side of it. You want to make sure to sew as close to your D-ring as possible, so it’s in a nice, tight, pocket. This will keep it from sliding around when you clip a leash to it. I often have to manually hold the foot of my sewing machine up a bit to get the needle close enough to the metal ring to sew.

One side of my foot is up on the metal ring- I often have to hold it partially up to get in close enough.

One side of my foot is up on the metal ring- I often have to hold it partially up to get in close enough.

Ta da!

Ta da!

Now clip your ends together, and you have a collar!

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Dierdre models the new collar.

Dierdre models the new collar. A bit too big for her!

Fits much better on Hawkins. He's ready for Christmas!

Fits much better on Hawkins. He’s ready for Christmas!

 

K9DIY: Make a mini-A frame to practice contacts at home

Project difficulty level: Medium hard (some fiddly bits; a fair amount of assembly, even with pre-cut parts; a lot of waiting for things to dry; some fluency with power tools–a drill in this case–is helpful)

I’m starting an agility foundations class with Widget soon, and because I’m impatient and bored with playing target games, I thought it might be fun to start shaping some contact behavior with her.  I also like to make stuff, and will also take pretty much any excuse to start a weird project, so I decided to build Widge a tiny little contact trainer.  A few years ago, I made Lucy a dog walk to use as a contact trainer, but that was cumbersome, heavy, and a pain to move around, so I decided to go a little smaller for Widget.

dogwalk

Lucy’s dog walk/contact trainer. Please note my EXTREMELY fancy expensive bases from Clean Run…..oh wait, those are broken director’s chairs.

So I made a little A-frame, just tall enough for her to climb over it and practice her contacts, and short enough that I could fold it up and hide it behind her crate when I wasn’t using it.

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Shrimpy contact trainer for shrimpy dog.

So before I tell you how I did this (and before I encourage you to make your own), let me tell you that if you are looking for extremely specific directions, you are going to be disappointed by this post.  You know how sometimes you look in a cookbook and the recipe tells you to use exactly a quarter-teaspoon of salt, and then you ask your mom for a recipe and she’s like, “Eh, you just get a bunch of butter and throw it in a pan and cook it until it smells good”?  This post is in the style of that second recipe.  You’re going to have to adjust it to fit your specific dog’s height and weight; you’ll need a thicker and wider set of boards if you’ve got a dog who’s bigger than teeny little Widget, you might want to swap out the hardware based on what you can find, you might want to go a little taller if your dog is confident on equipment, etc. And that’s all fine! This is all just to give you a general idea of how you could make something like this if you wanted to.

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K9DIY: Make a hard core, square-braid tug

Project difficulty level: Medium (requires some attention to detail, especially at first)

I’ve got three dogs, and they’re all in sports.  They’re all big on toys, and they all like to tug.  And they’re terriers. You can imagine that a good, strong, tug-friendly toy that actually lasts is worth its weight in gold around here.

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Ol’ red eyes right there is why we can’t have nice things.

I bought my first square-braid tug from Katie at Red Dog Tugs and was sold immediately.  Tugs made this way are STRONG: my first ones that I bought from Katie are more than two years old and still going strong with three maniac dogs (and several crazy fosters) in the house. The very first one I got from her, in fact, still rides around with me in Widget’s puppy bag and is her go-to tug. They’re also washable, and if you throw a stretched-out tug in the dryer for a few minutes, it shrinks back up. I started dinking around trying to figure out how to make them myself about a year ago; I got pretty good at them and have been selling them locally at the farmer’s market and giving them to my dog friends.  I’m sure I’ve made at least 100 by this point.  Here’s the thing, though: when I want a really tough tug for my dogs, I still buy them from Katie, and here’s why: much like the first couple of scarves you make when you’re just learning to knit, there’s a learning curve with these tugs, and you get better at them the more you make. Katie’s been doing this for a while; her tugs are better than mine. And the ones I’m making now are certainly better than the ones I made when I started, even though it’s the same fairly simple process to make them; it just gets in your hands better the more you make.  But if you want to try making one for yourself, here’s what to do!

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K9DIY: Make a flirt pole on the cheap

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Project difficulty level: Easy (takes very little time, no tools involved, simple components, few steps)

Sometimes when the weather’s not cooperating or you don’t have a ton of time available, there is nothing better than a flirt pole for quickly getting your dogs tired and happy. If you’ve ever been in the cat aisle of the pet store  and have seen one of those fishing rods with a feather tied on one end, you’ve seen a flirt pole; dogs just get a bigger, stronger version of that.  The basic mechanism is simple: you need a long, flexible pole, a piece of string or rope or something like that, and a toy that jazzes up your dog (I will often use the ‘skins’ left over from toys that my dogs have de-squeaked/de-stuffed). Flirt poles are fun to chase, fun to jump for, and can even be used to practice impulse control; you ask your dog for a sit or down, start swirling the flirt pole around, then release them to ‘get it’ (try this if you ever want to see your toy-driven dog go off like a rocket.) Many people make flirt poles by getting a lunge whip (for horses) and simply tying a toy to the end.  Even a cheap lunge whip is still twenty bucks around here, though, and sometimes they can be hard to find.  For my version, I wanted to create something that was springy (to avoid shocks to the dog when they hit the end of the rope), easy to fix and adjust if need be (my dogs are three different sizes) and, most of all, cheap.

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