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.
What you’ll need:
- 4 feet of 1/2 or 1/4 inch PVC: you want the ‘rod’ of the flirt pole to reach a good distance away from you. You also want it to be fairly thin, as it’s important that the flirt pole flexes when your dog grabs the toy at the end. If you have a super ginormous dog, you can size up accordingly, but be sure it’s not too stiff. Also, protip: they’ll cut PVC for you in most hardware stores.
- Eight feet of bungee cord material, just thin enough to fit through the hole in your PVC: I used 3/8″. You’ll want to use basically double the length of the PVC. Bungee cord material is generally sold by the foot off of large spools in hardware stores (even in my dinky little small-town hardware store.) I use bungee rather than rope because I don’t want my dogs’ heads being snapped back when they catch the toy at the end of the pole: flirt pole is fun, but it’s not the easiest activity on the body, so I want to minimize shock and maximize sproinginess everywhere I can.
- A soft, pliable toy or something else your dog likes to chase (cheaper is better: everything I put on the end of the flirt pole ends up getting destroyed, and I don’t let my dogs catch the toy too often.) A friend of mine uses short lengths of hose pipe; another friend uses cheap stuffed animals from the thrift shop. As I mentioned, I tend to use pre-skinned toys: what I’m using here is the carcass of this toy, which my dogs loved, then killed.
What you do:
This toy really is easy as pie to make.
- First, prep your bungee material so it doesn’t all fall apart. Get yourself a lighter or other fire source and carefully hold it near the end of the bungee. You’re not trying to light the bungee on fire; you’re trying to melt the ends of the nylon so they fuse together and don’t unravel. Repeat on both sides.
- Next, thread your bungee material through your PVC with just enough at one end to make a knot. Let the rest hang out the other side.
- Tie a good knot in the short end of the bungee, one that is big enough to prevent the bungee from slipping through the PVC.
- Tie the toy at the end of the long side of the bungee. Make sure it’s on tight enough that your dog can’t readily remove it, but not so tight that you can’t remove the toy when it inevitably gets shredded.
- That’s it! Go play!
Quick note on safety: This is a very twisty-turny game, as you can see from the pictures of Widget being ridiculous, and can be tough on the joints. It’s not a game I’d play much with developing puppies or dogs who are compromised structurally in some way; Widget, at seven months, is probably a little young to be playing this too much, especially on a hard surface. But when it’s hot, she’s the only one who’ll reliably play with me, so for the purpose of this post, I threw caution to the wind. I kept our session to about five minutes, though, and tried to minimize the Big Air. When I play this with Lucy, who has degenerative joint disease, I will usually stretch her beforehand. Just FYI!