Clara’s and Zani’s Experiences
If you have been following the blog, you may have seen that Clara is an absolute maniac for the flirt pole. It is right up there with playing ball in her list of favorite things.
I waited quite a while before introducing Clara to the flirt pole because teaching “release the toy” was a real struggle with her when we played tug and ball. I had visions of her getting overly excited and breaking the flirt pole by pulling on the toy endlessly.
When I taught her to release a tug toy, I didn’t use food. I used the method of reinforcing the release with resumption of the game. I had a pretty hard time with that, since hanging onto, chewing on, and dismembering toys is very reinforcing to Clara, and I lacked experience teaching the behavior. You need pretty good timing. I finally got it though, and Clara was dropping the toy pretty consistently.
But it turned out that playing with the flirt pole actually improved Clara’s releases. First, we lucked into the perfect toy. Marge Rogers gave me this skinny little tug toy from Dog Dreams Toys. It is perfect to chase, but not as fun to chew as, say, rabbit fur. Our flirt pole has a gizmo where you can attach different toys. It works and they do not come off! Second, the flirt pole helped me make the game immediately exciting when she dropped the toy. I could zip it away instantly and irresistibly. Much more quickly than I could when we were playing tug. The right behavior (release on cue) was set up to predict more fun than the holding and chewing.
Here are two of Clara’s nice releases, so you can see what I mean.
But enough about the flirt pole champ. We have an up and coming talent. Little Zani, the challenger.
I had first tried her with the pole months, maybe years ago. And Zani didn’t care for it. She was a little afraid of it, and I didn’t have the interest to work on that at the time. But Zani has developed methods of inserting herself into virtually every fun thing that happens around my house, and she finally had enough of watching Clara play with the flirt pole from the sidelines. One day she asked to play with it.
She went straight into drive! Fearsome little dog! She was so excited that half the time she just jumped into the air or snapped at me before she remembered to chase the toy.
She has a different style from Clara’s when she catches the toy. Clara grabs it and holds. She loves for me to grab it and tug with her. But Zani has to give it multiple killing shakes. I have long suspected that Zani is part Russell terrier. And yes, she does know how to kill small animals efficiently. But I don’t mind her “killing” the tug toy at all.
I hope you find Zani’s sessions as delightful as I did. I just loved how she would jump around and snap before she got it together enough to chase the toy. If she were a bigger dog, it might have been a problem, but she is a small dog with great bite inhibition and a wonderful sense of fun. She always knows exactly where her teeth are. You can see in the still photo above that she is actually not quite connecting with my sleeve. That was the case every time she jumped at me.
Benefits of Flirt Pole Play
- It is great exercise.
- It teaches coordination, for both the dog and the human! I am continually having to develop new “moves” as Clara learns to outwit my old ones.
- You can use it to teach impulse control.
- You may have a better chance of teaching a good release than with tugging.
- The dog gets to chase something at high speed but also stays close to you (you are part of the picture).
- She can’t run off with the toy, and thereby develops a habit of sticking around you with it.
- As long as the dog has a reliable release, the human doesn’t have to move at all. It can be outdoor couch training!
Note: I have heard that flirt poles are illegal in some areas because they are associated with fighting dogs. I have not determined any specific locations for which this is true, but I am certainly not condoning dog fighting or encouraging anyone to break any laws.
Thanks for watching! Stay tuned for:
- The Quadrants Illustrated (big project!)
- Arguing with Logic and Grace
- Level 1 Breakfast (quick behavior drills)