Friday, May 24, 2013

FitDog Friday: How to Make a Spring Pole

So, the spring pole is probably my new favorite way to exercise Koira. She absolutely loves this thing, and I don't have to do anything. Koira just grabs onto the spring pole and starts tugging away. From watching her, I think it is probably an amazing workout for her core more than anything else.

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Do you think your dog might love a spring pole of their own? If so, the first thing you should do is make sure they are legal to own in your area. Spring poles are often classified as dog fighting paraphernalia, along with dog specific treadmills, collars wider than 2 inches, and other things that have nothing whatsoever to do with dog fighting. However, because of this, it is a good idea to check with your local animal control to make sure owning a spring pole won't get you arrested. I called my local animal control officer before building one just to make sure.

Now, don't let all that scare you off. I really do think that a spring pole is an excellent tool for conditioning your dog.

Alright, lets get into the fun part. I built a spring pole for eight dollars. These are the supplies:

1 spring
1 rope
1 place to hang

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The spring I chose- it is firm but with a little give when I pull hard on it- just perfect

What I used was an eight dollar spring from the local hardware store. Many other tutorials recommend garage door springs. I found, when I looked at them, that the garage door springs were too long for the location I have for my spring pole, as well as being quite a bit more expensive. So far, this lighter weight spring is working great.

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The lead rope, knotted along its length, attached to the spring with a carabiner 

The rope part of the spring pole is for the dog to grab onto. For mine, I used an old lead rope, like for a horse, that I happened to have on hand. I got the lead rope for free from the local new and used tack store since it was really well worn. If you don't have one of these just laying around, you can use any number of other things. Any type of relatively thick rope, a fleece tug toy, etc. Just keep an eye on what you do choose to use to make sure it is easy for your dog to grab onto and doesn't wear out super fast. I tied knots in the lead rope to help give the dogs a place to grip and not just slide down the rope. The latch on my lead rope was broken (running it over with a lawnmower does that apparently), so I also ended up using a carabiner to attach the rope to the spring. You can do this with your rope as well, or find some other way to attach it. Just make sure it is secure.

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The spring hooked onto the swing set using the hooks previously used to hold the swings

The best place to hang the spring pole will be very dependent on what you have around and how your dog likes to use it. I chose to use an old swing set frame that I use in the summer for hanging hammocks in the yard. It is pretty low, but Koira prefers having her feet on the ground while playing with the spring pole, so it works for us. Plus, it has the handy hooks from where the swings used to attach that I could just slip the spring's hook onto and be in business. Other good places to hang a spring pole would be an overhead beam (if inside, on a patio, etc) or from a tree. Whatever you choose, give it a few good strong tugs before letting your dog at it to make sure it is nice and secure.

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The whole set up- spring attached to the swing set frame, rope attached to the spring, ready for action

Then, have at it.

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Koira getting started with the spring pole
If your dog is an avid tugger, it should be really simple to get them interested in the spring pole. Just initiate a game of tug using the spring pole rope, then let go so they are tugging against the spring. Most dogs who love tugging will love spring poles. The spring makes it much more fun than a totally stationary toy because it tugs back and gives when they tug.

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Tugga tugga
As you can see, Koira totally loves her spring pole. I loop the rope up over the swing set frame when we are not using it to keep her from going crazy on it all the time. Using the spring pole is a seriously intense workout for a dog who is really into it.

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Dogs should be limited in how long they can use the spring pole, especially at first. Start with no more than five minutes of tugging and gradually build up to longer periods of time. I would recommend no more than 15 minutes in a single session even once the dogs is used to using the spring pole. Instead, make your dog take a break and do something else for a while.

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I also want to add, it is very important to supervise interactions with the spring pole. You want to check the spring, rope, and support mechanisms before every use to make sure none of them will break while the dog is playing. You also want to watch during play to make sure there aren't any problems such as broken equipment, the dog getting tangled or stuck in the rope, or other issues. Basically, better to be safe than sorry, so make the spring pole a toy with supervision only.

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Also, while Koira likes having her back feet on the ground to play with the spring pole, and Pallo likes having at least his back feet and sometimes his front feet on the ground as well, some dogs will prefer leaping up and grabbing the spring pole much higher, so their entire body is dangling. This is perfectly fine, but you want to make sure you mount the spring pole high enough that the dog won't accidentally grab the spring when they jump. If either of my dogs turns into a jump grab and hang spring pole style, I will need to find a new place to put it, because it would be too low where it is.

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And of course, don't forget to take funny pictures of your dog hanging on the rope! You might have to wait a while to get them totally obsessed with the spring pole first, before you go sticking a camera in their face, but once they are totally into it, you can get some pretty awesome pictures. I am trying to come up with a way to mount the GoPro on the spring pole looking down, and see what it can get.

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Lastly, here is a video of Koira using the spring pole. You can see how much of a core workout she is getting when she tugs at the spring pole. Don't be fooled by the lack of major motion- this is a major workout and your dog will get tired. Always supervise, and have them drop the rope and end the game before they get too tired or get bored of playing with it. Keep it interesting and fun!


  1. This is amazing!! What a great idea. I'm dying to build one for Koly ASAP. My ability to PLAY tug and his desire to play tug rarely match up.

  2. Jimmy is a spring pole addict! I didn't know that's what it was called. He started doing it on a rope swing we found on one of our walks. If you use the search on my blog and look for "rope swing" you can find a couple of posts about it. We now have a rope attached to a springy branch on one of our trees. Jimmy will run at it, catch it, an swing! Then he does the tugging Koira does in your video. He's mellowed a bit now that he always has this toy available, but he still enjoys it. I would caution people to check the texture of the rope they use. One that is too course can abrade the inside of the dog's mouth, and also, they can get their incisors caught in any knots. As you said, it needs to be supervised fun.

  3. This looks pretty cool. I know some people that could use the spring to help them rope climb ;-)

    How long does Koira play with it each time?

  4. Koira looks to be having a great time...and the DIY instructions are made it very easy Thank you

  5. I have never heard of this! At first I wondered how it would be a good workout, but after seeing Koira in action, I totally got it!

  6. Cool! I play tug-o-war with my Mom and Dad all the time, but now I want this so I can do it all by myself!

  7. Max wouldn't like it but I sure do know plenty that would have a ball with it!! That's super cool!!!

  8. Thank you so much for posting this and giving me inspiration! Finally got around to making two for my dogs today! I'll post pics on my blog soon. Even the puppy loves it. :)

  9. I tried this with my 110 pound American bulldog. He absolutely LOVED it, but despite buying the heaviest spring of this type at my hardware store, it only took about 20 minutes for him to turn it into a stretched out piece of kinked metal.. hehe. I am certain if he were a 60 pound pitbull this would have worked perfectly, and he really did a lot of the core workout tug while it lasted. He loved this SO much and by the time we got inside he was pooped!.. I might try garage door springs or auto springs or soemthing... if anyone has any suggestions for what kinda springs to use for my XL bully let me know! :D

    1. Jinxxy you can double up the springs, they have springs at Home Depot that support 100+ lbs and you could always double them up to make it a 200+lb spring pole!

    2. Double springs maybe or a garage springs or a porch screen spring. ?

  10. What type of rolp do I get for a 120 lb dog ?