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 place to hang
|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.
|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.
|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.
|The whole set up- spring attached to the swing set frame, rope attached to the spring, ready for action|
Then, have at it.
|Koira getting started with the spring pole|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!