Pit Bull Informational Pages
by Diane Jessup 

Page I

Dirk's Kids
Lil Grim (9 months) and Amp and Sligo (18 weeks)
Just hanging around on a summer day

The Flirtpole

History: The flirtpole has a long history as a dog conditioning tool. Reference to flirt and spring-pole devices can by found in literature as far back as the mid 1800's.

Here is an example taken from a booklet on "Sporting Bull Terriers" by Eugene Glass published in 1915. Here, describing how to train a dog for a rat killing contest, he has this to say about the flirt-pole:

Speed is the main thing to train for, but the dog's bite should also be trained, so that he will be a sure killer. I will give my method for taking off fat and producing speed, at the same time developing the bite. Ten days is plenty of time to condition a dog for a short ratting contest.

For the first day's work give your dog a run of five minutes on the training machine [Editor's Note: jenni or treadmill] follow this with the "fishing pole" work for about the same time.

...After you have taken off your dog's extra flesh, work him entirely on the fishing-pole and spring-pole. Arrange the coonskin at such an height that the dog's forefeet are off the ground when he has a hold of the coonskin. You may work him twice a day, if you think it desirable; but if you adopt this plan don't work him too long at a time. Occasionally work him on the fishing-pole by leaving the coonskin on the ground all the time, pulling it back and forth and around, exercising him to turn and snap quickly, as he will have to do in the rat pit. A grass lawn or sandy ground is the best for this sort of work, so your dog will not hurt his feet.

The flirtpole is still used for the conditioning of dogs to be fought, however, it is finding increasing favor with those who value their dogs as companions and pets. Also, the flirtpole is fun for any breed of dog which has reasonable prey drive or playfulness. Terriers in particular enjoy it.

Here is a typical "longe" line. Cheap and disposable.

Construction: No need to try and buy a flirtpole - it is easy enough to build your own. You will need:

  • A "longe" whip from the local farm store. The longer the better. If you can't find one, buy one HERE. For an expensive, really long one, click HERE.
  • A piece of jute, burlap, a sock or a rabbit hide.

Tie your "bait" to the end of the whip. Make sure you have no metal or other hard objects anywhere near where the dog will be biting.

Here the rabbit skin is tied to the end of the whip.


Use: The flirtpole is excellent for tiring out your dog when you don't have a lot of time or space. Say, when traveling, and you want to let her her yah yahs out before you bed down for the night. A relatively small grass or dirt area + one flirtpole = one happy, tired dog.

As part of a daily exercise program, the flirtpole lets the dog twist and turn and work on eye/mouth coordination good for Frisbee, springpole, schutzhund and ring sport. IMPORTANT: Letting an out of shape, stuck-in-a-shipping-crate-all-day or stuck-on-a-chain-all-the-time dog have a go at a flirtpole is a good way to blow a knee or tear ligaments. Use common sense when working your dog.

Remember that dogs love to chase... don't swish the bait AT the dog, but away from the dog. If your bulldog has no desire to chase, try a different bait. Try tying the dog up and having it watch other dogs. Or realize that your dog may have low prey drive and get over it; but DON'T think that hitting the dog in a teasing manner, or flipping it in their face will make them want to chase or bite at it - it will have the opposite effect.

Remember to always put your dog away WANTING MORE! If you over do it, they will not be as thrilled to work it the next time.

Repair: In order to be long and light, flirtpoles are flimsy by nature. They are going to break. That is why I advocate buying cheap longe whips. You can reduce wear and tear on your flirtpole by primarily using it to keep the bait away from the dog - in other words, not as a tug-toy. When the dog catches the bait, go with the dog, and don't pull against them too much. When working puppies, obviously you can pull a bit, in fact you want to, but with adult dogs, you will soon snap the pole. One trick: keep the pole angled straight at the dog when they have the bait, don't play them like a fish.


The Springpole

History: The springpole is mentioned in many old books on conditioning dogs. In fact, "springpole contests" of sorts are mentioned in medieval text. An advertisement from 1710 (England) stated that at the Bear Garden, at 3:00 in the afternoon, there would be "a variety of bull and bear-baiting, and a dog to be drawn up with fireworks." There is no real description of "drawing up a dog" with fireworks, but it is not hard to assume that these gripping dogs were tested as to how well they would hold through the distraction of fireworks. What dogs they had then!

L.B. Hannah describes the rather cumbersome "old fashion" springpole used circa 1925:

the spring-pole is constructed with a sapling about sixteen feet long and four or five inches at the butt, tapering to one inch. This pole is placed at an angle of about forty-five degrees, resting in a strong notched stick or limb driven into the ground, the butt of the pole being stacked to the ground at the right distance to give the proper angle. The sapling should be of hickory or of some other wood with a good spring. Put a pulley o the small end and get fifteen feet of of 1/4 inch rope, which may be run through the pulley and fastened at the butt end of the pole. Attached a the other end of the rope and suspended two or three feet from the ground is a good coon hide, well sewed together. This can be raised or lowered at will be means of the pulley. The dog will soon learn to fight it, and you can pull him up clear from the ground, if desired. This spring pole will develop jaw-power wonderfully.

Captain L. Fitz-Barnard, a noted expert on fighting dogs and sports, describes a simpler springpole used in the 1800s, and notes dryly that only "real dogs" do springpole!

Another good way of working a dog is to suspend a piece of soft leather from the ceiling, with a cord and piece of rubber. He will fight the leather, and the rubber keeps pulling it away from him. He will keep on for as long as you like. Of course you can only work dogs these ways; a cur would soon chuck it.



Building a springpole is not difficult and can be done one of several ways:

1) Hang it from a branch
2) Hang it from a rafter
3) Hang it from a constructed structure
4) Hang it from a 2x4 or cable between 2 trees

Build your own; no one really sells the complete thing. Some places sell the spring or the hide, but why spend the $$ when you can make it yourself so much cheaper? All a springpole is is a biting surface (usually jute or burlap roll, or a rope) suspended from a springy device (either a garage door spring, or what I use, two wheelbarrow inner tubes) and hung overhead.

So, decide if you have a strong branch, a strong rafter, or need to construct a device (see picture below) to hang it from, and go from there. I like to hang my rope as high as possible, allowing the dogs to swing out further. The biting surface (burlap) can be anywhere from  two feet to six feet off the ground.

OK, here we go!
1) Take a nylon dog collar and fasten it around the branch/board looping it first through the wheelbarrow inner tubes (I use two for strength). Fasten the collar. Now you have a collar holding the inner tubes suspended in the air.

2) Attach another nylon collar to the bottom of the inner tubes. From this, hang a rope to which your biting surface is attached. If you want to be fancy, tie loops in the rope, so you can adjust where you hang the biting surface. You may want it lower for some dogs, higher for the flyers. Use rope or some other soft material to connect the biting surface to the snap you will use to attach to the rope hanging from the "spring". Dogs biting chain can break their teeth.  For the biting surface I roll up a burlap sack and duct tape the ends and middle. I have also used inner tubes, jean material, tires, old sleeve covers and rope.  

Don't try this at home!
Dread and Britt work the springpole together. This is a great way to start a dog fight if you don't know what you are doing.


Now bring your dog out on a harness and leash. Have someone hold him, or tie him near where he can watch you as you smack the burlap, push it, and otherwise get him excited over it. Too many people push the burlap at the dog, causing a gag type reflex. Play keep-away instead and watch his interest grow. You can really turn a dog off for good by hitting him in the head a few times with the thing. Keep it kinda low to start. Some dogs love it low, and love to wrap their legs around it. Some like to fly high and hang. Let your dog show you what they like.

Some people say a dog can get hurt on a springpole. Yes they can. So can your kid playing football. These are tough, rugged dogs, and if they can't take this kind of action, they are not sound. This is very close to hanging on a bull, and probably why they dig it so much. The worse accident I have had in all these years of doing lots of springpole is one dog broke her tail when she fell straight down on it. She never slowed down and never stopped, just loss the use of her tail for a couple weeks. She made a full recovery. We have had some BAD wrecks out here, with dogs flying off from 12 feet in the air and flying dozens of feet before they land. Sometimes I think there is no way they cannot break their necks the way they land. In 16 years of doing this, they never have. Might it happen some day? Yup, but these are BULLDOGS, and I will not deny them this fun. If I had had a serious injury in 16 years I might feel different, but so far we have had none, and the dogs love this second only to the treadmills and boomer balls.  



his page is under construction.
For now, please enjoy the springpole gallery

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