We love the flirt pole. It’s a great way to provide exercise to a dog within a confined space, train for impulse control, and build communication. Many people, though, are worried that it will increase their dog’s prey drive or teach him to chase things. In reality, the flirt pole can be an excellent outlet for satisfying a dog’s drive.
Prey drive is an instinctual behavior. That means that dogs are born with it - they don’t learn it, and we can’t train it out of a dog. Prey drive is a ‘modal action pattern,’ which means that it is made up of a series of behaviors. Prey drive is believed to be made up of seven behaviors: search, stalk, chase, bite-hold, bite-kill, dissect, and consume. Each dog will find more satisfaction in some areas than in others; for example, while one dog may really enjoy chasing a toy but not much care about it once he catches it, another dog may find the chase a chore, but find a lot of satisfaction in pulling the stuffing out of the toy once he has it (dissect). While there is certainly a correlation between breed and prey drive, every dog is an individual and has the potential to deviate from their breed standard, so the individual’s specific behaviors should always be considered rather than what their breed is ‘supposed’ to do. Think of a dog’s prey drive as a series of cups with a hole at the bottom. Some cups have a tiny hole and drain slowly, some have a large hole and drain quickly. For example, the dog who finds chasing a chore has a tiny hole in his ‘chase’ cup but a large hole in his ‘dissect’ cup. When a cup is full, the dog is satisfied. He may still perform a specific behavior if the opportunity arises, but he isn’t specifically seeking it out. As the cup slowly drains, though, he needs to find ways to fill it back up. For a dog with a large hole in his ‘chase’ cup, the flirt pole can be an excellent way to give him an appropriate outlet for the behavior. This can lessen his need to chase other things, such as squirrels or cats. If your dog is big on chasing cats or other small animals, using the flirt pole (or another fun, appropriate outlet for chasing) in combination with training can make a huge difference. Check out this video on teaching dogs not to chase cats, too.