What Is Weight Pulling For Dogs?
“Weight pulling” is a sport where a dog pulls a cart loaded with weight for a short distance across snow, grass, carpet, or dirt. There are many breeds that can participate in this sport. It is determined by weight class. Obviously the bull breeds and sled dogs excel at this activity in their weight class. Many of these dogs were bred to move freight. Regardless of the breed, this must be an activity that your dog finds fun and enjoyable. To participate in this sport, a specially built harness is put on the dog. This harness distributes the weight of the item being pulled and minimizes injury to the dog. The harness is attached to the sled or cart.
How To Get Involved
Many organizations sanction the sport of Weight Pulling. They include: The International Weight Pulling Association, the International Sled Dog Racing Association, the American Pulling Alliance, the United Kennel Club and the National Working Dog Association to name a few. Several of these organizations operate under their own competition regulations, so if you are interested in participating in their events, you will need to be familiar with their specific rules.
Training Your Dog For Weight Pulling
To begin training your dog to pull weights, the dog needs to be familiar with wearing the harness. A good age to introduce this would be between 12 and 16 weeks old. There is no attempt at weights being added at this time, just wearing the harness around during play is sufficient. Once your dog is comfortable with the harness, add an item of light weight to the harness and have the dog drag it around. The pup needs to get used to feeling a little bit of weight. As you and your dog become used to this weight, you can progress to adding a milk jug half-filled with pebbles. Take a position in front of your dog and encourage him to come to you. Praise the dog enthusiastically once he reaches you. Do not reward the dog with a toy or food, as these rewards are not allowed in competition.
When you are ready for some serious weight, you need to invest in a quality harness. As mentioned before, the harness is specially made to distribute the weight and prevent injury to the dog. The IWPA proudly claims that since it started regulating this sport in 1994, there has been no dog injured in competition. When adding additional weight, care is needed not to put more weight on the sled or cart than the dog can move. Never let your dog fail – take the training slow. Alternate heavier weights with the lighter weight the dog is already familiar with. Training every other day will keep your dog progressing. Alternate long pulls one day and shorter heavier pulls the next training day. Long pulls develop endurance and the shorter pulls build muscle mass. This variety will also keep your dog interested in the training. When adding the weight cart, add it without any weight until the dog gets used to it and the noise it makes.
The strength generated by these pulling dogs is an impressive thing to witness. By providing good training and care, you can ensure that while your dog has fun, he remains safe and uninjured when participating in this exciting sport.
Photo 1: PBRC News and View
Photo 2: Courtesy of A. Davey via Flickr (CC by 2.0)