Weight Pull Dogs
How to Make
Weight Pull 101
by Todd Tripp Owner of PullDoggies.com
How to begin your Dog or Puppy in canine weight pulling. Weight pulling is a fun and enjoyable way to exercise and compete with your Dog. People say to me all the time does this look like a good weight pull dog, my reply is it doesn't matter what the dog looks like its the effort you want to put into training. I also hear "I want to pull with my dog but don't know where to start?" below is a good article on what and how to start training your dog for weight pulling. Any breed of dog can be used in weight pull but all need a solid foundation to start with. If you are unfamiliar with what weight pulling is you should first read our page "What is Weight Pull" on PullDoggies.com
There are some very basic things you can do to develop your dog into a good puller. the first thing as with all training is understanding your dog, what drives it and understanding your own body language. I personally like to begin harness introduction at a very young age of 12-16 weeks. At this point we are not doing any more than putting the harness on playing with a tug just playing around and letting them wear it and get used to it being on. You can get small harnesses that go as small as a 12lb dog and will fit it up to about 30-33lbs. These are very inexpensive and are a great way to get going but do not work for older dogs being started unless they are a toy or miniature breed. You can also do this basic step if introducing a adult dog to his new weight pull harness.
Once the pup/dog is comfortable wearing a harness we like to have them start pulling a something small and lightweight just to get used to a little tugging and begin to get the idea for what's going on.
After this you can have them pull a Plastic bottle (2 liter or a milk jug) half full of pebbles tied to a 15-20 ft close line rope. Be sure to always have a leash on your dog. Just let them walk around and just keep the dog getting used to the tugging of the bottle and the noises it makes behind them. If your pup/dog is attacking or getting spooked by the bottle put it on a long line so the noises are quieter and further away.
Once you dog has worn the harness and you have had a little fun it is time to get serious. You will need a quality Weight Pull Harness from a quality manufacturer. We like a collar that will help to keep your dog focused that will not slip off but loose enough to allow for free breathing. You must be sure to keep your dog leashed even a well trained pull dog will still use a leash on drag walks and in cart/rail training.
Once a pup gets around 6 months or is an older dog that is being started pulling and is comfortable with wearing a harness and pulling the bottle or very light weight have the dog walk 20-30 yards at a time pulling a light tow chain or small sled. Be sure that your dog is developed enough for pulling Larger dogs may require more time as their bones and joints don't develop as quick. You must also realize that light pulling in a controlled environment is safer than allowing a dog to run, jump, play and twist and turn while playing. Back to training keep telling your dog to pull/work, whatever you want the dog to know when you want it to pull. Keep them walking if they go to stop correct them with a tug on the leash and have them walk a little more and then maybe allow them to stop. Be sure you keep a slower pace as it will help them feel comfortable when they begin pulling heavy loads in competition. This is when you really need to do what is called "learning your dog" during this time figure out what your dogs strengths are and learning what type of praise works for your dog. The most important thing is to never set your dog up to fail, never let your dog fail and give it more weight than it can handle sometimes this can be hard to figure out but if you think it may be too much than just dot go there. You will also figure out what keeps your dog/pup most interested in pulling. Keep doing long walks as stated above with light weight being sure to give the dog its pull command and not allowing it to stop unless it has been told to do so. Give them lots of praise while stopped and while pulling, treat them if you are comfortable with a food praise or a toy. The down side to using food praise or a toy is they are always looking for the food or the toy and if you are going to compete food treats and toys are not allowed while the dog is competing. What we do is give them the food praise or toy when they are done with a 45 minute to 1 hour training session. I personally do both we play a little, I give them a good rub down some fun play time and after cooling down I then give them one of their daily feedings. Do a good week before moving on to the next phases or longer if you feel your dog is not mentally or physically ready to move on. Make sure you take things slow and do not push the dog at this point we want the dog to do its best in the long run and never set them up for failure. Be sure you always use a leash in weight pull training and keep the dog focused especially in early stages. We want to make sure the dog understands what you want it to do and don't want to bring in a negative like chasseing another dog, squirrel or going to play with your or a neighbor kid
Once your dog understands its job you can start to add weight, just a few pounds at a time every other day and at a slower rate for large dogs who's body takes longer to develop. Be Sure your dog totally understands its command to pull and is settled and comfortable with pulling before you start the process of adding weight. You want to slowly build the dog up to pulling its body weight or with a growing pup gradually add weight as the pup grows but not to a point where you are stressing the dog. Once your dog can handle dragging its own body weight for 20-30 yards at a time for an hour and is developed enough physically, you can begin shorter heavier pulls. At this point you will start going shorter distances going 20-30 feet at a time. When doing the shorter drag pulls only do this a couple times a week, while maintaining light longer pulls on off days. Make sure you keep this fun for the dog and you. Keep going over the basic command always and keep the dog working when you want it to. You should do repeated drags giving your dog breaks and allowing it to catch its breath and always be smart about weather conditions. Do repeated drags taking an hour or so for each workout. Always be sure when finished with a training session that you always finish on a positive as with any training. Make sure to take things slow and do not push your dog to hard as stated before we never want the dog to fail.
Working your dog every other day is a good way to keep a good training schedule for your dog. Every other time you will want to do long drags versus the short pulls. Switching back and fourth will help keep it fun for the dog. A big focus on keeping it fun is one of the most important things of all. If your dog enjoys training it will enjoy working hard for you. Also what you are doing is with the longer drag pulls you are building endurance and with the short pulls you are building muscle mass and strength. Once your dog is good at doing these short pulls with 1 1/2 times its body weight you can begin your dog on a weight pull cart. Please keep in mind that drag pulling has many variables the sled you are using and the type of ground your working on all change the degree of resistance on the pull and your dog.
Beginning your dog on a weight pull cart.
When starting on a cart you will need another person to be a brakeman to stop the cart to keep it from running into the back of your dog when it has finished its pull. Have the dog pull the cart 18-25ft. You can buy a simple yard cart at your local supply store or build a competition style cart. There are also a few places where you can buy competition carts from but most will not ship.
The first few times have the dog pull the cart empty and get a general idea. It is best with new dogs and during training session to leave a leash on your dog so it can easily be corrected if its begins to quit or get off track. Only take the leash off on dogs that are very well skilled in weight pulling, even at that be very cautious. Add a light amount of weight if you feel your dog is ready. If your dog is being spooked by the cart have the brakeman slow it a little so it is not as noisy. If you have done your basic steps in the beginning this should not bother your dog. Be sure you keep the increments light in the beginning and always let the dog win. Do not put high amounts of weight and make your dog work hard in the beginning. Once you see your dog is beginning to work to pull the weight have them do a couple rounds at that weight. After 2-3 rounds start to bring the weight back down and have the dog pull a couple rounds back down and then finish that session for the day.
Thanks for reading - Todd Tripp
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