Weight Pulling is a great sport. The bond between the dog and trainer is tight and trusting. Ever hear you can not push a rope....that's the way it is with weight pulling with dogs. Dog do NOT have an ego. They are not out to impress anyone. If the weight is too heavy of if they are not in shape to pull, that's it for them, they quit. People who weight pull train their dogs know what to look for and when to quit. Dogs just don't get hurt weight pulling.
Weight Pulling with dogs is a round robin competition where each dog within the weight class takes a turn pulling the same weight on the same cart in the same weight pull chute the same distance. The dog has 60 seconds to get the cart moving or it is out of competition. Just like people bowling, dogs each have a technique to their pulls. My son had a beagle that would throw, and I mean throw, her right front leg forward as she started the cart. I had a German Shepherd Dog that would crouch, then stand, then pull. A malamute I used to have would lean in, hesitate, then pull. Each dog has it's own technique and most are pretty cute.
You must have the proper harness for weight pulling and it must fit correct. There are two types of harnesses used in competition. The Freight Harness, that fits over the dog with a spreader bar in the rear past the dogs hind end to keep the weight distributed correctly and so that the harness does not colaps around or on the dog. The Weight Pull Harness (my favorite), is the same harness as a Freight Harness except it has two layers of padding around the chest of the dog. Usually it is a layer of neoprene and another thick soft padding.
A Weight Pull chute, in competition is set up usually with snow fencing on either side. The carpet or snow is marked with either spray paint or good ole duct tape. The dog pulls the weight 16' and the handler can NOT pull, bait or touch the dog during the pull. In fact if you touch your dog before it cross the finish line (a common mistake) you will be disqualified.
Training your dog before competition is a must and can easily be done in a basement or outdoors with about anything that a dog could safely pull. I have an older sledge that Deron and I found at a Garage Sale and bought for a couple of bucks. Always start with light weight. I do not mean when you first start I mean every time you practice. Not only will it encourage the dog it will help flex the dogs muscles for working up to heavier weight.
Training for weight pulling is GREAT dog sled and in fact lead dog training and cross training. Not only will it keep your sled dogs in shape it is great one on one time for dog and driver. It is a wonderful, almost magical confidence builder for dogs. Since you can use the same commands you do while out on the trail it is great one on one training for lead dog confidence.
Winning is a lot of fun. One year I fed six dogs for 8 months with the food I won competing. But just spending the time with the dog and the bond it builds between the two of you is worth the effort spent. I have never seen a dog not like weight pulling. Dogs like having a job and they like being trained. Just be sure you have the proper equipment and keep it fun for the dog. You might be surprised at the amount of cash and prizes you and Rover could win.
THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT
Please for the safety of your dog, use the correct equipment.
First off is the harness. You can not use any ole harness for weight pulling. You need a Weight Pull Harness that properly fits your dog...not dogs, dog. Each of your dogs should have it's own well fitted harness if you are going to have them weight pull.
It is also important to pull the right types of items, not only at an event, but also when training.
While there are many rules and regulations set up by the weight pulling organizations, you also need to keep safety in mind. Even if you are storing or using a regulation weight pull cart for training at home, make sure you have someone behind the cart to stop it. You can not catch the cart as it comes forward and train the dog properly.
If you do not have an official weight pull cart for practice there are many items you can use to train your dog. Just make sure it is safe and will not hold the dog back. The idea is for the dog to succeed while training, not be so bogged down it looses heart trying to pull something it should not be asked to pull.
TRAINING FOR WEIGHT PULLING
To start training your dog to weight pull you, as I have said, need a well fitting harness in good repair. You also need something to pull that has four tires and some kind of weight to add as the dog progresses in training. We found that car wheel routers worked great and stored well.
You will also need a place to train your dog to pull. You need a flat to slight up hill area. The closer that you can set it up to what the competition weight pull chute looks like the better, however changing the place, surface and scenery is also good training for the dog.
I am going to assume that your dog already has learned Basic Obedience and is well versed at it and it also knows how to pull in harness. "Sit", "Stay" and "Come" are very important commands for the weight pull dog. Many times a dog that can not pull as much weight as another has won the match just because the stronger dog did not obey a command or was distracted and it was illuminated from competition. So if your dog is not obedience trained or is in training, start there before trying to go on to pulling weights. Take the time it takes (and that varies per dog) to obedience train your dog well.
CROSS TRAINING IS IMPORTANT
If you want your dog to succeed at weight pulling competition, cross training is a must. Not only is cross training good for the dog's body, it keeps the dog active, happy and the bond between you will grow.
There is so much you can do with a dog to cross train for weight pulling. Something as easy as throwing a stick in and out of the water for your dog to run and catch can be very beneficial.
Many people over look the obvious....take your dog for a walk every day. This will keep you and your dog in good shape. Add a backpack with some weight and the dog is weight training.
Having your dog pull you on a sled, skis, a scooter or the like will really build the dogs muscles and endurance and keep it in shape between weight pull competitions. Your dog will also love the opportunity to do something different then just pull the same weight pull cart over and over in the same space. Keeping the dogs mind sharp will also keep it happy, and a happy dog is more likely to pull those higher weights for you in competition.
While on keeping yourself in shape, I might mention....you will not need to do much in weight pull competition but place and call the dog...however, every shot people take with a camera of your dog weight pulling will probably and I mean really really probably <grin> have your butt in it.
GROOMING FOR THE EVENT
Many people over look this....grooming. I don't just mean the dog. If you think "Well, the weight pull is just in the complex and no one really comes to watch." Then you have a lot to learn about this sport.
Serious competitors have from the beginning tried to keep this sport above board in the publics eyes. In today's "politically correct" world we live in many people think that the dogs are being abused when they weight pull....wish those folks would read up on the sport with an open mind and see the good that comes from it.....
Anyway, you really need to dress clean and nice and do something with your hair. Be clean shaven and have a clean well groomed dog. You never know when the wrong people will show up at an event and try to make a fuss.
"Dress for success" if you will. If the public shows up for an event and the dogs are roughty and ungroomed, the people are in old and perhaps torn clothing, I ask you, how does that look? To the average person it looks like a group that got together with the "junk yard dogs" and are pushing the dogs to see who has the "badest" dog.
This harness in the photo is fringed with deer hide. Petey wore this harness to a competition in WI. There were 63 dogs in his weight class and a few folks mentioned they thought his harness was KOOOOL. After he started winning (he came in fourth, but pulled the sled with the most weight, just not all the way across the finish line <sigh>). As he did better and better and people started taking him seriously, Deron and I got a kick out of all the folks that were then mentioning how much they like his harness and what a beautiful dog he was. My point is, they thought he was a "fluffy dog out to play" but found out he could not only dress nice, but pull well too.
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