Many dogs have an innate drive to pull. Dogs such as huskies and malamutes were bred for the task. If you have a working breed of dog, it can be very rewarding to tap into that innate desire and participate in a pulling activity, such as sledding, skijoring or weight pulling. The training for all of these activities are basically the same, and the biggest challenge will be overcoming how well you trained your dog not to pull when on a leash.
Teaching your Dog to Pull a Sled
Introduce the harness to your dog in the house where it can get used to the feel without the extra weight. The harnesses can be quite cumbersome, so make sure your dog is comfortable.
Attach the harness to a light board that is easy for your dog to pull. Encourage your dog to pull it around the yard, rewarding with treats or a game of tug with your dog's favorite toy. Give your dog a command that means "go" and reward him for moving when you say "go" and stopping when you say "stop."
Attach the harness to your dog and run behind him, praising him for pulling you along. If your dog feels uncomfortable, ask a friend to run in front of you with their dog, inspiring your dog's chase instinct.
Teach your dog commands "left" and "right" by saying the word before guiding or luring your dog in that direction. Use praise for going the correct direction and stop the run if your dog does it wrong. Cue him in the correct direction and start the run again.
Gradually, build up the amount of weight until your dog can pull the equivalent of a sled with a human. Practice initially with very short runs. If your dog is tired or stops having fun, end the run. This should be your dog's favorite activity. Make it fun.
Though the weather is cold, your dog can still get dehydrated. Watch for signs of dehydration and exhaustion when training your dog. Improper training can lead to injury, so don't expect too much of your dog too soon.
Most professional sled dog trainers train their puppies by having them run with adult dogs who are already trained. If you have access to a group or experienced musher, take advantage. The earlier you start training your puppy, the more successful you will be. However, don't allow your puppies to pull weight. Wait until their joints are developed at around 18 to 24 months of age to begin heavy lifting to avoid problems later in life.
Items You Will Need
- Proper sledding harness
- Schlittenhunde image by Rumpelfuss from Fotolia.com