Introduction To Weight Pulling
Weight Pulling with dogs is a growing sport available to any breed of dog. The art of pulling with dogs is not a new one as dogs have pulled carts, sleds and wagons for centuries. Weight Pulling competitions were formally introduced in the United States during the 1970's and now can be seen in many different parts of the world. Some people have the misunderstanding about weight pull thinking it is harmful to the dog, which is made to pull massive weights they cannot handle; on the contrary, no respectable organisation allows a dog to be on lead or tethered during a weight pull, so the dog does not have to pull if it does not want to and when proper training is applied, a dog will have much better physical fitness.
Firstly, what is canine weight pull? It is a competitive sport in which a single dog pulls a weight a certain distance within a specific time allowance. The distance set, which is classed as a completed pull, is 16 feet. If the dog is unable to pull the weight, it is classed as a no-pull, and the dog knocked out of the competition. However, it is very important to then allow the dog to complete the pull, with assistance (i.e. someone pushing the load). By doing this, the dog will not lose confidence for the next time.
The equipment used in weight pull is different from racing and running equipment. The name of the game here is truly the harness. The weight pulling harness is completely different from the X-back harness, and THEY ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE! The weightpull harness has side lines that connect to a spreader bar at the hock, instead of continuing up to the hips. This is important, because a single dog weighing 60 lbs may pull 2000 lbs!
The dog usually pulls a wheeled cart on an earth or solid surface, or a sled on snow. The handler has no contact with the dog during the pull, so it is up to the dogs willingness to pull. There are a number of rounds to the competition, with the weight increasing at the beginning of each round. If a dog completes a pull, it is allowed to compete with the next higher weight, and therefore, the competition is won by the dog that pulls the heaviest weight the furthest.
For those who are just starting the competition circuits, there are two types of class; novice class and regular class. In novice classes, the handler is allowed to use a lead on the dog to encourage it forwards. This does not mean pulling the dog forward. The handler is also allowed to cross the line and approach the dog, encouraging it forwards. However, the handler is not allowed to touch the dog. Dog in novice classes are allowed two-no-pulls before being disqualified. In a regular class, the dog is allowed one no-pull. Weight Pulling competitions are normally conducted with a number of classes, categorized by dog weight bands, so the dogs are pulling against other similar weight dogs.
Handlers use a variety of training techniques, but the ones which work the best, use positive reinforcement with lots of praise and treats. Although food rewards, noise makers, and enticement props are banned during the actual pull period, most dogs have a reward of some sort waiting for them back at their crates.
The heaviest weight seen pulled by a dog is 3300lbs on wheels on concrete, pulled by an Alaskan Malamute, and 2850lbs on runners on snow, pulled by an Irish Wolfhound.
It is strongly advised that, as with all other activities you can do with dogs, that you do not allow puppies and young dogs to pull any heavy weights. Training can start, as with the X-Back harnesses, with introducing your dog to wearing a harness and having something behind him/her. It is recommended to wait until your dog is at least 1 year old and its bones developed and set, before introducing heavy weights to pull. Most competition events will not allow a dog under 1 year to enter.
Most of the parent clubs for northern breeds of dogs have titles which the dogs can earn. For instance, to obtain an AMCA (Alaskan Malamute Club of America) regular Working Weight Pulling Dog (WWPD) title, an Alaskan Malamute has to pull at least eight times his/her weight on a natural surface (or 12 times their weight on man-made surfaces) on four separate occasions.
To attain a Working Weight Pulling Dog Excellent title, there are a variety of factors to figure:
- On snow, a dog must pull 14 times his/her body weight.
- On any other natural surface, a dog must pull 16 times his/her body weight.
- If pulling on a man-made surface,
- A dog weighing under 80 lbs, must pull 23 times his/her body weight.
- A dog weighing 81 - 100 lbs, must pull 21 times his/her body weight.
- A dog weighing over 100 lbs, must pull 19 times his/her body weight.
- Also, the dog must finish in the top 1/3 of his/her weight class.
- And, finally, if 75% of the dogs in that class also pull that weight, then that weight does not count.
- A dog must do all of this five times to qualify for a WWPDX title.