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How to teach a dog to pull?

January 26th, 2007, 10:50 PM
Hey guys,

I've recently started to try and train Duke to be able to do skijoring or pulling me on a board ( snowboard for now since it's winter but also on a skateboard during the summer). He has no natural sledding dogs in him so for now I have been using his high drives to try and teach him Mush ( lol though it would be a name for the command) and halt for him to stop on que. For now since he's only 44 pounds I've been using him in combination with my friends 2 years old 50 pound Aussie Cattle dog cross and have either thrown a tennis ball in front of me and shouted MUSH the second they pull and HALT the second they reach the ball as they stop to play with it. This works well I also use a treat and throw it ahead or get a friend to start running forward ( since Duke has a high prey drive and Gypsy just likes to be with people) and repeating the above process.

Duke seems to enjoy it I'm just unsure of how to proceed especially for weaning him off from this to just getting him to pull on command. Whenever we use them they are both fitted with nylon, non restrictive harness's to prevent them from straining their necks. It's alot of fun and since near my cottage which we frequent is full of open fields it's a great place to practice as well as lots of parks around here.


January 27th, 2007, 08:29 AM
I taught Dodger to pull by first getting him used to the feel of some weight dragging behind him. The problem with throwing a ball is that its a very a jerky start for them and with a lot of weight behind them, that's not ideal (could lead to injury or a desire not to pull). Even without the risk of injury, throwing the ball, I think is too distracting and is reinforcing the fetch behaviour - not the pulling.

I started by getting Dodger used to the skijoring (x-back) harness, then I filled a 2L bottle with sand for him to pull. At first I didn't command anything, just got him used to the feel and sound of something behind him. Then, I used a target plate and had him go touch that from a variety of distances... As he pulled, I'd say "hike" and C&T throughout. Othertimes, I would stand beside him and say "hike" as we moved forward together - made it easier to C&T and to ensure he pulled in a straight line (always reward your dog IN the position you want him to be in, leaning into the harness - not looking up at you for a treat). I should have taught directionals before I actually jumped on the ski's but I didn't - I did teach "on by" so he'd ignore a smell or critters (that is ALWAYS a work in progress with a hound). Dodger already knew "easy" (to slow down) and "stop" so I didn't need to work on those in-harness.

I am not sure what harness you are using but there is a difference between a regular harness, tracking harness and pulling/sledding harnesses (there should be padding).

Good luck with your training.

And another thing, skijoring is much harder if you start in an open space because your dog has so many directions he can go. It's easiest to start on a path or trail so your dog doesn't have much choice but pull forward. If you start in an open field, your dog should know commands 100% and be comfortable pulling out in front (so you are setting him up to succeed)!

February 3rd, 2007, 05:13 PM
Basically, what Lisa said covers most of what I would have said. Ease the dog into pulling smaller weights, with you at its side, and use the right kind of harness. Directional cues sound like they would be of value... Never would have thought of that myself! Also, don't feel you have to stick to sled dog lingo, especially if the cues don't roll off your tungue easily.

A possible other "pulling" activity, is carting, it'll be more work for you since the dog will be pulling a cart/sled with weights instead of you on a board, but if you take up cross contry skying, you can have Duke pull your picnic lunch!