Dog weight pulling is an internationally-recognized sport that has had the canine community divided since a very long time. It involves a specially trained dog that is tethered to a large cart with wheels, with the help of an exclusive harness. The cart is loaded with weight, either bricks or mortar/concrete and the dog is expected to pull the cart with his/her body weight, energy, and strength.
While some dog enthusiasts and even vets deem it cruel and inappropriate, others believe that such weight pulling allows for better expulsion of dormant energy and drive in dogs. Promoters of this activity also claim that such training improves the dogs' relationship with their owners and also helps them maintain a steady and sturdy body. Some even believe that dogs were primitively bred as working animals, that could lift weights and cover large distances.
Delbert, from Cascade Kennel, a 150-pound Alaskan Malamute currently holds the dog weight pulling record at 5,400 pounds pulled to the finish line.
What is dog weight pulling?
Dog weight pulling is a championship sport, recognized and acknowledged by a number of kennel clubs, non-profit organizations, and canine associations across the world.
Weight pulling is a competitive sport in which a lot of dog breeds can participate. The dogs are classified according to their weight and built and compete against each other.
The goal of weight pulling is straightforward. In the shortest time possible, the dog is expected to pull a sled or a wheeled cart, which is loaded with heavyweights in the form of concrete or bricks. These weight pulling dogs are then coaxed into racing to the finish line by their owners, breeders, or trainers. The race trail is short but is made difficult by adding friction in the form of grass, carpet, snow, etc. The distance to cover is not more than 16 feet usually.
To ensure the safety of weight pulling dogs in such a championship, a special harness is constructed, which holds on the to the dog's body in a way that minimizes the risk of injuries or any physical damage.
What authorities oversee weight pull?
Worldwide, a lot of kennel clubs and canine authorities sanction weight pull as an international canine sport. Amongst those are:
- the United Kennel Club (UKC),
- the American Kennel Club (AKC),
- the American Pulling Alliance, and
- the International Weight Pull Association (IWPA).
The involvement of these associations lends a professional facet and credibility to an otherwise dangerous sport. These kennel clubs and organizations ensure that the rules are followed to the T, the weight pulling dogs are looked after, the weight pulling dog breeds are categorized and classified appropriately, and necessary measures are taken to ensure their safety.
Most of the events organized by these associations may charge fines for wrongdoing and cheating. The involvement of organizations that support dog weight pulling as an activity, conclusively adds a touch of much-required formality for events like these.
What are the rules of dog weight pulling?
While the rules ever so slightly differ with each association, the general rules are pretty much the same. There are over 50 rules and eligibility criteria that one must adhere to, in order to be eligible to participate. However, we'll give you a quick lowdown on the most important ones.
Age of dogs — nearly all associations agree on allowing a weight-pulling dog in the activity only when he or she is older than 9/12 months of age.
Gender of dogs — usually, bitches are not allowed to compete, this is a male-only competition. Even if some associations may allow females to participate, a nursing or pregnant bitch is never allowed. During the contest, bitches are not even allowed on the premises.
Training devices — no participant is allowed to wear any type of training device (including the likes of a pinch or choke collar) when pulling.
Pulling action — the weight is pulled for a distance of 16 feet and for no more than 60 seconds. Specifications also state that the dogs must not be overworked and can only practice weight pulling four times a week.
Animal abuse — almost all associations have strict rules regarding animal abuse. Being found guilty of abusing the dogs, even verbally, will result in immediate disqualification. Not only that, some organizations like the AKC even prod the matter further to check if the said person is fit to be a pet owner or not.
Allowed breeds — AKC has gone to the extent of laxing up its rules and even allowing mixed-breeds to participate in dog weight pulling contests, provided they meet the physical criteria.
Allowed equipment — each kennel club, organizer, and weight pulling authority has its specific demand for the kind of equipment allowed in the competition. The general rule of dog weight pulling equipment is that it should either have a wood or a metal framing. It would usually not exceed 18 inches in height and also be capable enough of holding a 5000-pound load.
Amongst other things, the ropes used to tether the dog also has its own specifications and so does the harness. These vary depending on the category your dog competes in, as well as the surface it will be pulling on.
What are the best dog breeds for weight pulling?
Dog weight pulling may be an internationally recognized sport but that doesn't make it any less dangerous. It is the canine equivalent of a weight lifting championship in the human world — not everyone can do it!
Canine weight pull needs years of practice and training. Only dogs with a certain kind of built are able to enter in such contests. They must carry a sturdy and strong built, with a solid back, and firm legs to be able to pull such large weights safely.
Weight pulling dogs will face a lot of tension and stress on their muscles and joints so the right kind of breed would be one that is known for having strong joints. Dogs breeds prone to conditions like dysplasia and arthritis must steer clear of these contests. Here's a look at some dogs breeds that are good choices for weight pulling contests.
The American Bully, though known to be aggressive, is also pretty trainable and can be taught to pull weights equivalent to its own weight. They have family dogs and love to laze, so that might pose a problem. However, since their descendants are no other than the pit bulls, this softer, milder breed has imbibed a lot of functional traits from their ancestors (pit bulls, mastiffs, bulldogs).
Wide-set shoulders, a straight back and short but firm legs, American Bullies are excellent choices for dog weight pulling contests. They are known to suffer from eye problems but their joints and muscles are as strong as ever.
American Pit Bull Terrier
The medium-sized built completely hides the super sturdy, solid body that the American Pit Bull Terrier flaunts. With squared shoulders and a slick back, it was never a surprise that American Pit Bull Terriers were amongst the purest of breeds.
The APBT has a certain confidence about itself, which speaks volumes already. The only problem really with this breed is that they are prone to hip dysplasia, which is why breeders and owners of American Pit Bull Terriers must be extra careful with the dog weight pulling equipment. Other than that, they're a good fit for the contest as well.
The American Bulldog has been identified as a utility breed and working dog breed, a long time ago. It is due to such working dog breeds that the contest was started in the first place. American Bulldogs are strong looking dogs, with large heads, focused and intelligent eyes, muscular build, and very strong legs. They are highly active, making them a great fit for dog weight pulling activities. The activities are done so that such highly active, utility dogs can vent their energies out. This breed, too, is prone to suffering from dysplasia and even other bone related issues. But that hasn't deterred them from being champions at dog weight pulling.
Olde English Bulldogge
The Olde English Bulldogge may look lazy but its looks cannot be more misleading. It was created decades ago by a gentleman, David Leavitt, to come up with a healthy version of the English bulldog. By healthy, read a Bulldog that is able to work and breathe without a problem.
Medium-sized sturdy dog, with a load of muscle power and the agility of a cat, the Olde English Bulldogge is the right breed for a dog weight pulling contest. Another important feature is that it has a perfectly proportioned body, making the weight distribute itself equally overall. The Olde English Bulldogge can pull with its entire body structure.
Like other dog breeds, hip dysplasia is a concern for this breed as well, but it isn't a deterring factor at all.
Who knew that these giant fluff balls hide underneath their adorable looks — a body made of steel. They were originally used as freight dogs making them beyond perfect for dog weight pulling.
Weight pull championships could be considered a modern version of freight and sleigh pulling. Both of which the Alaskan Malamute's ancestors have been doing to the perfection for centuries. Malamutes are bred for their strength, agility, and endurance. All three factors that one would need in the highest spheres of weight pulling championships! They are also highly trainable and can answer and adhere to their trainer's calls, which works in their favor for such contests.
While hip dysplasia and cataracts are common concerns amongst all Alaskan Malamutes, it has never prevented them from pulling sleighs and carts in the snowy mountains ever.
Yet another weight pulling dog, with an ancestral heritage of pulling sleighs, the Siberian Husky is one of its kind. It's strong muscular built and keen, curious eyes make it a probable winning candidate for a championship like a dog weight pulling.
Also a working dog, Siberian Huskies are known to display a great amount of patience and fortitude even in the harshest of conditions. Pulling the equivalent of their own weight, under proper supervision, would barely ever do them harm. The Siberian Husky is closely related in blood and genes with Alaskan Malamutes.
What weight pulling equipment is needed?
To be able to have your dog pull weights, you will need a few items including a special harness built for weight pulling, a durable cart or sled with wood or metal framing, some strong ropes, and some weights (either bricks or concrete).
In order to train a dog, a lot more equipment may be needed from resistance bands to hydrotherapy equipment. Indeed, while the actual events require little equipment, training and recovery require elite athlete machinery and nutrition.
Weight pulling is serious business and one must be very careful of the kind of equipment that one gets for the dogs. If the harness or the ropes are not good quality, they may damage the dog physically forever. Frequently assessing the dog with a vet is a must.
Special dog weight pulling harnesses are available online and even retailed out at most pet stores. Get one that gives the dog's body maximum support. Select the right one, keeping in mind the size of your dog.
Ideally, you could also try and get a custom-made harness for your dog, but mind you, those will be expensive (upwards of $100). A walking harness will never be suitable, so be mindful of that and set aside a considerable amount of time and money to find the right and most comfortable harness for your dog.
Look for a softer comfortable material and make sure that the harness spreads the weight out evenly on the dog.
Sled or cart
If your dog weight-pulling contest is happening on a snowy surface, you will need a sled. In case of grass or a mud surface, a cart will do. The vehicle needs to be intact and in shipshape apart from other things. It needs to have a sturdy metal frame (or wood) and has to be wide enough to carry the weight blocks. It needs to be durable enough to carry all that load and not break halfway (typically it should be able to carry a load of 5000 pounds).
Amongst other things, the sled you select must not allow the weights to slip and fall on the dog. The vehicle must also have two axles and four tires, with enough room for one extra tire. The size specifications of the cart or sled are a minimum of 13 inches and a maximum of 18 inches only. When buying a cart, always ensure that the pressure is the same on all four tires.
The lead rope is the rope to tether your dog to the cart carrying weights. It is the medium through which the dog will pull the cart. It is tethered to the dog's harness on one end, while the other end is attached to the cart carrying your weights.
Goes without saying that the rope needs to be sturdy, made from excellent quality material. It must be between six and seven inches long. Not shorter than six, not longer than seven. The rules for the rope are simple — no metal or steel cables are allowed. The only metal that is actually compulsory is on the rings that attach to the cart. The rope also, obviously, has to be knot-free.
You will need the right kind of weights, as per the category of your dog. Stick to the category that your dog has been selected to compete in, strictly. With weights, you also want to be careful about getting the right kind, not something that will topple over or move. But bricks, cement bags, gym weights, and the likes will all stay put without any effort.
Snow, grass, mud are all acceptable tracks, Make sure you install the right kind at home and have it appropriately weighed in by a professional. You also want to have the surface as flat as possible to avoid any inclination that would help or penalize your dog during the training.
Is weight pulling dangerous for dogs?
The entire canine community is divided on whether weight pulling is bad for a dog's health or not. There are those who believe (and have a valid point) about how weight pulling can seriously or even fatally injure a dog's back. Most dogs usually suffer from joint or muscle issues like dysplasia and activity as strenuous as weight pulling can jeopardize their health.
However, there are also those who believe that weight pulling was one of the things that dogs were bred for, at least some dogs in the olden days. Freight dogs were bred so that they could pull sleighs and cargo over snow. In the modern day, weight pulling helps dogs calm down, vent out their pent up energy and also create a stronger dog-owner bond, Weight pulling, by way of extreme exercise, helps an aggressive dog vent out, thus calming him to a great extent.
While weight pulling in itself, when done formally with complete rules and proper supervision, isn't dangerous it is a fine line. It can turn fatal or excruciatingly bad for the dog if proper care, training, diet, and supervision aren't provided. Most injuries noted to happen, are when owners don't care about the dogs and only care about winning.
What diet do weight pulling dogs require?
A weight pulling dog should be fed a protein-heavy diet, that will help build muscle. Including complex carbs like grains, in little to moderate, quantities will help keep up the energy levels. Essential fatty oil available from eating fish, coconut, peanuts, etc. can be fed, to steer clear of joint and skin disorders. Homemade whey protein is an excellent choice to up the protein ante loads better than kibble.
A dog's weight and health should be very closely monitored if he is going to be pulling weight. Most athletic dog breeds are already well built and are guided by their natural instincts. However, one must be very cautious about what they are fed and in what quantities.
How do weight-pulling dogs train?
The diet and training regimen of a weight pulling dog depends on the level at which the dog wants to compete. For some elite dogs within the weight pull world, training occurs daily for hours at a time. For occasional and hobby participant, a weekly session can be enough.
Stamina, power, speed, and explosiveness are extremely important in this all-encompassing canine sport. The training program should include modules that target each facet of the sport. Recovery is extremely important in order to favor muscle growth.
First things first, get your dog trained and accustomed to wearing a harness. Dogs need to be ultra-comfortable in a weight pulling harness to move any further.
Get a comfortable and professional weight pulling harness right from when you start to train them. Different people have different ways of training their dogs to pull weights. Some even go rollerblading or bicycling, tethering the ropes to their own cycle to control their movement.
The clicker is just to give your dog a cue. In a dog weight pulling championship, owners are not allowed to make physical contact with their dogs. The clicker the best way to teach your dog how to communicate without verbal orders.
Your dog will have to train on various surfaces; snow, mud, and grass, to be able to participate in a weight pulling contest. They are expected to lug a whole lot of weight across a distance, walking on a foreign surface. Get your dog used to walking, running, playing on them.
Remember that different grasses can have a different texture and depth. Not every mud is the same. Snow is the worst for most dogs as it is not just about the floor texture, it is also the cold, and the paws being more sensitive.
To break the world of weight pulling to your dog, start small. Put a weight harness on your pooch to accustom your dog to the idea of weights that are heavier from their own body weight. Slowly, instead of the vest, trainers and supervisors will take to heavyweights to introduce the dog to weight pulling. Don't invest in the full equipment at first — work on the endurance of your dog as well as the obedience!
It will take years to build a champion but once you get the recipe, you will be able to replicate it with ease. Learn how to spot potential champions in litters of the specific weight pulling dog breeds. While training is what makes a champion, you can make your task easier by picking a puppy that shows the desired physical attributes for the sport.