Sled dogs are an amazing breed with their strength and agility that make them ideal for pulling sleds through snow. Many people believe that these dogs have an innate ability to pull sleds, but it is far from the truth. Training and preparation go into making dogs adept at sled pulling for both fun and competition purposes. If you have a sled dog breed and would like to train them to pull a sled, here are some tips and tricks you need to know.
1. Acclimate Your Dog
It’s essential to make your dog comfortable with the sled-pulling setup. Acclimation should start when your dog is around ten weeks old. You need to allow your dog to interact with the equipment, sniff around and touch it while wearing the pulling harness. This is a critical stage, and you should ensure that your dog becomes comfortable with the harness as it differs from the leash-walking harness.
2. Ensure Proper Harness Fit
One fundamental requirement in sled pulling is the correct harness fit for your dog. Ill-fitting harnesses can expose your pet to injuries and cause discomfort and pain when pulling. Always consult a professional if you’re unsure how to fit a sled harness for your dog.
3. Start in Fall
If you have northern breed dogs, it’s best to start training when the weather is cool. Your dog will tire out quickly and is susceptible to heatstroke or death when trained when temperatures are high. Starting in the fall when your dog is in their prime condition will help set the training up for a successful outcome.
4. Start Slow
Training a sled dog requires patience and persistence, and starting slow is essential for success. Your dog cannot pull a sled for a mile on its first day, and therefore, you need to increase the distance gradually. Additionally, allow your dog to rest and recuperate between training sessions by running or pulling the sled three times a week. You can increase the distance and time spent on every session by approximately 25% weekly.
5. Partner Your Dog Appropriately
Sled pulling requires teamwork, and it’s essential to partner your dog with another dog they get along with. Partnering with an experienced dog who can lead and guide your dog through training is the best way to achieve this. This approach will keep your dog in line and improve cooperation and strategy during pulling.
6. Provide Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is vital in sled-pulling training to help build your dog’s confidence and self-esteem. It’s important to reward your dog for good behavior with treats, praise, and attention. Positive reinforcement during training will encourage your dog to continue exhibiting good behavior.
7. Weight Should Be Appropriate
Start small with the weight when training your sled dog, and gradually increase the weight as your pet grows stronger and more confident. Your dog should start with a weight they can easily pull, and avoid overworking your dog as it can cause injuries.
8. Let Your Dog “Catch” You
Some dogs might not understand sled pulling initially, leaving you frustrated during training. To start your dog’s training, allow your dog to catch the sled or team in front of them. This exercise helps the dog understand they should move forward, especially if they are not northern breed dogs that instinctively pull.
9. Teach Them to Stop
Teaching your dog to stop is vital for safety during sled-pulling. It’s crucial to teach your dog when to stop pulling even when it receives a command from you. This training can be achieved by consistently working with your dog during training until they respond optimally.
10. Teach Commands
It’s essential to teach your dog basic sled-pulling commands, including turning left and right, slowing down, moving over on the path, turning around, and leaving something alone. These essential skills are critical to the success of team-pull dog training.
Training your sled dog can be a rewarding experience, and it’s crucial to prioritize safety throughout the process. Using these ten tips and tricks to train your sled dog will help you prepare your dog for sled pulling, whether it’s for fun or competition. Remember to take things slow and provide positive reinforcement to your dog during training to ensure success.