Weight Pull training: Part 2
By Mark Landers
Just to recap where we left off. If you have kept your patience you should be seeing some good results with your “back and fourths” and your drag weight walks. As I write this article, I myself have been working several “new dogs” with good results.
Before going into the carting of your dog, let me talk a little about an important subject – good socialization, as it relates to your pull dog training. With special emphasis on your puppy or young dog. You need to be going to different places to pull your dog. You see, the dog that has spent several months pulling in his yard or turf, with no distractions, looks great. But, take him in front of a hundred people and a bunch of strange dogs and you may think all your hours of training have been a waste of time!
The key here is again, small steps. Try going to your neighborhood park or school. Somewhere that has a natural surface (grass, dirt). Practice your back and fourths. Make sure there is not too much excitement at first. A park is good on a weekday, when there is not much going on. At this time you should be able to correct any major problems that your dog might be having. Again, take it slow and easy. Use lighter loads than you would in your yard. This will help build your dog’s confidence in the new environment. Keep your leash on the dog, or at least in your hand!
One more thing that does not relate to weight pull training, but might help you. People in public tend to be very passionate about things, especially animals. If they have never seen a dog weight pull, they may think you are “killing” your poor dog. These are the same people who keep their dogs chained in the backyard. Except to feed them and kick them out of the lawnmower’s path, they do nothing with them. Patience and communication is the key here. Just explain what you and your dog are training for. You will probably still get some negative reactions. But, as long as you are not dragging your dog around by his neck, the person with average intelligence will see that the dog is ‘doing something of it’s own free will, and having fun!
One advantage is that there are several novice and amateur pulls. You can make these pulls more of a learning experience than a real competition. I also have friends with cart systems set up. We take turns going back and forth to each others house to pull.
Cart training the first thing we should talk about is a cart! Something as simple as a child’s wagon might do. If you are serious and plan a future in weight pulling, you need to invest in a decent cart or track system. The cart I had made is 3 feet by 6 feet, with rubber boat trailer tires. Each axle is tested to 2,000 lbs, giving me an 8,000 lb maximum load, which is way more than any dog will ever pull on a rubber tired cart. I went with painted steel so it can take the weather, but good treated wood should work fine. There are pull hooks on both ends, so it can pull in either direction. I chose a wheeled cart over a rail system. I did this because there are more IWPA pulls inColorado than there are ADBA. (IWPA pulls on wheels; ADBA on rails). Also, you don’t need as much weight for a wheeled cart as you do with a rail system.
Weights for weight on my cart, I use traction sand bags. The kind you put in your trunk in the winter time. They come in 50 lb and 70 lb bags. The bags themselves are made of a thick plastic and are pretty durable. I would still suggest you cover them or store them out of the weather. I’ve had mine for 4 years now and only lose one periodically when a seam breaks.
Pulling surface – as far as surfaces go, I like to pull on carpet. The house I just sold had an unfinished basement, so I laid carpet over the cement and pulled on that. My wife and I have recently bought a new place with 3 acres as to expand my kennels. I now have no basement, so I’ve laid a strip of concrete in front of my garage. I can pull 20 feet in my garage and another 20 feet out. The distance you need to pull in competition is 16 feet, but in training I always have my dogs pull the cart 20-30 feet. I have a piece of short shag carpet, 10 x 40 feet. I just roll it out over the cement. I like the shag to be as short as possible, even slippery. This teaches the dog to dig. If you go from short to long shag at competition time, no big deal. The better for you. Going from long to short shag could be disastrous!
If you are going to train on carpet, I recommend you let your dog get the feel of the new surface. Let him do his back and fourths with drag weights on the carpet. I sometimes take as much as a week to introduce a puppy to carpet. Remember, take everything step by step.
After several days of back and fourths on the carpet, it is time to drop the drag weights and hook up the cart. You need to have another person help you by holding the cart. The last thing you need now is to have the cart smashing into your systematically trained dog, and scaring the bejesus out of him! Make sure the cart handler is informed on what to do. A dog capable of dragging 50 lbs for a mile can fly with most unloaded carts.
We are not testing his strength here, merely getting him familiar with the cart. I recommend you put a leash on your dog and stand with him at your side. Give him his command and walk forward. If he bolts or tries to turn around, just reassure him by controlling him with the leash, and giving a lot of praise. I also treat him with a piece of food. If everything has been laid out properly in your training, the cart should be no big problem. But do go slow! I would not try to have him pull the cart with you too far away. Keep him at your side for several days, or at least until he stops looking behind him to see what’s there.
When the dog starts to pull just by his command, take the leash off. Stay at his side and give him a lot of praise. The cart pulls differently than the drag weights, so if your dog’s style appears to regress some, don’t worry. By keeping the weight light, he should pull the cart like a champ after a very short time. Go no more than 10-15 pulls. The first few days always keep it fun. A lot of praise and treats. Make sure he pulls the cart 20-30 feet each time. If he can pull the cart in both directions, even better.
Your attachments to the cart, your trailers, should be 2 1/2 3 1/2 feet long. I like to start my dog at the end of the line. No slack. A good wheeled cart does not need a bounce start. He should lean into the weight and use his strength to start it.
As far as weight increments go, it all depends on how easy your dog pulls the empty cart. It is still important to go easy with the weight. The first few weeks of cart training you can pull every day, 10-15 pulls. Just letting your dog get the feel of it.
Once the dog is pulling the cart, a schedule of once or twice a week is advisable. Increase weight in small increments. Say your dog pulls the cart with great ease, add 140 lbs and let him pull it twice. Read your dog’s effort. Easy, hard? Go up like this 4 or 5 times. Make sure you know your dog’s personal best and don’t exceed it by a wide margin.
Let me stop here and say, you should still be working your dog on his drag weights at least 2-3 times a week. Drag at least 1/2 to 1 mile. Add weight not to exceed over 25% of the dog’s body weight.
Here is an example of a cart workout
50% of max 4 times – 30 seconds between pulls
70% of max 4 times – 60 seconds between pulls
80% of max 4 times – 2 minutes between pulls
85-90% of max 2 times 2-3 minutes between pulls
Never pull a maximum load more than every 3-4 weeks. A cool down of 4-6 pull, 50% of max can be used.
Make your dog’s pull time fun. Use your treats and praise. You can now start weaning him off treats by giving one every other pull, every third pull, every fourth and so on. Be patient and try not to get mad. Your buddy will sense it! Have fun.
The former and this article have been general. I’ve tried to explain the way I train by dogs. It has been general to say the least, but I hope informative. You and your dog pulling heavy weights as a team takes dedication and work. The public will look at you and your bulldog in a positive way!