How Do I Train My Dog to Be a Sled Dog?
by Steffi Trott, 6/01/21
(click on photo for larger view)
When it’s cold and snowy, there’s nothing more fun than enjoying the outdoors with your best four-legged friend. Not all dogs have to just go on walks in the snow though - a large variety of pups can actually be taught to become a sled dog and pull you on a sleigh or skis. The training process is not that hard once you know what you need to do. Let’s look at how you can train your pup to become a sled dog!
Have the right dog for the job
Choosing the right harness It is crucial to pick a sled dog harness for training your dog to pull. You should never ask your dog to pull you on a flat collar or a regular harness. The weight distribution on these makes pulling very uncomfortable for your dog.
Start slow You can start the sled dog training by putting the harness on your dog and taking him for a regular walk in it. This serves the purpose of getting him used to the new equipment and showing him that it is comfortable and fun. Even if you are very tempted, do not let your dog pull you on that harness during your very first training session.
First time pulling Give a helper a handful of your dog’s favorite treats. Put the harness on your dog, attach a line to it and hold that line yourself. Now have the helper entice your dog with the treats and call him. As your dog wants to walk towards the helper to get his food, you pull back just a little bit on the line attached to his harness. It is important to make this a gentle and soft pull - do not yank on the line. We want the dog to learn that even if there is slight resistance, he can still reach his goal by pulling against the restraint.
Advancing pulling practice Aim to practice with a helper like this about 2-3 times a week, with increasing distances and increasing resistance. You can now also switch to being on a sled yourself with the dog attached to it. Start to introduce a command such as “Go!” to the moment at which the dog starts pulling you.
Starting real sled dog outings If you are happy with your dog’s performance in training and he responds well to the “Go!” command, you can now try out his new skill on an actual trail! Do not choose a long or difficult path for his first time. Instead, stick to a short, wide and flat path. You can always make it longer and more complicated later on. Put the harness on your pup, attach him to the sleigh and give him his go command - and enjoy the ride!
Increasing difficulty and distance As your pup’s endurance and confidence grows, you can make the trips longer and more difficult. Use trails that have turns and intersections so that you can practice your directionals. Once dogs are running regularly in front of the sled, their fitness increases very quickly and they can easily build up to 10 miles runs.
Caloric needs of a sled dog Keep in mind that you are drastically increasing the amount of exercise your dog gets, and with this his caloric needs grow. The more often you take your dog out on a trail and the further he pulls you, the more food he will need. Some owners find they have to double or even triple their dog’s meals once they become serious about the sled dog training. Make sure to keep your dog well-nourished and provide the best nutrition for your canine athlete.
The bottom line Sled dog training is not too difficult if you follow the right approach. Even though it’s usually recommended to start training your puppy after 6 months, do not start this process as they are not physically fit for the task. Sames goes for senior dogs. Only medium to large adult dogs should be trained as sled dogs.
Copyright © 1997-2020, Sled
Dog Central, all rights reserved.
Sled Dog Central is a subsidiary of Vega Discoveries, LLC
No portion of this site may be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.
All materials appearing on this site, including the text, site design, logos, graphics, icons, and images, as well as the selection, assembly and arrangement thereof, are the sole property of Sled Dog Central.