What You Need to Know About Dog Pulling Sports

Dog pulling has been around almost as long as dogs and humans have been companions. The shape of the sport today is much different than how it looked around 9000 years ago. Here’s what you need to know about dog pulling sports.

What is Dog Pulling?

Normally when we talk about a dog pulling, it’s an unwanted behavior on leash. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Dog pulling is a set of dog sports that simply involves a dog pulling weight with the aid of a harness.

The kind of load a dog might pull changes based on the exact form of pulling we’re talking about as well. There is simple pulling where a dog or a few dogs might pull a person on a sled or in a cart. A dog might simply pull weight as well.

Take a look below for more specific information about the different forms of dog pulling.

Different Forms of Dog Pulling

Because dog pulling has been done in many different climates and terrains, people have developed many different forms of dog pulling. These forms include:

  • Bikejoring – A non-snow season activity where a dog or group of dogs pull a person riding a bicycle.
  • Canicross – An activity where a dog or group of dogs is attached to a runner.
  • Carting – Sometimes called dryland mushing, this is where a dog or group of dogs pulls a cart with supplies or even a person.
  • Dog Scootering – Like mushing, a dog pulls a human riding a non-powered scooter.
  • Mushing – A mode of transport where a dog or group of dogs pull a sled through snow. The sled can contain supplies or a person.
  • Skijoring – A sport where a dog pulls a person on sleds.
  • Sled Dog Racing – Similar to mushing, though in this case the idea is to complete a certain course in a given amount of time.
  • Weight Pulling – A dog sport that involves a dog pulling a cart of sled that has been loaded with weight.

Equipment Needed for Dog Pulling

In order to safely participate in dog pulling, there are a few pieces of equipment that are vital to have. The most important pieces of equipment to have are the pulling harness and what’s called a trace. The harness really is the most vital piece of equipment to have if you are considering dog pulling. A normal dog harness that you would walk your dog with will not suffice in pulling and will likely lead to injury.

Harnesses made for dog pulling are specially designed to go over the dog’s shoulder, around their underside and cross over the back. This special design allows for a comfortable fit and it allows the weight being pulled to be distributed evenly around the body. Using any other kind of harness will likely lead to injuries or choking.

The trace is what connects the dog’s harness to the cart or sled they are pulling. It connects to the dog’s harness on both sides of the dog and is specially adjusted for each different cart they might pull. Traces allow the dog freedom of movement while still securely connecting them with the cart.

Aside from these pieces of safety equipment, there are many different styles of carts, leashes and collars that are often used in pulling.

Controversy with Weight Pulling

When it comes to dog weight pulling, people are divided. Competitive weight pulling has been compared to strongman competitions or tractor pulling. That is, only the toughest and strongest dogs are able to compete. The downside is that the activity is exhausting.

Because weight pulling is so exhausting, some people say that it is more akin to animal abuse than sport. An additional worry is that pulling thousands of pounds at a time could lead to injuries like muscle tears or joint damage.

But proponents argue that dog pulling actually allows many dogs to have a second chance at life. Many people get dogs and do not consider the exercise requirements those dogs will have. The American Pilling Dogs Association (APDA) writes on their website:

“In the light of the changes over the last 40 years in our lifestyle, culture, personal activity levels and the lack of time available in working households, we see more and more dogs who have an exercise requirement that is difficult for some owners to fulfill, which can lead to various issues.”

The APDA suggests that allowing these dogs who would become harmful to their owners, themselves or other dogs and outlet for their energy will keep them out of shelters or stop them from being euthanized.

While having a dog pull up to 5000 pounds might seem cruel or dangerous, it is important to note that since the formation of the International Weight Pulling Association in 1984, no dogs have been injured in competition.

Dog pulling is a sport that has fallen out of popularity today other than for hobbyists. However, if you have a dog with an incredible amount of energy, pulling might be a great way to help them calm themselves.

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