To Pull Or Not To Pull

By: Ashley Sculac

Until the last few months, I’ve been a huge believer in every dog should do weight pull. I pushed for it, advocated, and believed it…to my very core. I saw such great results with my own dogs and the dogs I helped coach, that I thought it foolish that other dogs and owners shouldn’t be reaping the benefits of such a great sport.

I still do believe that the competitive aspect of weight pull for dogs can be a great constructive healthy outlet, a way to help modify troublesome behavior, and a beneficial part of an exercise regimen to help balance a healthy lifestyle. Next Level Dogs just hosted their first GRC competition for all dogs, which even includes a weight pull competition.

Why would I even partake in an event if I no longer believe that every dog should do weight pull? Why the sudden change in my thinking and thought process? Why would I retract my beliefs after I started a weight pull club and participated in several competitions myself?

It’s important to me to always be in search of better ways to do things or help educate better. The thing that I failed to do as a coach, “trainer”, and educator of the sport I love…..is to convey the correct message. It is true that I enjoy the competitive side of weight pull, the part most fanciers of the sport fall in love with first. Those images of their dog pulling heavy weight on a cart down a chute is what people become drawn to. They shoot for personal bests, records to beat the previous year, and ribbons and trophies to gloat.

It is a blast, I’ve fallen victim to it myself! After much thought and the constant critiquing of my own teaching skills, I’m now changing things up a bit…OK, a lot.

I think every dog should do drag work……NOT weight pull.

We live in a society that is always searching for instant gratification. We want results, and quickly. Our patience is thin and often hurried. I see the same things in the sport of weight pull as I do in the Academics I teach on a college level or even in the other sports I participate in myself. It is no different in dogs.

Most people get a dog and put a few months, maybe only weeks, of drag work and/or resistance training into he or she….and then turn them loose on a giant cart. Some clubs that I’ve come across don’t even recommend their dogs do drag or even teach HOW! They show up for weight pull class, and immediately get put on a cart (which weighs a decent amount don’t forget). They get to see the “final” picture without putting any preparation work into it.

Clubs have their own loaner harnesses, which I also think is a bad idea for helping owners to understand the dedication it takes to invest into this sport properly. Why would I buy my own if I get to borrow one anytime I want to practice my max effort work and pull on a heavy cart?

No one would expect your personal trainer to let you start bench-pressing 200 lbs for your first day in the gym, if you had never even done 50lbs. Your mind and body are not acclimated. If I wanted to enter a competition in Powerlifting, I don’t plan on walking out and trying to deadlift 300lbs on my first time out. That would be stupid, of both my trainer/coach and myself. Injury and self-doubt are looming.

So, what makes it OK for dogs, why are they exempt from this approach? Remember the part where I said, we want instant gratification? Cue that statement right here…….

Here at Next Level Dogs,we focus on teaching dogs and their people. We enjoy educating and advocating. We’ve been changing some things up and in true NLD style, we are pushing for betterment with our dog training. We recently started working on another project that will hopefully remove the competition for both dogs and people and allow for more rehabilitation work to be done with the use of drag and resistance work. It is important and it honestly should never stop being used for both beginners AND advanced weight pullers.

It’s truthfully the foundation, and you can’t get very far without a solid foundation. That is true with ALL of dog training and dog sports. Many elite weight pull dogs and their handlers may vary in the process but….after interviewing quite a few reputable sources and those who have been in this for a while–they all agree. Drag work is key.

Competition is not.

Every dog shouldn’t be doing max effort work every time you step onto the chute—so stop with the club harnesses. It’s a great advertisement strategy but you aren’t loaning any commitment to their dog or time invested. You aren’t truly helping those dogs live longer healthier lives by allowing them to show up once a week and practice pulling weight they aren’t accustomed to.

I’ve changed my mind about weight pull….ok, maybe a lot.

Every dog doesn’t need to compete. Or do Max Effort work.

Every dog should utilize drag work/resistance work.

Stay tuned in for more information about the new program coming to Next Level Dogs!

Comments 2

  1. Sonya Markham

    LOVE this! Daisy enjoys drag work….. she doesn’t seem to enjoy ‘weight pull’, and, honestly, I don’t enjoy that, either!
    Thank you for this, Ashley!!!

  2. Mark McCabe

    Great article Ashley! I love your comparison to a human just walking into a power lifting comp without serious, or any, training.

    I love that that awareness has led to the decision to not have a loaner harness at competitions. I hope, as the sport grows, that that will be a part of the rules, not just a good decision made by your club at your events!

    🙂 Mark

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