A Quick Guide to Pulling Dog Sports
For those unfamiliar with dog sports, the concept of using a dog as a partner to pull things may seem odd. The truth is that pulling events are thriving parts of many dog sports today and can provide a challenging activity for any dog. Pulling sports combine basic training exercises such as heeling and obstacle course work, with the added challenge of weight pulling. This makes for a very physically and mentally demanding event, one that is interesting enough to keep both dog and handler interested in training.
While any dog can participate in pulling exercises, the best dog breeds for pulling sports are high-energy and strong. Smaller breeds will often compete in teams, whereas larger dogs may be part of a team or work by themselves alongside their handlers.
Some of the most popular pulling dog sports include:
- Dog scootering
- Sled dog racing
- Weight pulling
What is Bikejoring?
Bikejoring is a pulling sport in which the dog and handler use a bike as part of the event. Like skijoring, canicross, and dog scootering, bikejoring is one of those sports that can be done for fun or on a competitive level. In order to bikejor, the dog must be taught basic heeling on a leash and on a bike. This is not an easy task as it requires both mental and physical endurance from the dog.
Once the basic heeling on a bike is learned, running next to the bicycle becomes easier and the handler can incorporate pulling into the activity. There are two types of bikejoring, one in which the dog runs freely next to the bike and another that incorporates a tug line between the bike and the dog. The right dog for this event will have an excellent recall, be physically fit, and have good endurance and strong pull.
What is Canicross?
As the name implies, canicross involves cross-country running with a dog. Much like bikejoring and skijoring, the handler wears a harness and uses a tug line in order to control the dog during this activity. The sport of canicross has gained popularity since it works well for athletes who enjoy running with their dogs. For those who enjoy the natural rush of running cross country, with their dog at their side, canicross is a perfect match.
What is Carting?
Carting (also less commonly known as drafting) involves teaching the dog to pull a cart for fun and/or profit! This sport incorporates many basic training exercises such as heeling and obstacle work, while also adding pulling into the mix. Dogs that are good for carting have a high prey drive, enjoy running, and have lots of endurance.
There are two types of dog carting sports:
- Sulky Driving - A single dog or team of dogs pulls a two-wheeled cart (the sulky) with a person riding in it. To counter the weight of the person, the sulky is made of very lightweight materials. Additionally, the most popular model doesn't place weight on the dog's spine. Instead, it has a single shaft hitch that allows for freedom of movement for the dog and has negative weight. The common rule of thumb is the total weight of the sulky and person inside should not exceed three times the weight of the dog.
- Dryland Mushing - The main difference between sulky driving and dryland mushing is the cart is called a dryland rig and it is attached to the dog in the traditional way a sled team is attached to the sled. Also, the rig often has three or four wheels, as opposed to two.
What is Dog Scootering?
While it is still a budding sport and not quite as popular as other pulling sports, scootering is a fun activity in which the handler uses a scooter and a tug line the dog uses to pull. The harness may situate the dog either to the side or in front of the scooter, depending on the need. In order for this sport to be successful, the dog must have a solid heeling foundation and be comfortable running next to the scooter. Most dogs enjoy scootering and it is a great way to exercise your pooch!
What is Mushing?
Mushing is the term most often used to describe a sled dog team, but also as a catch-all for the majority of the other pulling sports. Mushing can either be a competitive sport or a viable transportation method in which the dogs pull a sled or cart of some kind through snow and/or water. In addition to being a high-energy activity, mushing also includes basic mushing commands such as heeling on multiple planes, obstacles, starts, and stops.
What is Skijoring?
Skijoring is the winter version of canicross where instead of running with a dog, an athlete skis alongside her. The handler utilizes a tug line to control the dog during this activity. Just like bikejoring and canicross, the right dog for this event will be one who has excellent recall, endurance, speed, and strength.
What is Sled Dog Racing?
In sled dog racing, a group of dogs pulls a sled or bobsled around a track as fast as they can. The most popular races are the distance races which start out with a single musher and a team of dogs. These races may end up being 10, 20, 50, 100+ miles long depending on the event.
The sport of competitive sled dog racing is gaining popularity throughout North America as well as Europe due to these races along with other regional events. The most popular sled dog race is the Iditarod that begins in Anchorage, Alaska, and ends in Nome. However, there are several other popular races across the United States including the Yukon Quest held between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Canada; Kuskokwim 300 (K-300) held between Bethel and McGrath, Alaska; Copper Basin 300 between Glennallen and Cordova, Alaska; and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon from Duluth to Grand Portage in Minnesota.
What is Weight Pulling?
Weight pulling is a sport much like powerlifting. The dogs are harnessed by their handlers, who encourage them to pull either an empty cart or carts loaded with weights around a specific course as quickly as possible. This activity provides the opportunity for owners to engage in their dog's natural prey drive while also improving the dog's fitness and health.