How to Train Your Dog to Pull a Skateboard

How to Train Your Dog to Pull a Skateboard
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon2-3 Weeks
Fun training category iconFun

Introduction

Do you love to skateboard?  Do you have a dog with lots of energy that loves to work and spend time with you? Why not combine your love of skateboarding with your dog's need for exercise! 

You can teach your dog to pull a skateboard, also called “skatejoring”. Lots of dogs need a way to burn energy off. Sometimes owners cannot provide enough exercise on foot, or some owners may just want to enjoy their skateboarding sport with their dog. By teaching your dog to pull you on your skateboard with a long leash attached to a harness, you can combine skateboarding and walking your dog, and give your dog a job. Dogs love jobs, and pulling a skateboard not only gives your dog a great physical outlet but creates a social interaction between you and your dog, building a team!  Not only that, but it's a great way to get somewhere, and attract a lot of attention.  How often do you see a dog pulling a skateboard!  A real conversation starter.

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Defining Tasks

Skatejoring, or urban mushing, is an activity where your dog pulls a skateboard or scooter with you on board. Many of the training methods and commands are similar to those used to teach dogs to pull sleds. Pulling is good work for dogs, who usually thrive off it, however, making sure your dog is the right size and in adequate physical condition to pull a skateboard is necessary before commencing training. Most dogs over 30 pounds are able to pull a skateboard. Smaller, high energy dogs, working in pairs, may also be able to participate in skatejoring. A young dog may not be adequately physically developed to pull the weight of a person on a skateboard, and this should be considered before training. A harness should be employed in teaching your dog to pull--never let your dog pull from a neck collar! Any breed of dog can learn to pull, although pulling dogs like Huskies and other large working dogs like St. Bernards and Bernese Mountain Dogs are particularly suited. 

In skijoring you will stand on a skateboard, holding a line or lines attached to a harness on your dog and your dog will walk, trot or run, pulling you along at various speeds. Verbal commands to go left, right, forward, faster and stop are recommended to provide control to your dog.

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Getting Started

Since skatejoring has recently become more popular, customized harness equipment for pulling skateboards has become commercially available in large urban centers, or is available online. These harness systems usually allow for a range of motion and have quick release features. Using a custom harness and tagline to teach your dog to pull a skateboard is recommended for your dog's comfort and safety.

Your dog will need good obedience and response to verbal commands, as he will be learning verbal commands specific to pulling a skateboard in order for you to maintain control and direction. It will be important to get your dog used to the skateboard and well adapted to the sights and sounds of the areas he will be pulling you so that an excited or frightened dog does not end up pulling you right off the skateboard!

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The Commands First Method

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1

Reinforce direction commands

Teach verbal commands such as “Gee” (turn right), “Haw” (turn left), “Wait” or “Whoa” (stop), “Easy” (slow), and "Hup Hup" or "Mush" to go forward. Teach these commands when walking your dog on a regular lead line. Get your dog used to wearing his pulling harness at the same time. Use treats to reinforce correct responses.

2

Teach to ignore distractions

Teach your dog to “go on by” to move past distractions while out on walks. Encourage him to ignore distractions and reward for compliance.

3

Line out

Teach your dog to “line out”. Attach one end of the tug line to an immovable object and ask your dog to move out until the line is taut and stop and wait for further directions. Guide your dog and reinforce with treats and praise.

4

Practice dragging

Attach an item for your dog to drag with his harness, such as a small tire or piece of wood, and allow your dog to pull it while you provide verbal commands while walking beside him. Eventually drop back and provide commands while walking behind your dog.

5

Use with skateboard

Step on a skateboard with harness and tuglines attached and provide the established verbal commands.

The Acclimatize Method

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1

Get used to the harness

Put the pulling harness on your dog. Walk him frequently wearing the harness with you walking behind holding using the tuglines.

2

Walk with skateboard

Walk with your dog in a harness while you pull a skateboard behind your dog, or have an assistant skateboard with you while you walk your dog in the harness.

3

Pull empty skateboard

Attach a lead line to the skateboard, without any weight on it, and allow your dog to pull. Practice commands like 'gee', 'haw', 'whoa' and 'easy' while walking with the skateboard.

4

Step on skateboard

Step on the skateboard while holding the tug line. Have your dog line out--move out from the board until line is taut--and wait. Have an assistant walk next to your dog to guide, assist and reassure your dog.

5

Practice moving on skateboard

Ask your dog to move forward with your assistant providing support. Practice gong left, right, stopping, slowing and starting. When your dog is comfortable, start taking your dog solo without assistance.

The Pulling First Method

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Introduce equipment

Put the harness on your dog. Let your dog wear the harness; go for walks and allow your dog to get used to it. Introduce your dog to the skateboard. Use a clicker and provide treats when your dog investigates to create a positive reinforcement.

2

Reinforce pulling a drag

Attach your dog's harness to a drag. Call your dog forward. When he tightens up the lines, click and reinforce with a treat.

3

Increase pulling skills

When your dog pulls the drag forward, just a few steps, click and treat. Continue clicking and treating every few steps, increase how many steps your dog needs to take before being reinforced.

4

Attach skatebaord

Switch the drag item out for the skateboard, and have an assistant kneel or sit on the skateboard, continue clicking and treating to reinforce your dog tightening the lines and then pulling forward a few steps at a time.

5

Stand on board

Gradually have your assistant move to standing and continue reinforcing your dog for pulling the passenger and skateboard. Introduce verbal commands for 'go right', 'left', 'go by', 'stop', 'start', etc. while you walk alongside your dog guiding and reinforcing.

6

Ride the skateboard

Start riding on the skateboard yourself and providing verbal commands to direct your dog pulling the skateboard.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 01/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Captain Woodrow Call

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Weimaraner

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8 Months

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My puppy was born for this! I was struggling to train him to walk without pulling when my son came home from college with his longboard and I thought, "Wow, maybe I should capitalize on his natural instincts!" I didn't know about this site, or skatejoring in general. I just found a comfortable harness and a sturdy, 7-foot leash and conjured up my inner skateboarding youth (I'm 54). Scarcely any initial training was necessary. He seems to know what to do. Runs straight down the right side of the street until his paws get tender/hot, then hops onto the grass but keeps his bearing straight. He used to stop abruptly when he needed to pee/poo/smell/drink, but now he just looks back at me. We started out with just a few blocks every other day, but now we do 1-mile circuit twice a day and he pulls hard the whole time. Our neighborhood has a lot of dog walkers (at least 1 every other block). When Woodrow spots a "bogey", he finds another gear, regardless of how fast we are already going. I used to stop and pick up the board until we passed, but now I use these as a speed "slingshot". I know its probably not the safest idea, but its very fun: I put myself between him and the other dog(s) and pull myself even with him, close enough to grab the harness handle and crouch down alongside him. By holding the handle, I prevent him from running into me or the board. If he curves toward the dog, it is easy to gently lean against him. It seems to be working as now (for the most part) he still builds speed, but he runs straight past (it feels like he's showing off?). We pick up major speed in these encounters (20-25mph). It is a blast, but I've had to tighten my trucks as I picked up a bit of speed wobble road rash. We've been doing this for about 2 months and he's getting freakishly strong and fit. I'm staying on the same circuit, to familiarize and reinforce directional commands. A couple of questions: (1) I'm concerned about your advice to not engage in this until the dog is at least 1 year. We started at 6 months. He weighs 70 pounds, but he looks like he'll put on at least another 15. I weigh 195. Our neighborhood is pancake flat. After we get our initial momentum, there is very little tension in the leash. He seems to really enjoy it (when he's ready to go, he headbutts my phone out of my hand until I take him), but I don't want to cause him any harm. Should I hold off? (2) Skatejoring seems to rile up other dogs a lot more than just regular walking/jogging. Some of the dogs we pass REALLY FREAK. Is this normal? Its usually larger dogs. They jump/rear up and pull aggressively against their leashes. I figure they just have a pulling nature and want to join us. Woodrow's hackles don't rise, so I'm guessing its a friendly response, but I don't know. I fear some of the owners are getting pissed at me. A few of the regulars have taken to seeking shelter up the nearest driveway when they see us coming. I try to give them a friendly wave, but don't always get one in response. I'm thinking about stopping and engaging these neighbors to diffuse the situation. Advice?

Aug. 16, 2021

Captain Woodrow Call's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, First of all, that sounds like a blast! Second, I would speak to your vet about pup's age and concerns with his level of activity. Generally the one year rule is because most dog's growth plates have not closed until then, so the risk of injury is greater to developing bones and joints. The amount of impact while running straight may or may not be a concern for your dog though; jumping usually poses the biggest risk with that rule. Each breed does tend to mature at its own rate compared to breeds of other sizes too, so your vet may also have a better idea of when pup should be safe with their own growth rate. I am not a vet, so can't advise specifically. It's worth having that conversation with your vet though. Third, when you are passing other dogs so quickly, you are probably encouraging their prey drive and chase instinct due to how fast you are moving. Think of it like a horse running past them or if they have never seen a bike, having a bike whiz by. It's not uncommon for a dog to react to something like that because it's so unusual and new to them and because you are going so fast. I think having some conversations with neighbors would be a great idea on your part. It never hurts to err on the side of honoring neighbors and keeping conversations open. I also hope you don't give up on the fun entirely though. You may find that you need to teach pup to slow down when approaching others, spend intentional time helping owners desensitize their dogs to you passing if they wish, by letting them practice heeling their dogs while you go past at slower speeds at first, repetitively, then increase the speed gradually as their dogs improve and they reward them for staying focused on their owners, to help their dogs become desensitized to it; especially with the dogs who tend to walk at the same time of day as your skijoring, if you find them to be the same people and dogs you are passing. If you can't work it out with neighbors, perhaps look for areas close by you can drive to with pup to practice, maybe even somewhere that you can be on the main road in neighborhoods or backroads clear of cars, paved bike trails, parks, skateparks, open service roads, ect... I would follow the same rules expected of a bike in your case, while still being careful yourself of cars and pedestrians. At the speeds you are going at, look into where the road bikers in your area are riding safely. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 17, 2021

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Doc

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Labrador Retriever

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3 Months

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My dog doesn't know right, left, or any other direction to go when I say. How would I go about teaching that.

Nov. 22, 2020

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Josie, Check out the article linked below and the section on turning commands. https://dogs.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Sled_Dog_Training Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 24, 2020


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