How to Train a Husky Puppy to Pull a Sled

How to Train a Husky Puppy to Pull a Sled
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Time icon6-12 Months
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Introduction

In the snowiest of climates, dog owners must still find ways to keep their dogs fit and active. While many dogs prefer the warmth of the fireplace in the winter, still others thrive in the cold environment, relishing the cooling bliss of snow and ice along the ground. For most people, the breed that springs to mind is the Siberian Husky, among other winter-bred dogs. However, the Husky remains one of the more famous breeds with some of its members starring in Hollywood in movies like Balto, Eight Below, and Snow Dogs.

The one thing that many of these famous dogs have in common is their ability to lead the charge on sled teams, pulling their handler along the frozen ground for miles at a time. Huskies are proven to be one of the best breeds for sled pulling and the ideal dog for sled pulling in the snow. But while Huskies are bred to be pulling champions, they still require training, often from very early on when they are still puppies.

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Defining Tasks

Sled pulling is not something that a Husky can do right from the get-go. Like any major sport or job that a dog participates in, there must be training that can prepare them for the physical requirements that the job entails. For sled pulling, dogs must be physically fit enough to be able to pull the average sized human along with the sled they ride on, while maintaining formation if they are within a sled dog team.

Training sled dogs begins with leash training and then requires a proper pulling harness to be fitted. From there, a Husky puppy will go through weight training until he can reasonably be expected to pull a person on a sled, though, this usually doesn’t happen until the dog is full grown in order to reduce stress on growing joints and muscles. Sled training is a process and not one that can be easily skipped. Consider that you may spend up to a year training your puppy for true sled pulling.

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Getting Started

Before anything else, be sure that your puppy is cleared by a veterinarian to begin training. He should be vaccinated and in good health. If he is sick or injured, training should not begin until he is fully recovered.

You’ll need to invest in several items for sled training. First, is a leash harness that is used for walking as normal. A sturdy leash is also necessary. Second is a pull harness, which is specially made for dogs who pull objects. These two types of harnesses are NOT the same. Be sure you are looking for the right items when purchasing them. Other items that are necessary include a sled and treats or toys to use as rewards during training.

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The Leash Method

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1

Find a well fitted harness

Harnesses made for leashes are widely available in every pet store. Be sure to choose one that provides comfort, visibility, and support. A walking harness should not be too tight or too loose.

2

Go for a walk

With the leash fixed properly to the harness, take your puppy for a walk regularly. This should be a daily exercise if not multiple times a day.

3

Let your dog pull

Contrary to most other methods of dog training, your Husky puppy should be allowed to pull on the leash using the harness. You should encourage this behavior, as it will allow him to learn to get leverage when pulling larger and heavier objects later on.

4

Watch the amount of resistance

It may be natural for you to want to pull back on the leash, but don’t offer so much resistance that your puppy can’t continue. Provide just a little in order to get him used to having to pull something.

5

Keep walks fun

Your puppy should enjoy going for a walk. Go down different paths, explore different areas, and get him accustomed to walking in the snow and ice. Use rewards like toys and treats to reinforce good pulling behavior when he shows it.

The Pull Harness Method

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1

Get the right pull harness

Remember that walking harnesses are not the same as sledding harnesses. Be sure that the pull harness is well fitted.

2

Get used to the harness

Have your puppy sniff and smell the harness and reward her often so that she can associate it with good things. Eventually she will know that the harness means it’s time to pull.

3

Start with something light

Get your puppy used to having to pull objects by finding something like an empty plastic sled or something else that is comparable in weight. This is just to get accustomed to having some kind of weight on the harness.

4

Walk alongside your puppy

Set your pace either alongside or slightly in front of your puppy to encourage her to follow you. This will help her focus on you as she pulls.

5

Use a command

When you want the pulling to begin, use a verbal command. The most common one for sled dogs is ‘mush’.

6

Keep training short

Don’t expect your puppy to be able to pull for very long, at first. Keep training sessions short enough to not overwhelm her.

The Weight Train Method

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Start with nothing

When you first begin to train on the pull harness, the amount of weight should be very light and almost unnoticeable.

2

Add a little at a time

With each progressive training session, add a little bit of weight at a time. Keep the increments very small. You want your puppy to almost be totally unaware of the shift in weight.

3

Increase distance

While you add more weight, increase the amount of distance your puppy must pull the weight. This can be done in yard or meter increments.

4

Never rush

For puppies especially, trying to put more weight than your puppy can handle can damage or injure him. Be prepared to take plenty of time to work him up to heavier weights.

5

Use a team

If you’re in a position to have older, more practiced sled dogs help teach your puppy how to pull successfully, have him join a team to run along with them. Learning to use multiple dogs to pull a certain weight will help adjust him to a variety of pulling techniques.

6

Take breaks for play time

Remember that your puppy is still a puppy! He should be allowed to take breaks often to freely run around, play games, or socialize with other dogs.

By TJ Trevino

Published: 02/12/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Oats

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Husky mix

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1 Year

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Question

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How to train despite my dogs independence? When she’s off leash she will just be gone sometimes, she used to be really good when she was younger but now she’s in this phase where she isn’t listening. I’m trying scent training with her but I think I can maybe try training her to pull me on a bike? I just need some tips and husky training because she really wants to do her own thing most days

July 11, 2021

Oats's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sabrina, It sounds like your dog may have a basic level of obedience but needs to progress to intermediate. In Basic Obedience a dog learns what a command means and how to do it in easier situations when motivated. In Intermediate Obedience the same dog learns how to do those commands they previously learned in basic, in distracting situations with consistency. This often means working up to distractions very gradually with a lot of practice and repetions, going on "field trips" to places where there are the types of distractions pup needs reliability around. At this stage a long training leash is your best friend. It allows you to enforce commands consistently around distractions to teach pup that they can't just ignore you when something more exciting than a treat appears. Check out the section on using a long training leash for teaching come, and the section on the PreMack Principle - which uses real world distractions as rewards, to motivate pup to obey you before checking out something they want to go see. Come- long leash and premack principle sections specifically. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Check out James penrith from taketheleaddogtraining on youtube also. You can see examples of how he takes dogs through obedience training, working them eventually up to off leash, which is the level that comes after intermediate. Teaching pup to pull a sled would likely be fun for pup, but you may need to work up to intermediate obedience with each turning command one at a time, like teaching pup to move away from you - pull, to go left, to go right, and to stop. All of these commands can be taught on their own before adding in the element of the bike using a long training leash, and things that motivate pup - even squirrels (stop, then if you obey you can go see the squirrel for a second, you have to stay here and wait if you keep pulling on the leash instead of stopping through, for example). Pup is a more independent breed as a husky. Their prey drive, desire to pull and run, and desire to roam are going to be stronger than some breeds. Finding ways to use those desires as ways to reward pup for doing what you want can make training easier for you. Setting your expectations accordingly can also make things easier on you - pup may not desire to do something just for the sake of praise like some very people oriented dogs, and that's normal for them, instead you can motivate pup in other ways, be extremely consistent with your follow through when you tell pup to do something - so they learn that obedience isn't just when they feel like it, and pursue things that pup finds really fun - like you are considering doing with the skate board. Many huskies enjoy hikes and walks also - especially with added doggie backpacks with weight - which you can work pup up to physically very gradually. The added challenge can help wear some high endurance breeds out. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 12, 2021

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Willow

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Suberin husky

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10 Months

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My dog is 10 months old and I live in florida .not quite the state to live in for a husky, not doing a lot of or no research on the breed I purchased her, now that I have her it's all in for the long hall. She being the breed she is is FULL of energy,,walks just don't seem to be getting it for her much,so not having snow in florida I went out and bought a three wheel bike,much like a big wheel but for adults. All that being said is she old enough to pull me on a trike and is it to hot in florida to ask her to do sutch activityies ??

Sept. 13, 2020

Willow's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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Hello! She is definitely old enough and it will benefit her so much. Dogs are pretty good at letting us know when they have had enough physical activity. Keep an eye on her though because this might be really exciting for her and she might not want to stop. As long as her nose stays moist and her tongue isn't overly large, you are good to keep going. Their tongues swell up when they get over heated. It's subtle, but it becomes large enough to no longer fit in their mouths.

Sept. 14, 2020


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