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Maybe you live in an area where you get plenty of snow in the winter, or simply want your pup to learn how to pull a sled for fun when it does snow. You can even train him to pull a wheeled sled so that he can get his workout in all year long. When it comes to pulling a sled, most people immediately think of the Husky, yet there are several other breeds that can also be taught to pull.
Among these are, of course, the much larger Alaskan Malamute, but thanks to Hollywood, it’s the Husky that takes center stage. Keep in mind that while Huskies are bred to pull and work in the deep snow and cold temperatures of the tundra, they still need to be trained to do the job. The earlier you start the training process the better, as younger pups learn more quickly than adult dogs as their brains are still soaking up tons of information and knowledge.
Despite breeding, no dog, even a Husky, is born understanding the various commands used when pulling a sled. Your job is not only to teach your pup to wear a pulling harness and to understand what each of the commands used means so that he knows what is expected of him when he hears them. This means you need to learn them as well. Since you are only just getting started, there are just four commands you need to become familiar with. These are 'Whoa' (stop) 'Mush' or 'Hike' (Go), 'Haw' (turn to the left), and 'Gee' (pronounced as "G" and meaning turn to the right).
Mushing or sled pulling is a great way for both of you to bond and get plenty of good healthy exercise. Keep in mind you need to start your pup off with small loads and work his pulling capacity up as his body and muscles build up to meet the challenge. If you try to go too fast, you risk injuring your pooch and possibly rendering him unable to pull.
Before you can get started training your Husky to pull a sled, you need to have your vet's approval that his bones and body are mature enough to start. Your pup also needs to have mastered the basic commands. Not only will this make him easier to control, but having mastered them shows that he knows who is Alpha in his pack. You also need a few things to help the training go more smoothly.·
- Your Husky
- A pulling harness
- A sleigh
- Training area
Then, along with this, there is the fact you will need plenty of time and patience to work with your fuzzy friend until he masters the basics. After this, the two of you can have a blast going all over the place together.
The Introduce Harness Method
Greetings, I am your harness
Take your pup out the outfitter stores and have him properly fitted for his harness. This is a very important stage of training. Take him home and put him back in his harness and let him stay in it for a while. Take it off and then repeat this over the course of several days until he seems to be comfortable wearing it (typically this will be when he simply stops fussing over it).
Start your pup off with something small to pull, such as a large piece of lumber. Attach it to your pup's harness using a length of rope. Encourage your pup to follow you pulling the board behind him. When he does, be sure to praise him and give him a treat.
Time to add you to the picture
Secure yourself to your pup's harness with a training lead. Using 'hike' or 'mush', encourage your pup to pull you. Keep praising him as he pulls to keep him moving. Use the 'whoa' and 'mush/hike' commands as you go to teach him these commands. Each time he gets them right, be sure to praise him and give him treats. You can use your own weight and muscles to vary his pulling "loads", helping to build up his muscles.
Left turn, Clyde
Time to introduce 'Gee' and 'Haw', the turning commands. One easy way to do this is to give the commands as you toss treats in the appropriate direction. Your pup will move towards the treats and as he does, be sure to praise him and let him enjoy his treats.
More weight please
Hook him up to a sled and gradually add more weight while you continue to practice the commands. It will take a few months for him to completely master these skills, but the fun the two of you will have make it all worthwhile.
The Gallon Milk Container Method
Start with a leash
For this method, start out taking your pup for walks on his leash using the basic mushing commands to help him get used to obeying them correctly. Keep working with him until he has mastered them. Don't forget to praise him frequently and use treats to let him know he is doing a great job!
In your harness
Hopefully, you have a fitted harness for your pup, this is very important as a poorly fitting harness can injure your pup. Slip your pup into his harness and adjust it to be comfortable. Add a tug-line and then a 10 to 12-foot long drag line. To this you then add a gallon milk jug filled with water. Give him plenty of time to get used to dragging the weight around behind him. Again, give him plenty of treats and praise.
Take a walk
Go for a walk beside your pup as he wanders around pulling his load. As he gets to be more comfortable with your presence start slowly dropping back over a few days until you are back at the milk jug. No hurry, let him take his time getting used to it.
Introduce the sled
Go easy with this and attach the sled to the drag line and give him time to get used to it. Working from a position by your pooch, encourage him to walk around the training area pulling the sled behind him. Work him through the four basic commands, praising him and giving him treats every time he gets things right.
Assume the position
Slowly work your way back to the sled and assume the "musher's" position. Work your pup through his commands. Make it fun and interesting by varying where you go, how long you go out for, and if you are feeling really brave, how fast you go. Your pup will have a blast and both of you are going to get plenty of good hard exercise.
The Slow and Easy Method
Meet your harness
Start with introducing your pup to his harness. Bring it home, lay it on the floor, and let your pup look at it, sniff at it, and even lick at it, if this makes him happy. Next put it on him and leave it on for several minutes each day (adding more time every day) until he gets used to wearing it.
The tug line
Add a tug line to the harness and a small weight that your pup can pull around the house behind him. This will help him get used to the idea he has a job to do. Be sure to praise him and give him treats for doing a good job.
Stop and go
Time to start working on 'hike/mush' and 'whoa'. While he is attached to the weight, give him the 'hike' command and encourage him to start moving by tossing a treat out in front of your pup. Praise him when he starts moving. Give him time to move a few feet and then give him the whoa command. Each time he obeys, praise him and give him treats. Practice this until he masters both commands.
Side to side
Once he has mastered go and stop, time to start working on turns. With your pup moving the weight slowly in a straight line, give him the 'Gee' command and toss a treat in front of him and to the right where he can see it. Repeat until he masters the command. Then do the same with the 'Haw' command, tossing treats to the left.
Now for the real thing
Hook the tug line to a drag line, then hitch up the sled. Work your pooch through all of the commands until he has mastered all of the commands. Then you can start adding weight to the sled and increasing the distance he pulls it. Get out there and start having fun with your Husky, he will love having a job to do!
Written by PB Getz
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 03/08/2018, edited: 01/08/2021