Starting An Older Dog

The amount of weight they drag is just as important as the distance they go.  We have been
doing this a long time and drag weighting does many things... builds endurance & stamina,
strengthens your role as the coach (cheerleader if you will) in your relationship with your dog
(
they have to believe YOU believe they CAN DO IT!) enforces your pulling commands, and
builds strength in their body and mind (if done correctly).

Our drag path is 1/2 (¼ mile down ¼ mile back) mile long when dogs are in training for show
season they are worked up to dragging their body weight for this distance.  The path is NOT
easy…there are rocks, grass and an uphill slope along they way.
We also alternate the workouts. Dogs are worked 3 times during the week. Say Tues. they
will run the mill or are hand walked, Wed. they will do their regular drag weight, Thurs. we
might add a little extra weight and shorten the distance a little.  You have to break down
muscle in order to build it up stronger. Any time you give your dog a very hard workout it
MUST have the next day off (to build muscle back up).  Then they get to pull on the track on
the weekend.

Our philosophy is pretty simple...
Build the Mind and the body will follow

You must start an older dog out slowly.  What does it weigh? What is his physical condition
like...is he really ready to start dragging weight yet?  What type of terrain are you dragging
on grass (short or tall)?  Is it level or up hill?
You must provide you dog with the proper nutrition and shelter in order to keep him at his/her
optimal health and performance level.  This includes being free of parasites and up to date on
vaccinations.

The most important thing is PRAISE HIM!!!  It must be a positive experience for him...you
can't just dump alot of weight on him and say lets go!  If it's a 50lb dog you might start him out
with maybe 10-15 lbs.  Tell him to work (or whatever word you are going to use... but it must
be the same word everytime) as soon as he starts tell him "good dog".   We talk to them the
whole time they are working (you are their cheerleader!).   Go 15-20ft tell them whoa, and
PRAISE them like they are the BEST DOG IN THE WORLD (cause they are)!!  Repeat this
the whole distance...you must have patience.  Then start doing less stops after he understands
the concept after a week or two or three.  

Next step add a few more pounds 4-5lbs.  
We also, don't tell pull dogs "No" when they are in
training
(they are still learning what you mean).  Example: (we stand in front of the dogs) you
tell the dog to work (firm tone, not mean or gruff... you are telling not asking) dog stands
there..…repeat command.  Give a small tug (
DO NOT JERK THE DOG remember pulling
must be a positive experience for them
) on the collar with leash as soon as dog starts...
PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE repeating command to work go small distance then stop...
PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE even a small reward of their favorite treat !!  Repeat this as
needed if you keep training positive...it will not need to be repeated much at all.
Do not try to rush your increases or add too much weight at a time you will destroy your dog's
confidence that way.  Gradually, slowly build up the weight and you will be rewarded with a
dog that is confident and pulls because it enjoys the experience and spending time with you.  
You must also remember that not all dogs will have the same physical or mental abilities.  
Just remember go slow....weight pull is not a race...it it a test of physical and mental strength.

When you introduce a dog to the pull track itself, you must remember to follow the same
routine every time.

(Example)
Start with an empty cart

Walk you dog up to the end of the track and stop (
everytime). Pet the dog and tell him lets go
work. Walk down the track towards the cart.

When you get to the cart dog tell them turn.  Physically turn the dog (t
he same way every time)
while you say the work turn (if the dog doesn’ t know the command). Then praise the dog.  
The dog will eventually connect the work with the action and you will not have to turn them
yourself.
PRAISE IS THE KEY.

Get in front of the dog and give the command to pull (same tone as when you drag
weight…telling not asking...stern not mad). As soon as he starts, PRAISE, PRAISE,PRAISE
and repeat the command all the way to the end of the track.  We always have dogs pull to the
end of the track because some tracks are shorter than others.  We want them to know that
they aren’t done till they get to the end of the track. (of course the cart handler can push the
cart once the dog has passed the 15ft line. You are building confidence)

PRAISE THE DOG, love on them, pet them, let them know they have done the best job in the
whole world.  You can never make to big of a deal out of doing GOOD!!

Take dog back to the crate and tell them to load.  Give them their favorite treat and tell them
again what a
GOOD DOG THEY ARE!!!!

Repeat this same exercise several times
SLOWLY adding weight. Never add more than your
dog can pull.  These steps cannot be rushed. You are building their confidence…creating a
dog that feels there is nothing it can’t pull. This is where your PATIENCE will pay OFF!  It’s
not a race!

If your dog doesn’t start when told to work follow the same example given in drag training.

Example: (we stand if front of the dogs) you tell the dog to work (firm tone, not mean or
gruff... you are telling not asking) dog stands there..…repeat command then give a small tug
(DO NOT JERK THE DOG remember pulling must be a positive experience for them) on
collar with leash as soon as dog starts...PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE repeating command to
work go small distance then stop...PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE even a small reward of their
favorite treat !!  Repeat this as needed if you keep training positive...it will not need to be
repeated much at all.

Keep track of the weight your dog pulls and the amount of the weight increases.  This will
help you in knowing your dogs progress. Gradually, increase the starting weight (the weight
you start out with). Still slowly adding weight at your rounds (increases).
Keep sessions upbeat and positive…Would you want to work for someone who is always
yelling at you and yanking your neck?  NO!!  Keep this in mind at all times.

This is where an experienced puller can help you immensely (contact ADBA or your local
ADBA club to see if they can give you a puller in your area) No one starts out knowing
everything.  You can never ask too many questions when comes training your dog.

Your dog pulls because it enjoys spending time with
you and pleasing you!  Would you want to
work that hard without any rewards?  Enjoy your dog and the time spent training. It is not all
about ribbons and trophies. You will be rewarded with a dog that pulls because they love it
and it is rewarding for them.

The Harness
Harness comfort and fit are important even if you are not going to enter into any serious
competition. Say just drag weighting for exercise.  A well fitted harness will reduce you dogs
chances of injury making sure that the weight is distributed evenly and in the right places.
There are a LOT of ill fitting pull harnesses out there!  Most come up too high on the breast
bone or go too far over the dogs shoulder blades so that when the dog pulls the harness
effectively cuts off their wind by putting pressure on their throat.  Who can pull when they are
being choked or have pressure pushing down on their shoulders?

Hope this helps