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Old 09-23-2020, 11:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
 
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Conditioning Routines for Weight Pull/Dragwork

Hey all, so I am looking at building a more consistent and well rounded conditioning routine than I currently have. I just bit the bullet and bought a sled, so now we can work with heavier weights than the chains he's been dragging. It is a 30 lb power sled so right now I am not adding weight to it, just conditioning the weight of the sled itself (though as long as the grass is short he seems to have no struggles with it). I figure it isn't great to have him pulling the sled every day just yet. So I was wondering, what do you do each day in terms of a "workout" for your dogs. We have a Grand Carpet Mill, a powered treadmill, and a variety of other fitness equipment that we use, so I have the gear to do a wide variety of workouts. He also dabbles in wall climb, so any workout that would support that would be nice. Sadly he is none too keen on spring pole. One of my clubmates got a slat mill so we're gonna head up and give that a try this weekend, but it's a good distance away so not something I can use regularly. Anywho, excited to build my boy up in weight pull and maybe getting him competing in the future.
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Old 10-09-2020, 12:54 AM   #2 (permalink)
 

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For dragging/weight pull practice: the harness is more important than the sled. Initial training starts with little to no weight. Gradually build up distance/duration. Weight pull is not a “strength” sport – it is an endurance challenge based on teamwork and training. As you would NEVER enter an obedience ring unprepared or untrained – they same would apply to WP. Pulling a dog that is not properly trained will not only build bad habits, it may also injure your dog.

Dragging practice is to build stamina so heavy weight is NOT the purpose. Excerpt from my training notes to get started below.

What you need:
• A “healthy” dog
• Weight Pull harness
• Buckle collar (non correcting collar)
• 2 Six foot leashes
• Word to “mark” the behavior
• Reward (treat, toy, tug, etc)
• Large field or yard
1. Goal is to work up to a training distance of 400 yards = 1 training session
2. It's about repetition (use the distance as a guide, doing repetitions back and forth in the field)
• Weights (in your case the sled, I use a drag bag, some use chains)

Train positively: you're a team with your dog. Success depends on training and his trust in you. Your dog needs to know he “can do it” and will not fail.
1. Get the dog used to the harness – this is new and he may be unsure – some dogs don’t mind, others need some reinforcement.
2. Once the dog is conditioned to the harness, start getting him used to “dragging”. In the beginning use little or no weight: train the brain of the dog first – not the body!
3. With the harness and buckle collar with 6 feet lead on your dog you will attach the following:
a. Snap Clip with smallest chain attached with U Bolt to the “D” ring of the harness.
b. 2nd 6-foot leash as the “safety” will be attached to the chain if training with 2 people or to the D ring if training solo. Note: the “safety” is so the dog never “fails” and gets frustrated. If he gets “stuck” or the weight is ever too much, the “spotter” helps them from behind. A “Green” dog must NEVER be corrected – he will self correct as needed and figure it out.
4. In the training field, set up to go in a straight line with your dog in the heel position and the spotter a few feet behind the dog.
a. Pace of the dog in training should be the same as “heel” for a green dog. As he becomes accustomed to the weight he may move at a fast heel. Speed is not needed in training and generally means you need more weight – but you are NOT there yet – it is about form. Keep the dog in heel position at all times. If he forges, keep the leash tight and he will self correct.
4. Say your cue or “mark” word and begin walking. Remember to talk to your dog: encourage and verbally praise him.
5. Dragging should always be in a straight line. Once you reach the end of a line segment (100 yards or your adjusted length for the yard), stop the dog with a marker word that indicates “exercise complete”. I use “okay or yes”. Unhook the sled (or weight or chain) from the harness. Play, love up and reward the dog.
6. Reorient for the next pull direction and set the sled behind the dog. Rehook and repeat until you have done the “up & back” the number of drags you need for the session.
7. Later, I added a "rattle drag" for noise distraction training, using empty beer/soda cans strung together loosely on wire or rope, and clipped to the harness and/or sled. Start on grass (mostly quiet) and then occasionally cross a bit of asphalt or gravel (don't train on pavement). Reward highly for bravery when it makes the terrible racket. Most people don't do this but I had a sound-sensitive dog and it helped her to have fun even with an infernal racket.

It usually takes about a month of 3X a week to be ready for more weight. The dog is using muscles that aren't often used: a good diet and plenty of water are essential. DO NOT drag 2 days in a row. Muscles need time to rest, repair, and strengthen. Do “other” training in between: walking, hiking, cardio, etc.

Always keep the training “safety” attached. One set back can ruin the confidence of a dog.

Just adding weight may concern a dog. Even when physically capable of more, he needs to become accustomed to a change in weight. Maintain the same heeling pace and talk to your dog.

Maximum weight to keep him conditioned depends on the dog, breed and build. Dragging weight is significantly harder than carrying it: a good maximum weight for training most dogs is equal to their body weight.
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Old 10-09-2020, 07:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
 
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Fantastic and detailed post ReelDog. Thanks, sincerely appreciate your time and knowledge.

Joe
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Old 10-15-2020, 02:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
 
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Thanks so much for all the detail. There were definitely some nice details that I could take into account. However, I want to be clear that your advice is basically the step I am getting ready to move past.

We have a custom harness from Brown Dog Designs and have been slowly building weight up using chains since March.

I appreciate that it is always a good idea to give that advice to go slow, so while those were not quite the details I was looking for, it is good to err on the side of caution. I have even done the sound sensitivity training you mentioned with occasionally dragging across concrete.

Historically he is not a confident dog so I have been really focused on just having it be something he enjoys and that it is not frustrating and building his fitness slowly.

But now that we are at the point where we are adding the sled in, I am curious about routines people use and how often they pull, how much, and what other activities they use to balance out the fitness regimen.

I will still keep our longer lightweight drags as part of our routine. But I would be curious about how frequently people do heavier drags. I also typically prefer a lightweight warmup before we pull any significant weight.
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