Can I Train My Dog To Tow?

Yes, all dogs love to tow. Without proper lead training most dogs will want to pull you down the footpath. Even a dog that, for some years, has been trained to walk to heel can learn to tow on command or when they are in a harness. And any breed can tow. They don’t have to be a Husky, Malamute or Samoyed. Go to any CaniX event today and you will see a wide variety or breeds running and bikejoring, from Jack Russells and Cockers to Labs and Ridgebacks, with the new up-coming stars being the pointers or pointer crosses. You can start to get your dog used to wearing a harness and towing light ‘drags’ from around 6 months. Keep this part of the training fun and only for short periods. Your dog needs to learn that running and pulling in a harness is fun. At the same time careful lead collar/training is recommended so that your dog learns that pulling is only allowed when wearing a harness. To allow your dog to get used to the commands when out on an everyday walk, whenever you make a turn left or right use a command. These can be as simple as left or right, or the standard commands of ‘Gee’ – right and ‘Haw’ – left. What age should you start training? It is recommend for a dog to start wearing a harness from around 6 months and then start to introduce some very light pulls for very short periods. Always remember to keep this part fun. You want your dog to learn that running and pulling is all good fun. Keep it all short and fun, and stop before the dog gets tired. When the pup gets to 9 months you can then progress to pulling you, but still keeping it fun and taking regular rests. By 1 year old the dog will be ready to work as part of a team or to do lighter work like canicross. Our running/jogging pace is easy for any active dog. An older dog, even on that has been trained to walk to heel and not to pull, can be introduced to harness work and pull. There are a couple of methods you can use to achieve this. Firstly attach the dog to and anchor point and stand in front, encouraging the dog forward and calling ‘line out’. This will become the command to maintain tension on the line before you start off. If you have another dog that is used to towing then you could couple the dogs together and get running. If you don’t have a second dog then building on the ‘line out’ work attach the dog to a bike or waist harness and have someone else ride on a bike or run ahead encouraging the dog forward, always giving a command from you to ‘Pull’ or ‘Hike’ to go faster. The dog will soon learn that when wearing a harness it is okay to pull. The Training Once you have the dog pulling then the next aim is to really hone the commands, this way having full control of the dog when out on the end of a line, passing by distractions and take the correct turns. Another command that you can use whilst on a daily walk is the ‘on by’ command, training the dog to leave the distractions; other dogs, scents etc. Then it’s on to working to dog on the end of the gangline. This is where the ‘line out’ command you’ve been working on from the early days really comes in to its own. When out scootering, canicrossing, bikejoring or sledding this command will prevent the dog from turning and running back to you and getting tangled in the gangline. Next is the ‘on by’ command to ask the dog to move post distractions; other dogs, runners, scents. The dog will also begin to learn that the moment the harness is on and the gangline attached this is time to work, which means no sniffing or peeing or any other distractions. Start by attaching the dog to a drag and have the dog pull this with you along side on a lead. Gradually drop further back behind the dog. If your dog is used to walking to heel then this may be a little confusing to begin having you walk behind it, but with but bear with it.

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When you first start out on a scooter or bikejor choose a track that is well defined so that the dog instinctively follows the route. If you can have a person riding on a bike up ahead this would be a great way to encourage the dog to move on forward too but dogs will follow the path of least resistance so a good trail will help. Also help the dog forward by pushing or pedalling, don’t expect the dog to do all of the work straight away. Now whilst working the trails use the direction commands and speed control commands. Once your dog begins to realise that this game is a huge amount of fun and a release you will have one happy and enthusiastic dog. Commands Ready – Stand up, ready to work Line Out – Hold the gangline tight, facing away. Gee – Turn Right Haw – Turn Left Wait or Whoooa – Stop Easy – Slow down Hike – Go fast Hup hup – Go faster On by – Leave a distraction/overtake Leave – I mean it, LEAVE Walk – Slow the pace right down Home time – Prevents you from getting lost. Of course these commands are the convention but it doesn’t mean you have to use these. You can just as easily train the dog to your own set of commands which will work just as well. The dog simply learns to recognise a work in relation to an action. Happy trails!!

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