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Tri-State Alaskan Malamute Club

Frequently Asked Questions about the Sport of Canine Weight Pulling:
By: Lori Brinkley, Former Secretary of TSAMC
(Based solely on Tri-State Alaskan Malamute Club (TSAMC) rules. Other clubs and organizations holding weight pulls use other rules. Always check with the organizing officials to determine which rules will be used.)

What is a canine weight pull?

Canine weight pulling is a sport in which a single dog, equipped with a specially designed weight pulling/ freighting harness, pulls a load a specified distance within a specified amount of time.

How far do they have to pull?

A completed pull is 16 feet.

How much time are they allowed?

TSAMC allows each regular class dog 45 second s in which to pull the load. If, however, the load is moving when time expires, the dog is allowed to complete the pull as long as s/he does not stop forward m otion.

What happens if the dog is not able to pull the load?

If the dog is not able to pull the load, it is considered a no-pull and that dog is eliminated from the day's competition. However, it is very important to the self-esteem of the dog that s/he completes each pull, so when s/he attempts to pull, the sled handlers will push the load from behind, thus letting the dog think s/he actually pulled the load.

Is there any way to make a dog pull the load if the dog does not want to pull the load?

No! Weight pull dogs are extremely stubborn. If they do not want to pull the load, they won't. Period. Dogs have even been seen turning completely around and sitting down with their backs to their handlers. In these cases, there is nothing a handler can do except accept the no-pull.

What's the difference between novice class and regular class?

In novice class, the handler is allowed to use a leash to coax the dog to pull, but is not allowed to pull the load with the leash by pulling on the dog. The handler is also allowed to cross the handler line to approach his/her dog to give the dog encouragement, as long as the handler does not touch the dog. Dogs in novice competition are allowed two no-pulls before being eliminated. That means that if the dog has a no-pull, the novice dog is allowed to return for the next round to try again and if s/he pulls that round, is allowed to remain in competition until another no-pull results. A regular class dog is allowed one no-pull before being eliminated from competition.

What is a no-pull?

If the dog does not pull the load within 45 seconds or is given help to actually move the load (handler grabs harness and pulls and/or sled handlers push the load) it is considered a no-pull.

Can I cheer for my favorite dog(s)?

TSAMC encourages spectators to cheer for any and/or all competitors, however, we do ask that you hold your cheers and/or applause until the individual pull is completed. Some dogs hear the reaction from the spectators and think they have completed the round and stop pulling. You would not want to be responsible for your favorite dog to stop in the middle of a pull, so please refrain from cheering until the pull is completed.

Why do some handlers call their dogs and others stand behind and drive them?

The dog's handler, usually its owner, has the choice of standing at the end of the 16 feet and calling the dog or standing behind the sled/cart and driving the dog. The decision about which method to use is based on the individual training techniques of the handler and the preferences of the individual dog.

What breeds of dogs are allowed to compete at weight pull competitions?

TSAMC welcomes all breeds (registered or not) and mixed breeds of dogs to compete at weight pull competitions.

Can neutered dogs enter weight pull competitions?


What dogs are not allowed to enter weight pull competitions?

Dogs will be turned away who are under one year of age, are not up to date on vaccines, do not have proof of rabies vaccine, are in heat, are pregnant, or are considered to be vicious (which is always based on individual dog and not breed characteristics or reputation).

Can I bring my puppy or non-competitive dog to the weight pull to socialize and watch?

Spectator dogs are allowed at competitions as long as the dog or puppy Is kept on a leash not longer than 6 feet, and as long as all vaccinations for all canine diseases are up to date and proof of rabies vaccination is available. These dogs are not, however, to be allowed to interfere in the weight pull competition in any way.

How much can a dog pull?

The heaviest amounts of weight which I have witnessed have been 3300 lbs on wheels on concrete (accomplished by an Alaskan Malamute) and 2850 lbs on runners on snow (which was accomplished by an Irish Wolfhound). However, I have heard of dogs pulling as much as 3700 lbs on wheels on concrete. When the pneumatic wheels are mounted to TSAMC's sled, the cart weighs 350 lbs which is therefore the minimum weight a dog can pull to compete in weight pulls.

How big are the dogs?

TSAMC divides dogs into the following weight classes: 60 lbs and under, 61 through 80 lbs, 81 through 100 lbs, 101 through 120 lbs, and unlimited.

How are the dogs trained?

Handlers use a variety of training techniques, but the ones which work the best, use positive reinforcement with lots of praise and treats. Although food rewards, noise makers, and enticement props are banned during the actual pull period, most dogs have a reward of some sort waiting for them back at their crates, and they know it.

Why do the dogs bark and jump in their harnesses?

Most dogs in competition are extremely excited due to their love of the sport and most of what they learned in obedience classes is both forgotten and not enforced. Handlers like to retain their dogs adrenaline levels for pulling, so obedience beyond simple manners is not requested of the dogs.

Do the dogs earn titles for weight pulling?

Yes. Most of the parent clubs for northern breeds of dogs have titles which the dogs can earn. For instance, to obtain an AMCA (Alaskan Malamute Club of America) regular Working Weight Pulling Dog (WWPD) title, an Alaskan Malamute has to pull at least eight times his/her weight on a natural surface (or 12 times their weight on man-made surfaces) on four separate occasions. To attain a Working Weight Pulling Dog Excellent title, there are a variety of factors to figure:

1. On snow, a dog must pull 14 times his/her body weight.
2. On any other natural surface, a dog must pull 16 times his/her body weight.
3. If pulling on a man-made surface,
A dog weighing under 80 lbs, must pull 23 times his/her body weight.
A dog weighing 81 - 100 lbs, must pull 21 times his/her body weight.
A dog weighing over 100 lbs, must pull 19 times his/her body weight.
4. Also, the dog must finish in the top 1/3 of his/her weight class.
5. And, finally, if 75% of the dogs in that class also pull that weight, then that weight does not count.
6. A dog must do all of this five times to qualify for a WWPDX title.

What type of sled or cart is used?

The wooden weight pull sled is capable of holding 4,000 lbs and has mountable, pneumatic wheels for when there is no snow.

What's the difference between a weight pull harness and a recreational harness?

The weight pull harness is specially designed to disperse the tension of pulling large loads over a larger area of the dog. Its criss-cross styling and tension bar, which goes behind the dog, under the tail, greatly reduce the possibility of injury to the dog. The padded v-neck of the collar area pulls the harness down away from the dog's throat allowing him to breath freely while competing.

Where do I get a weight pull harness?

Weight pulling harnesses can be obtained from a variety of sources. Some experienced handlers make their own, but most purchase them from a working dog outfitter of some sort. People in southern Wisconsin, can obtain a good harness at Mounds Pet Food Warehouse. Take your dog a long and have him fitted

What other equipment is needed to compete in weight pulls?

A leash and properly fitting collar are also needed for bringing the dog up to the line and returning him to his crate.

Do I have to bring a crate for my dog?

A crate is not essential to weight pulling, but I strongly suggest you purchase one. Tie-out areas at pulls are usually pretty small, so crates are usually a good idea. When your dog is in a crate you do not have to worry about him/her being bothered by spectators or loose dogs.

For a complete set of TSAMC rules, ask at the registration station.

This page written October 20, 2001