ClickerSolutions Training Articles

The Musher's Cure for Pulling

I am somewhat new to this group but not to clicker training. I have a number of dogs as I am an active musher. (I engage in the joyous activity of dog sledding with huskies.) I have noticed that there is a great deal of talk about how to handle dogs that pull and as a musher I believe I have some insight on the subject.

As a musher, I do not want to completly extinguish my dog's desire to pull. I not only WANT them to pull, but I want them to pull enthusiasticly and as hard and as fast as they can. HOWEVER! only when I say so!

I have dogs that are traditionaly trained with pinch collars and I have dogs that have been exclusively clicker trained. I must say that the CT dogs are by far, more reliable and enthusiastic, and more manageable. You see, when mushing, there is no place for a pinch or choke collar. If the dogs were to get in a tangle or the sled gets caught on a rut or root or hung up in any way, a dog on a pinch or choke could easily be killed.

Unfortunately, when I apply traditional methods to train a dog and then take off the pincher and harness them to a sled, they become different dogs due to the fact that they are very collar-wise. In other words, no pinch collar equals low reliability. Which is why good Mushers do not use those methods.

My best dog is a CT trained dog. (Suprise suprise!) He pulls the hardest, he is the fastest, and he is by far the most fun to take for a walk. The way I did it was first to give him an avenue were he could run as fast as he wanted for as far as he wanted.

This is done in the summer by what I call Bike mushing. You harness the dog to a bicyle, find a dirt road somewhere, say "HIKE, HIKE, HIKE" and hang on for dear life as the dog yanks you at 20 miles per hour for about 3 to 5 miles. This can be done with any breed. If you are interested in any of the finer points of getting this done safely, let me know.

When the dog can get that out of their system, they are much less inclined to pull when out for a leasurly stroll. On walks, I put on a retractible leash that always keeps just a little tension on the line but the dogs easily know when they are at the end. At that point I keep walking in whatever direction I want and say "Let's go!" enthusiasticaly. I then CT when the dogs come abreast of me. I throw the treat about two feet in front of me so that the dog knows that he must slow down to get the reward. I can now walk my dog through a doggy park with no leash and whenever he gets too far from me, I just say let's go and keep walking. I did not have to go through all the trouble of fine tuning a perfect heel. I have control of the dog without spoiling his fun. I could never even dream of taking the leash off my traditionally trained dogs.

Another command I teach, as all mushers must, is "Whoa". Whenever I want the dogs to stop pulling I put on the brakes and say "Whoa." (You can replace these commands with anything you want.) The dogs soon learn that when they hear the command whoa, there is no way they can make any head way and must come to a stop. I then walk up to them and CT.

The nice thing about a small group of huskies (two to three dogs) in harness is that they can all be rewarded with the same click. The click signifies approval and marks the precise beheviour that I want and I can take my time giving out the actual treats. This drill teaches them that they need to stop to get pats and rewards.

Hope this is helpful for readers who are just interested in getting their dogs to quit pulling. Let me know if any of you are interested in doing the bike thing. It is not as simple as I made it out to be but I was trying to be brief. It is, however, possibly the most fun you and your dog can have together.

Robin Shen
copyright 2000 Robin Shen


| Training Articles Contents || Site Home |

List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @