How Are Sled Dogs Trained?

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Sled dog training begins long before the puppies are ever harnessed to a sled. Above anything else, sled dogs need to be able to function well as a pack member, and that means that they require plenty of socialization from a very young age.

Puppies need to be handled on a regular basis beginning at about eight weeks old. This is also the perfect age to get the puppy used to wearing a collar and a leash by placing a lightweight collar on it and attaching a leash to the collar for several minutes every day. At the age of 10 weeks, the puppy can be introduced to the harness. Regular obedience training should also begin at this time.

Most puppies are not ready to begin to learn to pull until they are about four months old. Professional mushers frequently use a track from a snow machine for this. Many puppies need no real training in how to run while pulling an object, particularly if they are the product of working sled dog parents. Most puppies, however, need to be treated with patience during this period of their training. If the puppy becomes frightened for any reason, it may become useless as a sled dog. The pulling exercise should continue until the puppy is comfortable with pulling something behind it.

Once the puppy has learned to respond appropriately to basic obedience commands, it is time to begin to teach it mushing cues. After a puppy has learned these terms, professional sled dog trainers start them out in teams with experienced dogs.