Weims love to pull. At least ours do! As hunting dogs, Weims were intended to sniff, smell, and snorfle through their world. So strolling around the block at a leisurely pace doesn’t usually fit into their agenda. As Weim owners, we learned a long time ago that sometimes it’s best to “compromise” and find something that they love and that suits our purposes. On our walks around the block we encourage our dogs to pull!
All dogs naturally will pull against opposition, it’s actually a reflex, which is why you see so many people being dragged down the street by their clueless canines. The dog feels that pressure on their neck and they can’t help but pull. So instead of fighting nature, we use this to our advantage. Gun dog trainers call it “roading,” but it’s a fancy word for putting your dog in a pulling harness and letting them pull you — with your blessing — down the street. Having your dog pull for 15-20 minutes a day is more exercise than a 30-45 minute off-leash romp. And it’s a GREAT workout for you, too! We live in the city and have to drive nearly an hour to really let our dogs run off leash, so this has always been terrific exercise for them and also lets them work with us instead of fighting us. A “team building exercise” if you will.
So how to begin? Start with a well fitting harness. We like the one made by Piney Run Kennels but if you have a larger dog, we really recommend the one sold by Nordkyn Outfitters. We’ve used the fitted tracking/walking harness with the split chest variation, for dogs whose breastbone protrudes. They can be padded with a variety of materials including neoprene. But don’t get too wrapped up in harnesses, as any harness will work in the beginning; you just want to make sure that it fits well and isn’t rubbing your dog anywhere. Make sure that your dog is old enough to be doing strenuous workouts, at least 18 months old.
Attach a six foot leash to your dog, and apply firm continuous pressure. Tell her to “pull” and walk. If she’s used to being told “no pull” then you may have to reverse some of this training but just be patient. Tell her “good girl” when she pulls, and say nothing when she doesn’t. Keep up a brisk pace. Even when she’s next to you, try to keep a firm pressure pulling back on the harness so she gets the idea that this is what you want her to do. If you have two dogs, it’s sometimes beneficial to have one on a longer leash to fuel the competition a bit. You’ll notice that she probably gets worn out after about fifteen minutes of walking, whereas the usual frustrating thirty minute “nice” walk didn’t do much. You can do as much or as little as you want to, but start slow and give your dog some rest days, as this is an actual workout for her.
People who field trial their dogs and hunters getting ready for hunting season will often “road” their dogs off an ATV or run their dogs with chains attached to the pulling harness. This may sound tough to those who have never seen it done, but believe me, the dogs LOVE it! And nothing gets the dogs in shape like working out with weights attached! If they can run for 45 minutes carrying 15 extra pounds, they can really roll for 30 minutes with just their own body weight!
After our dogs understand a “pull” command, we make sure that they maintain an “easy” command (which is to walk on a loose leash), as well as an obedience “heel” command (which is to walk on our left side with their nose at our knee). But on our walks, we almost always let them pull!