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As I scrolled along the Internet the other day, I came upon one of those rare stories that actually stopped me in my tracks.
It was about the Guinness Book of World Records strongest dog in the world, a Newfoundland, who pulled (you won’t believe it), 5,045 ½ pounds! For reference, that’s about the size of a Rhinocerous.
Keep in mind that this Newfie only weighed 97 pounds themselves.
I was floored, I couldn’t believe it and it really got me wondering…
How much weight can a dog pull?
Depending on the conditions, a healthy, fit dog can likely pull about 3 times their own body weight. With proper training, dogs can easily learn to pull up to 40 times their own body weight, but some dogs in competition have pulled over 90 times their own body weight, well over 4,000 pounds.
Of course, there are a huge variety of factors that need to be considered when gauging how much weight any individual dog can pull.
But with the right training and in the right environment, they can pull thousands of pounds, like this guy!
Factors Affecting How Much Weight A Dog Can Pull
Many breeds, like Rottweilers, have historically been bred to pull. Rottweilers specifically were bred to pull butchers’ meat carts to markets. These carts could easily weigh several hundred pounds.
Cart pulling is still a popular sport that many owners participate in with their dogs.
These are large carts that your dog is harnessed to. Some you can ride on, kind of like a chariot. It takes a lot of practice for your dog to effectively pull one of these carts, but once they get the hang of it, they can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
Dogs also still pull carts through snow and on farms. Most of these devices have a wheel or blade to help them carve through or roll over the terrain they are pulling on.
These tools allow the dogs to reach maximum speeds depending on the environment they’re in. A dog will be able to pull a 50-pound bag of dirt much easier if it’s on wheels than if you just tie it to them and tell them to come.
Naturally, what the dog is pulling will greatly impact how much weight they are able to pull.
The terrain that the dog is working on is also a major consideration. Depending on the situation, dogs may be expected to haul an object across concrete or sand, through snow, or even through water.
In short, if you think the terrain would be difficult for a dog to reach their top speed in, then it’s also going to be difficult for them to pull their maximum weight.
Search and rescue dogs are trained to locate and recover missing people in all sorts of environments, from oceans to mountains. These dogs will be expected to pull a full-grown person to safety.
A dog going for a trot down the road will be able to pull a lot more weight than a water-soaked dog dragging a person through the ocean.
Keep in mind also that these dogs do not have hands or the ability to strap their quarry to themselves.
A dog who is forced to pull using their teeth will be far less effective than a dog who is well-equipped with a harness to pull.
Dogs are equipped with special harnesses when they are being expected to pull competitively or professionally.
Some harnesses have handles for you to hold on to, others come equipped with straps to tie into a sled. Some need to be extremely well padded while others need to be low-profile for the long haul.
Equipping your dog with the correct harness and right equipment will allow them to pull more weight for longer periods.
How far you expect your dog to be pulling the weight is another important factor when deciding how much weight that they can pull.
Sure, a dog could pull a truck for a few feet, but they definitely couldn’t pull that same truck for a mile.
But, above all else, a dog’s training is the most important consideration when determining how much weight that they can pull.
Your standard, run-of-the-mill couch potato dog may not be able to pull more than their own body weight at first.
Not just being physically able to pull, also being motivated to pull is another important step. You have to train your dog to want to pull, and that may take time.
Getting dogs to effectively pull carts and sleds has been a vital part of many people’s lives for centuries.
Those people have made perfecting their training methods and bloodlines their life’s work.
Strapping a heavy object to an untrained dog and expecting them to effectively pull it any amount of distance is potentially very dangerous for your dog.
Just like a person who overexerts some selves, your dog can easily pull a muscle, injure their pads, crack their nails, or suffer a back or chest injury straining to pull something too heavy or for too long.
How Much Weight Can A Team Of Dogs Pull?
Again, it depends on the environment and also the number of dogs. Two dogs could pull over 5,000 pounds over a few feet. But modern-day sled teams consist of 6-16 dogs who pull an average of 85 pounds each for up to 90 miles per day.
In the past, people did not watch out for the health and safety of their dogs like we do today. Historically, the dogs were worked extremely hard and we’re not expected to live long lives.
So, yes, they could theoretically pull a lot more weight than we typically ask them to these days, but that’s for the health and safety of your dog.
In general, even with a team of dogs at their side, it is best not to exceed about 3 times a dog’s body weight if they are going to be pulling any more than fifty feet or so.
How Much Weight Can A Dog Carry?
Carrying is a very distinctly different move for a dog than pulling.
Unlike horses, dogs cannot support weight on their back, which is why people do not ride dogs.
While dogs may be able to pull close to 100 times their own body weight, a dog should not typically carry more than 25% of their body weight on their back, and even that is pushing it.
Because of the unique way that dogs are put together and the way they use their backs to move, they cannot support weight along their spine, at least not very much of it.
While it may not seem like much compared to how much they can pull, think about it for a moment. That means that a 100lb dog can support 25 lbs on their back!
However, if you want to load your dog up, it is important that you get a backpack that fits correctly and is balanced equally on both sides, otherwise, your dog may end up listing to the right and walking in circles.
This is a great entry-level saddlebag for your dog. It comes in a couple of sizes and is totally adjustable to ensure the right fit. 2,000 5 star reviewers on Amazon can’t all be wrong!
Activities To Do With A Dog Who Loves to Pull
This is a classic, and so long as your dog doesn’t get too aggressive, it’s a great way for them to get all of their pulls out. And you’ll get some good exercise too!
Grab a leash, a harness, and your wheelie toy of choice, and hit the road!
By getting on a wheelie toy like a skateboard, rollerblades, or scooter, holding onto a leash or tying it around your waist, and harnessing it to your dog, your dog can pull you down the road without any special equipment required.
Wear a helmet!
If you want to take it to the next level, bikejoring or skijoring is similar to taking your dog for a run with a skateboard, but about a thousand times cooler.
This is an actual sport. It was probably derived to help train sled dogs during the offseason. Nowadays, it’s a fun sport that many people engage in throughout Europe.
Going for a run together is a great way for your dog who loves to pull to burn off energy with you while you work on their leash training.
Weight Pulling is a specific competition where dogs are given 1 minute to pull as much weight as they can 16 feet. This is where the highest numbers of dog pulling come from, some dogs individually being able to pull over 5,000 lb across 16 feet.
Sled pulling usually implies a cart with wheels or a snow sled with a rider pulled by a dog or a team of dogs.
Personally, this seems like the most fun, but a wheeled cart can easily set you back over $1,000.
If you want to be a passive participant in pulling time, plant a post in your yard or tie a rope to a tree and let your dog get their tugs out on their own.
You may need to bait them with it to get them interested at first, but if your dog is truly a puller, eventually, they will seek it out to entertain themselves.
Dogs Can Pull A Lot Of Weight
The fact that some dogs can pull three times their body weight is pretty impressive, but the fact that some dogs can pull over 90 times their body weight is just amazing to me.
That would be like a one hundred fifty-pound person pulling 13,500 pounds! That’s an elephant…
While not every dog will be able to get to these numbers, and it’s important for you to be careful that your dog does not strain themselves while they pull, it is kind of amazing to think about the physical capabilities of our furry friends.