Alaska State Championship Dog Weight Pull

Information courtesy of Cathy Herrin and Wasilla Rod.

The Peninsula Winter Games will begin January 30 on the Kenai Peninsula and will continue through February 7th. Its a great time to gather up the family and get out of the house for a bit of fresh air and join with friends either in competition or as spectators. Contests and activities of all kinds are hosted in Nikiski, Kenai and Soldotna and include a wide variety of events.

One of the genuine Alaska-heritage competitions is the State Championship Dog Weight Pull contest hosted in Soldotna at the Central Peninsula Sports Center. Its an event which conjours mental images of Jack London's description of "Buck", famous sled dog of the Klondike Goldrush, making that big pull that won his master a significant wager.

And although a man's "outfit" isn't the prize anymore, the $1000+ poke for the winning dogs will buy a substantial amount of dog food during the next year. This year's sponsors are Spenard Builders Supply of Soldotna and Coshok's Canine Castle of Anchorage.

The competition begins at 2PM Saturday January 30th in the Sports Center parking lot.

The Competition

Entrants must register their dogs and then have them weighed in. The contest has four weight categories: Ultralight, Lightweight, Middleweight and Heavyweight. This allows dogs of a particular size to compete fairly with those of similar stature.

A drawing for each category establishes the order in which the dogs will compete in their respective group.

The empty sled weighs approximately 200 lbs. Weight is added in 150# increments at the beginning of each new round. The dog handler is allowed to pass at any weight level, often to save the dog's strength for heavier pulls later in the competition.

However, should a dog not make a successful pull at a higher weight level after passing the previous weight, its score will be judged on the last successful pull. Passing can introduce a lot of variables into the competition, especially if the handler has more confidence in their dog than what the dog feels like pulling that day.

The sled is positioned at the start line and the dog is harnessed. Just prior to starting the pull the sled helpers will "break" the sled runners from sticking to the snow and ice. As soon as the sled is motionless, the handler is allowed to begin coaxing the dog for the pull.

The handler cannot touch the dog and can use only verbal commands and hand signals. They cannot use any treats or other incentives to get the dog to perform.

The dog must pull the sled 25 feet to the finish line within one minute. If the dog fails after one minute the sled is broke free to allow the dog to complete the pull so that a positive reinforcement is established. Coalfoot, last year's State Champion at left, is pulling 2000 lbs. for the best pull of the day last year.

Cash prizes are awarded for best pulls in each category. When two or more dogs in the same weight class pull the same weight, the dog with the fastest time will be the winner. A special award is given to the dog who pulls the most weight vs. their body weight (Pound for Pound) and for the Best Novice Dog and Novice Handler.

Some Dog Bytes: The heaviest single pulls recorded in Alaska occurred at previous Fur Rendezvous events. Two St. Bernards in the heavyweight class, Susitna (the father) and Kashwitna (the son), pulled an incredibly 5,220 pounds each.

No less incredible was a small dog named Frank pictured at right. At the 1987 Fur Rondy he set a single pull record for the Under 50# category with a pull of 1850 pounds. Then at the 1995 Fur Rondy he set the single pull record for the Under 55# category with an amazing pull of 2450 pounds. This year at FOURTEEN years old he will be competing again. THAT'S another one for the record books!

This is our favorite event of the Peninsula Winter Games. And since the State Championship is held prior to the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage, its a great opportunity to see nearly all the dogs which will be competing at the Rondy. We hope to see you all out there this year.


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