Are Weight-Pulling Competitions for Dogs Fun or Cruel?

In a photo taken earlier this month on a South St. Louis, Mo. street, a small dog with three large weights attached to his leash sits on a sidewalk beside†his owners. What we can’t see in the photo is that the dog was being pulled along, dragging those heavy weights behind him. When the weights got stuck in a crack, the dog’s owners wouldn’t†help him as he struggled to continue walking.

“I just cried and cried. My stomach felt like a pit was in it,” Kathy Venegoni, who took the picture in front of her house, told News 4. “He’s just a puppy. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen cruelty before, but that was absolutely horrifying.”

When Venegoni confronted the dog’s owners, they told her they were training him. So Venegoni did the right thing and notified the Humane Society of Missouri (HSMO). But, believe it or not, that poor dog’s owners were doing nothing illegal, because the Missouri Animal Protection Law does not prohibit “the training of dogs or use of equipment in training of dogs.”

Even so, Venegoni filed an animal abuse report with the HSMO, whose†Animal Cruelty Task Force is now investigating the incident. “Typically, our investigators discuss with the pet owner standards of appropriate care for their pets according to state law to ensure the well-being of the animal,” the HSMO said in a statement to News 4.

Just a few days after Venegoni’s photo made the news, a video of two†dogs pulling large tires on a 94-degree day in Beaverton, Ore., was submitted by a concerned viewer to KATU. Denes Balazs, the owner of the Dogos Argentinos, told KATU it was his way of exercising his large dogs, with the harnesses used in weight-pulling competitions.

Beaverton police told KATU that Balazs was committing no crimes under Oregon’s animal cruelty laws because the two dogs appeared to be healthy and uninjured.

In weight-pulling competitions that are held legally in the United States and some other countries, dogs wearing special harnesses have 60 seconds to pull wheeled carts containing 1,000 pounds or more of concrete blocks or bricks down a 16-foot-long track.

This sport allows dogs “to perform a function that comes naturally to them – pulling enthusiastically,” says the United Kennel Club. The International Weight Pull Association (IWPA) enforces some rules at events, including no dog fighting, abuse toward the dogs or coercing them to pull using treats or other implements.

As for training dogs to pull something, the IWPA offers this rather disconcerting advice: “Very likely, they have been tethered by a chain to constrain them to some area. Put a harness on them and connect it to a heavy object, and their perception is not much different than being tethered. You need to teach them that this is something different.”

Because keeping a dog tethered on a chain is cruel, most responsible pet owners don’t do it, and many states have outlawed it.

But weight-pulling competitions have not been outlawed in the U.S., and supporters insist the sport is a fun bonding opportunity for dogs and their owners. The Stop the Weight Pull Hate page on Facebook says, “Weight pull is many things, but it is not ‘cruel,’ ‘torture,’ or ‘training for fighting dogs.’”

Animal rights groups say pulling all that heavy weight can cause dogs to have serious injuries like muscle strains and tears. “It can be extremely dangerous to dogs, especially if they havenít been conditioned or trained for it,” said PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt. “The other concern is when you have owners that are more focused on winning than the safety of their dogs.”

There are safer sports, like dog agility, that provide dogs and their owners with positive bonding experiences. If you think weight-pulling competitions are mostly fun only for the spectators, sign this petition asking the United Kennel Club to end them.

Photo credit: Svenska Massan


natasha p
.about a month ago


Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H6 months ago

"Weightpull is NOT abusive to dogs when done properly"...Pastmember.. and how many people take the time to do it correctly? The article is a pup with 25#+ Too young to be in condition for that type of work. Weights stuck -- again -- all that is is muscle strain not your "training". I have trained plenty of dogs and this one is a no win.

Margie F
Margie FOURIE6 months ago

Would never let my animals do that. They play with a piece of rope and pull it, as in tug of war, but I think weights are cruel.

Pat P
Pat P6 months ago

ANY size weight(s) can be used with ANY dog?! That is a stupidly cruel non-law! I imagine that many owners like these probably don't care about whether a dog is trained properly or in good shape/health. This "exercise" could severely injure an animal--especially in high temperatures! The puppy looked stressed. It can be dangerous for a dog so young to even go up and down stairs, pulling muscles, causing back strain. If they are involved in contests, I would be concerned about the strength of the pet caretaker's desire to win. Letting a dog run and play with a ball and/or human is safer and plenty of fun!

This kind of attitude is why so many sled dogs are treated poorly and overworked.

Dogs will do almost anything to please their caretakers--even when acts of cruelty! Humans seem to find an endless array of abusive acts to subject animals to without any consequences, at least for the people.

Past Member
Past Member 7 months ago

So much misinformatoni in this article.

Agility is NOT safer than weightpull. Weightpull is NOT abusive to dogs when done properly and when the dog is in good shape/health for it . . . Just as the case with dogs doing agility. There are so many active dogs that need a job to do, a sport/activity to be involved in. Survey of Injuries.pdf?fref=gc

Mike A
.7 months ago

It has become more for the profit than the dogs now as usual

Renata Kovacs
Renata Kovacs7 months ago

I would not do this with my dogs so for me I not understand poor dogs,,

Janis K
Janis K7 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Marija M
Marija Mohoric7 months ago