The sport of attaching a sled harness to your dog and then attaching it to you……. With no sled.
Then, you run. And try not to fall. It’s AWESOME!
Actually, there’s more to it than that.
To do it on your own is pretty easy. Get a quality harness/line/belt. We use Nooksack Racing gear.
Most dogs naturally pull, so that usually isn’t a problem. Dogs tend to follow a trail, so that usually works out well.
But for it to be a more fun experience for you, and more of “work” experience for them, a few commands are good to have.
Minimums (I find):
– A go command (even though they tend to pull naturally, there are times when they will decide they’d rather not. For this to be a work exercise, they need to go regardless!)
– A stop command (As in, if you stop to tie your shoe you don’t have to tether yourself to a tree)
– A leave it command (As in they “tend” to follow a trail, but it’s surprising how brave little forest creatures get when they see a dog pulling. A sudden left turn into a heavily wooded area as they chase a squirrel can just ruin the experience.)
Nice but not necessary:
– Left/right turn (when trails split this is really nice)
– Heel (depending on the gnarliness of the trail, it’s nice to be able to say walk behind me over this slick wobbly bridge!)
In Competitions people like to have these:
– A tolerance for other dogs. There are going to be a lot of them and they will be AMPED!!! you have to make sure that your dog is either OK with that, or you have bombproof management techniques in your toolbox. Cause you WILL need them. Just because people have taught their dogs to pull doesn’t necessarily mean they have taught them manners!
– About left/right (as in a u-turn one way or the other)
– Over left/right (as in which side of the trail to be on. Useful for passing)
Of course the die-hard “Mushers” (what pulling enthusiasts usually call themselves) do it in a foreign language. But I don’t really care about that.
How to get these skills, you ask?
Yeah that’s the problem.
We read about it, and thought it was awesome sounding. So, we of course asked every trainer we could find for help. No one teaches it. Weird. So we just taught ourselves. And started with the minimums. Not bad.
Then we finally found a Musher willing to help us. And that’s when we found out the secret. You hitch your dog to a team of trained dogs. They are literally attached. You say right, the team pulls them right. Eventually, the team isn’t pulling them, cause they know what right means.
Sweet. If your dog’s not reactive/aggressive.
What about…. You know….. Us?
Well, I can tell you how we do it.
Getting a dog through the minimums isn’t hard. Acclimate them to the equipment. Be consistent with your stop and go commands. Pretty simple. Leave it I do “off-line” first. Then once they have it, they’ll have it on a trail too. So far so good.
The more complex stuff?
Heel you teach off-line, and interrupt your runs with them enough that you have them when you need them. No biggie. So far it’s just like the doggie friendly types.
Left/right turns. That’s where it gets different. If you don’t have a team of dogs to teach your dogs with, you need people.
Here’s one way to try. It’s essentially like teaching recall. You get a fork in a trail and put a person on each side You pick a side, and run up to the fork and say “right” (or whatever you want it to be) the corresponding person then bait’s the dog. After a bunch of successful reps, do the other side. Then it’s the choice factor. As you approach you say one or the other and the correct person baits. Then reduce the baiting until they are dead still and the dog chooses correctly, cause he understands. Then back them further up the trail until eventually they are out of sight, and the dog is being rewarded way after the fork. Then you have a dog that knows the turns, and it didn’t take a dog team to do it.
The tolerance of other dogs…. Or how to manage an aggressive dog in a huge crowd of AMPED dogs?
Whew…. That’s for another time. That’s its own can of worms!
I will leave you with these pics.
(first two pics above are of Mabel. Highly dog aggressive, and people reactive, in the biggest CanX race in the state. And the last one is of Bella, who is VERY environmentally challenged, in the same race! If we can do it with them, your dog is NO PROBLEM)
And if those pics of happy dogs and people aren’t enough to make you want your pooch involved with this…… Then I don’t know how you call yourself a dog person!
Want them in it, but don’t want the headache, or physically can’t give them this gift….. Call us. We’ll run em for you!