There is lots to know about Harness Dog Sports
Why do these things with your dog?
Dogs naturally love to pull. Almost everyone who has taught a puppy to walk on the lead knows it. Dogs love to exercise and need to exercise. We can’t go as fast as them without help, so all these sports help bring us up to the dogs’ speed. These are great sports to bond with your dog or dogs. When my older dogs have passed it truly has been a heart breaker as we have spent many hours linked by a line, making decisions together as we were having fun in the great outdoors. The bond is indescribable. Thank goodness I have always had more than one dog, to help through the hard time.
How do I do these things with my dog or dogs?
Safety first; make sure when you are first trying things out with your dogs you are in a safe environment away from cars and other dog teams or loose dogs. Check with your vet that your dogs do not have a problem that could be made worse by becoming an athlete. Be aware they may always be squirrels and your dogs may suddenly need to poop! Wear a helmet and other protective clothing until you figure out how you and your dogs will handle the sport together. Make sure you don’t do these activities when it is too hot. Dogs can overheat just like people and hot pavement can burn pads. I prefer whenever possible not to run my dogs on pavement, or only go on pavement for a short time. Dogs that pull need to be well hydrated. Dogs should not pull after eating a lot. It is better to give some water with a small bit of meat or nutritional supplement in a few hours before a run. Start by going short distances to see how athletic your dogs are, and increase the distances as you see them improving.
Teach your dogs some commands for left and right. Most mushers us “gee” for “right” and “haw” for “left”. It is really helpful to have a dog that already knows commands to help teach dogs that do not, providing the dogs get along well. However you can even teach dogs out walking on a twisty trail or with pylons/or other objects like pylons, especially if you have taught them other words. Walk with them and say the commands as you turn. Then try them out in front and see if they are catching on. If your dog won’t lead out you can still enjoy the sports recreationally with them at your side, and they will enjoy going faster than a walk.
For a cart, biking and scootering it is good, if your dogs lead out, to make sure you have something around your line to keep it from getting tangled in your wheel (I use a piece of plastic tube and a zip tie to keep it in place). All lines should have some bungee in them, whether you are skiing, biking, scootering, carting, canicrossing (running with your dog), sledding or kayaking. This makes the ride safer for you and your dog if there are problems. Check out the links in the links/contact section for people who sell lines and dog/people harnesses. While some people like to wear a harness while biking, pros attach the line to the bike. Having tried both ways I have found the pro way to be much safer. For tips on what the pros use for equipment check out the IFSS race rules in the following link: http://www.sleddogsport.net/regulations/race-rules/ . Also check out our Facebook page, “Fun things to do with your dogs” album for a little more about some of the photos above.
Think about joining the OFSS to find other people who do the sport you want to try. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see if we can tell you of someone in the club that lives in your area that may be able to mentor you.
Article By Karen Koehler – OFSS President