We are living in the most fitness and health centric time in modern history. Americans are becoming increasingly conscious of the importance of a healthy diet, regular cardio exercise and the benefits of being outdoors away from electronics and work.
Not surprisingly, these same healthy habits are crossing over into the Canine world. Americans are paying greater attention to what they feed their dogs and are spending more time exercising with their furry friends.
This healthy lifestyle shift is a big reason why the exciting sport of dryland dog mushing is taking off in America now.
So What Is Dryland Mushing?
We’ve all seen the beautiful sled dogs of Alaska, racing through the snow covered Iditarod. Those teams of majestic Huskies and Malamutes, intelligently obeying commands while powerfully pulling the musher atop his or her sled. Several thousand years old, Sled Dog Racing is now the official state sport of Alaska and is making its way down to the lower 48.
Dryland Mushing is basically a simplified version of dog sledding, typically carried out via scooter, on off-road trails without the snow. Urban Mushing is another version that is becoming really popular in cities such as Dallas, New York and San Diego where you can find local groups, meet-ups and races.
Racing Harness: Stay away from cheap store bought ones and opt for a professional grade harness like these from Non-Stop that are made specifically for top level competitive mushers. They are adjustable to each dog, keep the airways free and utilize the proper pulling points.
Rope/Line: A standard leash won’t work here, you will need a longer ‘running line’ so that your dog will maintain a farther, safer distance from you. This is helpful in the event of a sudden stop, so you will not run into your buddy. This one, also from Non-Stop, is adjustable and doubles as a leash.
Leash Adapter: The only source we found for these in the states was from Kickbike America. The one they offer comes is widely used by top competitive mushers. The leash adapter attaches the dog rope to the scooter and guides it out and away from the front tire to prevent it from getting tangled. Some also have a spring/shock built in to absorb movements making for a smoother, safer ride.
Scooter: The most popular adult push scooter is the Kickbike. Kickbikes were invented over 25 years ago in Helsinki for the sole purpose of training sled dogs in the summer months when the snow in the Alps would melt. The Kickbike 29er is the IFSS Dryland Mushing World Champion for the last 2 years, and the Kickbike brand has been the leader of the sport for a quarter century. They have 11 different models and several are designed specifically for dog mushing, with the CrossMax being the most popular.
What Type Of Dog Is This For?
When you hear ‘dog mushing’, you will tend to picture Huskies and German Shepherd breeds. But the beauty of dog scootering is that practically any breed of dog, as long as healthy and loves to run, will love it! It really depends on your level of intensity. Many people use this method we have laid out here, to simply ‘walk’ their dogs.
Want to take your Pug or Bulldog around the block? Go for it.
On off-road paths and longer distances, a medium to large breed is more ideal as they will be doing more of the pulling and the longer legs help greatly.
Make sure that your dog is conditioned properly. Like humans, they need to ease into new sports, by starting small and incrementally increasing distances and intensity.
What Type Of Person Is This For?
Much like the breeds of dogs, the dog musher demographic is just as diverse. The low impact nature and natural standing position of the adult push scooters make it to where nearly anyone can participate at some level.
Leisurely/Fitness: Those looking for a fun way to walk their dogs, while getting some fresh air and light low impact exercise. Your dog(s) will be able to run faster and farther than ever before letting you extend your ‘walks’ to discover new places and create fun new memories.
Adventurous: The right dog, human, scooter and landscape can lead to an unforgettable experience of bonding and exploration. A dog powered ride through a winding, off-road trail is an intoxicating adventure that will leave you a bit sweaty, dirty and addicted.
Competitive: The IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports) hosts multiple dryland championship events a year. More and more local and regional competitions are coming online here in America. If you have that competitive spirit and a fast, intelligent dog, this is the perfect chance to get involved in a fast growing and exciting sport.
What Type Of Person Is This For?
Give Me 5 Reasons I Should Try Dog Mushing
- Community: The dog mushing world is a relatively small one. It takes a certain type of person to commit their dog to be their workout partner and adventure buddy. The Kickbiking/dryland mushing community is a very close one and a very active one. There are many online and local groups that are always eager to talk about the sport and help people get involved.
- Health: Spending more time with your dog and spending more time outdoors, are both scientifically proven to improve your mood and overall wellbeing. Controlling and kicking along on the scooter is a fantastic low impact cardio workout. And the cerebral engagement in navigating the pathways while communicating with your Canine, is a great mental workout.
- Bonding: Mankind has worked, fought, explored and lived besides dogs for all of our time. They are part of our family, protectors and many times our best friend. The act of dog mushing directly connects the dog to the human. Each must trust each other and clear communication is key. Dogs instinctively pick up on this and after just a few runs you will be amazed at how much more in tune you are now.
- Exploration: Too many times we walk or jog the same routes over and over. There is a big beautiful world out there and dog mushing will take you to new and exciting places as you let your pup lead the way. National Parks and Forests, and many cities and neighborhoods, have extraordinary paths waiting to be explored. Many people that start dog scootering soon find themselves hooked and venturing out more and more. Be Warned!
- Fun: Ok, after all the definitions, explanations, science and excitement…why do we really do it? It is just plain fun! For us, the joy of riding a scooter that fits you, instantly reminds us of being a kid. You will find it hard to describe to people, just how fun it is. I heard it recently called a ‘familiar surprise’ — I like that one. For the dog(s), this is one of the only ways to allow them to run as fast and as far as they can possibly go, in a controlled and safe way. And if you know dogs, you know that is their dream come true.
OK, Sold! Got Any Other Tips For Me?
Tips For Mushing
Commands: “Hike” is the most important command, as it means go. Other common ones are “whoa” for stop, “gee” for turn right, “haw” for turn left, “come gee” for make a U-turn to the right, “come haw” for make a U-turn to the left. But feel free to create your own commands that work for you.
Team: The smaller the dog, the more work you are going to do. This is a team effort, so if your dog gets tired, you will step in and do more kicking. And there will be times when your dog is pulling you and you don’t have to do anything but enjoy the ride.
Stay Hydrated: Try to avoid hot and humid or freezing cold days. Always have plenty of water and snacks and bring extras just in case you venture a bit further out than planned. Make sure you have a bowl and water for your dog, and extra if they are long haired.
Stay In Front: You want to train your dog to stay in front of you, as they are the engine of this vehicle. Say “no” or “wrong” when they veer off course, and be positive when they get back in front. It doesn’t take long for their instincts to kick in and everyone to be on the same page.
Multiple Dogs: For dryland mushing I would recommend 1 or 2 dogs. While you will see advanced riders with 3 or 4, it takes quite a bit of talent and skill to manage, and more importantly, stop, 3 or 4 excited dogs.
Ah Poop: Running fast creates a laxative effect for the dogs, so expect a fairly quick bathroom break. Train them to keep moving and not stop and smell and do the things dogs do.
Protection: Although these scooters are very safe, we encourage certain safety gear for you and your dog. Wear a helmet and sunglasses or goggles. Fast dogs on dirt paths can kick up a lot of dust and rocks. For your pup, there are dog gloves, dog paw healing ointment and dog jackets for rain or cold.
Have Fun: Remember that the more you make this part of the day a reward, the better your dog will perform. Keep the commands and tone positive, be patient and never use any physical punishment or collars when mushing. This is happy time! When your dog sees you start getting the scooter ready, they are likely to start jumping and howling in pure excitement. Don’t scold them for this. Everyone should be excited for the adventure that is about to start.
We hope this is enough to get you going in the fun world of dog scootering. Help to spread the word so we can get America on the stage and get more and more people out exercising, exploring, bonding and having fun with their best friends! The folks at Kickbike America helped us out with this article. See more of them at https://www.kickbikeus.com/