Dry Land Skijoring
One of my favourite things to do in the world is spend time with my dogs. I am blessed with two, beautiful Siberian Huskies. Luna (black) and Colt (red).
Siberian Huskies are medium size, dense-coat working dog breeds that originated in north-eastern Siberia. They are recognizable by its thickly furred double coat, erect triangular ears, and distinctive markings.
Huskies are a very active, energetic, and resilient breed whose ancestors came from the extremely cold and harsh environment of the Siberian Arctic. Siberian Huskies were bred by the Chukchi of Northeastern Asia to pull heavy loads long distances through difficult conditions. The dogs were imported into Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush and later spread into the United States and Canada. They were initially sent to Alaska and Canada as sled dogs but rapidly acquired the status of family pets and show dogs.
Like many working dogs, my huskies took very well to doing what they were bred for – running and pulling. Although you cannot make Siberian Huskies work in the hot weather, it can injure or kill the dog if they overheat.
As a life long outdoors person I was eager to have my Siberian Huskies pull me the way they did when I worked at Chocpaw Expeditions, in South River, Ontario for one mushing season.
Running a cross-country ski school at Barefoot Bushcraft in winter, I used Luna, my black husky to pull me along during 12+ hour days at the office.
In order to keep Luna in good shape, and train Colt to run I decided to start Dry Land Bikejoring on flat asphalt trails. A quick search on Kijiji, and I bought a small kick bike. It looks like skateboard with handlebars and brakes. I hitched up my dogs and gave them the command “Ready? Lets go!” which is used by mushers in Canada to alert the dogs it’s time to run.
The exhilaration of having your two best friends rip down the trails at high speed is not easily explained. All of your senses are energized. There is no sound, except the dogs running and the clink of the harnesses and buckles. The cool wind pushes on your face, and you can smell the leaves and autumn air. You effortlessly glide up the asphalt trail, fingers on the brakes. The dogs run fast. Passersby in cars will often slow down to observe you. You stand on one foot and kick the ground to make the bike go faster “Hut!” you scream out and the dogs run faster. It’s a serious feeling of freedom.
Luna, Colt, and I have run several hundred kilometres together as a team. Generally we run about 8km on asphalt paths each time we go out. When the snow falls we switch to Skijoring where the dogs pull me on skis. This reduces the amount of friction between my weight and the dogs pulling. Ours speeds are greater.
Dry Land (bikjor) training is useful because it gets the dogs used to running and pulling, and there is greater drag (my weight) for them to pull. This trains them safely.
To start Dry Land pulling you will need the following items:
– Dogs who love to run and pull
– Kick Bike
– Pulling Harness
– Gang Line, or leash
The following video is a light hearted look at dry land bikejoring with my two Siberian Huskies, Luna (black) and Colt (red)
Beware if you are not a musher that there are significant dangers in running dogs. Find a local club that will show you how to safely run your dogs. Wolfmaan and affiliates do not endorse anyone participating in this activity without proper instruction.
It’s important you buy proper harnesses for your dogs to pull. Asking them to be silent athletes means they will work hard, and will be unable to advise you if a harness is pulling wrong, causing them aches and pains, or injury. I purchased my custom harnesses from Alpine Outfitters. The harnesses are properly designed for pulling. Remember that most harnesses are not designed for this and can permanently injure your dog!
Always wear a helmet in the event I come off the kick bike and hit the ground.
Your dog can run into pedestrians and cause a collision. These collisions are high speed, on asphalt and very serious. You could get sued by the pedestrian for loosing control of your dogs. Your dogs can also be injured and killed during these collisions. Most people walk along trails with headphones on, and will be unaware of you and your dogs flying up behind them. It just takes a moment for your dogs to trip someone and have them hit their head on the asphalt.
Dogs can also get injured if they are running at high speed and the gang line gets hung up on something. Usually this is a small tree or pole where the dog goes on one side, and you on the other. The sudden stop will jerk the dogs backs, injure their legs, and you will fly off your kick bike as well.
One of the most common occurrences is if you are assisting your dog in kicking the kick bike and catch up to them. The leash will drag along the asphalt and can get caught up in the tyres of your kick bike. This will cause the bike to come to a sudden stop, damage the bike (rip off brake pads, etc) and the bike will reel in the dogs. This can have disastrous results.
- Sheldon L. Gerstenfeld (1 September 1999). ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs. Chronicle Books. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-8118-1904-6.
- “Get to Know the Siberian Husky”, ‘The American Kennel Club’, Retrieved 29 May 2014