Ah, the high-energy breed. It’s often a breed that is widely misunderstood and has pet parents throwing their arms up in frustration everywhere.
The problem is that many inexperienced dog owners have an unrealistic view of their dog’s exercise requirements. Now double that for a high-energy breed.
These people envision taking their furry friend on a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, perhaps enrolling in puppy kindergarten or an obedience class, and most importantly – lots of cuddling and snuggling in front of the TV.
Their expectations dwindle fast when they let a high-energy breed into their homes. “This isn’t a dog,” they say. “It’s a possessed four-legged version of the Energizer Bunny!” What many fail to realize is that this is a special type of dog. This kind of dog needs a job to do and the typical daily walk isn’t going to cut it.
A dog that isn’t getting his or her exercise needs met can take out their energy in destructive chewing or other behavioral issues. It’s also one of the main reasons that dogs are surrendered to shelters.
How do we solve this issue? Enter urban mushing.
Mushing is defined as “a sport or transport method powered by dogs.” It includes carting, sled dog racing, scootering, bikejoring, canicross, pulka, freighting, weight pulling, and other activities. It involves the participation of one dog or multiple dogs to pull a sled, cart, or other contraption either on snow or dry land.
Urban Mushing also called Dryland Mushing was put into practice to keep winter sled dogs in top shape during the off-season. It’s similar to traditional dog sledding except it’s done on dry land, not snow. And instead of pulling a sled, urban mushing involves a dog or dogs pulling a cart, scooter, bike or other apparatus.
What are the Benefits of Urban Mushing?
It will provide a fun activity and outlet for your dog to burn off excess energy while strengthening the bond between you two. It’s a great way to keep working dogs, sled dogs, and the family dog in tiptop shape.
Where can Urban Mushing take place?
Just about anywhere, the options are only limited to the ability of the handler and dog(s) team. You can go anywhere that you can walk your dog or that your mushing apparatus can roll through. Pavement, sidewalks, dirt trails, parks, fields, and the woods are all suitable locations. As the skill set of the handler and dog improves you’ll be able to take on more challenging terrain.
If your dogs are experienced mushers, you’ll most likely want to be in an area that isn’t overly crowded. You can get moving pretty fast when mushing and you don’t want end up crashing into kids playing in your neighborhood. Not every location may allow mushing so it’s always best to ask first if you’re unsure.
Keep in mind if you do decide to take your dogs in busier urban areas, they should be experienced and well trained. The last thing you need is a dog new to the sport getting over excited, tangled up, and being a nuisance or danger to others around you.
How do I pick a set of wheels?
Urban mushing compliments a variety of personal preferences because just about any set of unpowered wheels can be used. This includes carts, bikes, scooters, skates, rollerblades, and skateboards.
It’s recommended that the individual is familiar and competent with the chosen set of wheels before attaching their dogs to them. Beginners should choose something that’s easy to balance, navigate, and provides maximum control over their dogs. Having a good set of brakes is also key for beginners to stay safe and out of harms way.
Remember, confidence in a mushing apparatus is vital when training your dog. Projecting confidence in the wheeled vehicle you’re riding gives your dog confidence in your lead and makes training all the more fun instead of a frightening experience for your dog.
What kind of dog is suitable for urban mushing?
Just about any dog can learn to mush. The dogs best suited to this are athletic breeds with lots of energy to burn and breeds that like to pull. As you would expect, the husky breeds have an innate ability to run and pull, as these instincts are bred into them. But that doesn’t say other breeds or mixes can’t enjoy or excel at mushing. Many different breeds and mixes love mushing and can benefit from the exercise.
What size dog is recommended?
A dog weighing at least 30-35 lbs and up would be a great candidate for mushing. The dog needs to be strong enough to be able to pull their handler at a decent speed. However, about five pounds of force is all that is needed to pull the average adult on a surface that is smooth and flat. If you wish to mush a dog under 30 pounds, they won’t be able to pull very fast, so you should be willing to do a majority of the work and contribute to the forward motion when mushing with toy breeds.
How does mushing work and what are my options?
While there are many options and you can train a dog to do just about anything, we’ve broken urban mushing into two general categories based on comfort level.
Option 1: Traditional Mushing
This route involves training your dog how to mush with traditional equipment and methods. With traditional mushing you need a harness, running line, and hook up line to attach your dog to a wheeled vehicle of your choice.
Since the dog is out in front pulling their handler behind them, basic training is needed to be able to navigate. The handler and dog pair must be able to work together as a team. The dog needs to know the commands for slowing down, going faster, stopping, and turning. There’s a universal set of mushing commands that can be used or handlers can make up their own verbal commands (i.e. go, stop, left, right, etc.). The basics are “Gee” (right), “Haw” (left), “Easy” (slow), and “Whoa” (stop). While those are the basics, there are other commands to get your dog to ignore distractions and stay on trail.
Option 2: Mushing Products Made Easier
Many dog owners are hesitant to try mushing because they’d prefer an activity with more safety features and want to have greater control when steering and better overall control over their dogs.
The truth is, many people just aren’t comfortable getting pulled by powerful dogs. They may lack the confidence or skills to train their dog to obey basic mushing commands so that they can exercise together safely. Still, some get frustrated with tangling lines and prefer their dog to stay on their side.
A majority of busy families and dog owners want something much more user friendly. They don’t want to be bothered hooking up the lines and don’t want to spend much time training. They’d like to be able to exercise their dogs in their neighborhood or close to home.
If traditional mushing seems intimidating for whatever reason, there are a number of great products out there that make mushing easier for the average dog owner. Here are two products to get you started.
Dog Cart USA (also known as Sacco USA) provides exceptional dog carts for urban mushing and training activities. All carts are made in the USA with solid, modern, and functional construction. In 2012 their dog carts went through a major overhaul and now use aircraft grade quality materials. The frame is made from chromoly steel providing the same durability but drastically reducing the weight of the cart.
In addition, all Dog Cart USA products have new suspension technology called “Kanti-Link.” This patented suspension technology delivers over 4 inches of suspension making a smooth and enjoyable ride for dog owners. You can rest assured these carts will last with their updated “never a flat” tires. These tires are larger in diameter and are a low rolling resistant tire with a quick disconnect axle for easy assembly. Other new safety features include four wheel disc brakes for ultimate stopping power. The braking system is conveniently located on the steering handles so you can control the handles and brakes all in one location along with improved seat belts and an adjustable seat back angle for safety and comfort.
DogPoweredScooter.com offers several products for dog owners that need to find additional ways to exercise their high-energy breeds that are safe and easy enough for beginners. They offer two versions of their dog-powered scooter, one for recreational pullers and one for serious pullers. They also sell a bolt on attachment for a recumbent trike or other apparatuses and their products can be designed for one dog or multiple dogs.
The great thing about their products is that they require little to no training, a short learning curve, and more safety features for the owner and the dog. The harnesses and outrigger bar are designed to securely connect a dog to the scooter only allowing him or her to move forward. This ensures that the dog can’t pull to the side knocking their handler over.
Their products are also a great solution for exercising blind and hearing-impaired dogs because the dog is kept safe and cannot move to the side and get hurt by the mushing apparatus. It’s also a perfect solution for dogs that are high risk and can’t be trusted off leash (i.e. aggressive dogs, dogs with behavioral issues, etc.).
Another great product is the Springer Dog Exerciser. It’s a biking attachment for dogs that installs on most standard men and women’s bikes including road bikes and mountain bikes. It’s easily removed and installed with a special patented safety release. It also features a low mounted, heavy-duty spring that absorbs 90% of the force from your dog (including unexpected tugs). This makes it much easier to stay safe and maintain better balance.
While these are just two great suggestions, there’s a plethora of products available on the market that make urban mushing more feasible for the novice dog owner or busy families.
The options are truly endless when it comes to urban mushing and there’s a solution or product for every ability and comfort level. If you have a high-energy breed that isn’t getting his or her exercise requirements, what are you waiting for? Give urban mushing a try; your dog will thank you for it.