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.

urban mushing with two dogs

Photo credit: Matthew Blouir via Flickr

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.

dog scootering

Photo credit: ashleigh290 via Flickr

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.

sled dogs mushing

Photo credit: Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

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 powered scooter

Photo from dogpoweredscooter.com

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.

dog powered trike

Photo from dogpoweredscooter.com

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.

springer dog exerciser

Photo from Springeramerica.com

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.

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27 comments Comments image with loudspeaker
  • Louis

    I’ve been half joking forever that I want to train my dogs to pull sleds. They really need this type of outlet for their energy (and sometimes boredom). I think I may actually try this now.

    Reply to Louis
    • Amy Marshall

      Hey Louis, you should, that’d be so fun! I want to get Ron into weight pulling and mushing activities as well, he definitely needs it!

      Reply to Amy
  • Rainah

    I have three wolf/hybrids that are trained to run on leash next to my bicycle but they keep growing- 7 months old now and too much to run together in that formation…I would love to get them mushing…how can I contact a teacher near Calistoga California??

    Reply to Rainah
    • Amy Marshall

      Hi, that’s great you want to get into urban mushing with your dogs! I’m from NY so I’m afraid I don’t know any teachers out in California.

      I’d do a Google search for any mushing websites or blogs out your way (trying searching “California mushing clinics” which seems to turn up some good results). I would also contact the local kennel club in your area. They may not offer classes on mushing but are usually pretty connected in the dog world and could refer you to someone else I’m sure. Another idea is to search http://www.meetup.com/ for a mushing meeting up around your area. Plus, I would look online or on YouTube for some training videos or books – though I agree, nothing beats getting taught hands on.

      Lastly, if you’re struggling to teach your dogs how to mush traditionally, I’d consider some of the mushing equipment from the article that allows you to hook your dog up to your bicycle or buy a whole device altogether that will allow you to safely mush with your dogs without going through traditional training. Good luck!

      Reply to Amy
      • Robert Reid

        I’m in California and my neighbor does mushing. People complain “it’s inhumane”. I have an overly active 10 month Pit Lab mix that weighs in at a hefty 53 pounds. After finding this information about urban mushing, I too will be finding something to exercise my dog, King.

        Reply to Robert
        • Amy Marshall

          Thanks for the comment Robert! As long as your dog enjoys the activity and you participate safely, go ahead. Exercise is important for ALL living creatures, especially dogs.

          Reply to Amy
  • Tony hart

    I have a husky (14 months) & a Belgium shepherd (4& half years) I built two trikes and have trained both bitches to urban mush, they love it! I am always travelling to new places in kent uk to find new runs, have been doing it about three months and now looking for longer and harder courses, any one thinking of doing it go for it, one month training off trike and then on harness and results pay off the more you go out.
    Have confidence in your own abilities and the dogs will work with you easily.

    Reply to Tony
    • Amy Marshall

      Hey Tony, thanks for sharing and for the encouragement! Urban mushing is a great activity to get involved in and I’m happy to hear that you and your dogs are enjoying it so much :)

      Reply to Amy
    • Jaya Wilder

      Hello Tony Hart. My Siberian/akita needs to run, but I can’t find anywhere to do it in S. London. Everything about urban mushing seems to be illegal in the UK – scooters can only go on private land, dogs must not be attached to a bike, bikes musn’t go on pavements but dogs on the road are probably illegal too. All dog-pulled vehicles were made illegal 100 years ago, so mushers must rely on the law turning a blind eye to wheeled rigs. Please please please, could you advise Molly and me? We need to contact other local mushers.

      Reply to Jaya
  • Caring for my dogs

    Great ideas here! Urban mushing would be so fun haha! Thanks for the post!

    Reply to Caring
  • Kay edwards

    Thanks for a great article. I have been scootering with my Black Mouth Cur for three years and it was a lifesaver for us. He has so much energy it was impossible for me to walk him on a leash. Scootering forced me to learn to control him with voice commands, and he is now very proud of taking me for a ride every day. It’s one of his “jobs.” That and picking up laundry and putting it in the wash basket.
    Scootering is a great way to give a high energy dog what they need.

    Reply to Kay
    • jan

      Hello Kay, I have a black mouth curr and she weighs 65 pounds. I bought a dog cart for her and I am just getting started. any hints on how to make this work? She also is full of energy. Jan

      Reply to jan
  • Delta

    Whats the average distance do you go until you stop the dog(s) for rest and water?

    What is a average distance to be a considered a good workout?

    Reply to Delta
  • Head Witch at Team Witches Brew

    Great rundown of the urban mushing options, Amy!
    I take 3-4 GSD/Malamute/Husky/Staffy types mushing 5 days a week here in NorCal.
    The sport seems to be really hot in SoCal but I’ve met three urban mushers in my town also (out on the canal trails, of course).
    I use a Pawtrekker Explora and modified mine to keep the dogs behind steering control using the Springer Dog Jogger (both sides) AND some parts from Dog Powered Scooter.
    Right now, I’m trying to put together a trike-style rig with seat for the kids behind me so they can ride along on a 3 dog team :)
    Thanks for the article- Robin

    Reply to Head
    • Renee

      Hi Robin, Wondering if you know of group in the SF bay area. I’m looking to get started with my lab/husky mix.
      Thanks!

      Reply to Renee
  • lisa turner

    I am very interested in this for Lapphund..she is still rather small..we started with a standard bike…she did well..what is the best way to enforce directional commands? We LOVE this..

    Reply to lisa
  • Nick Vacalo

    Great site. Have bookmarked it. Thanks :)

    Reply to Nick
  • Mark Hedtke

    While your article is quite interesting in my opinion you neglected an important aspect of training with dogs. What I refer to is just plain running with your dog(s). Jogging with your pets doesn’t cost much but your time, go enjoy your high energy pets!

    Reply to Mark
  • http://www.gossipsmademefamous.net/beach-please/#comment-203755

    I like high energy dog but I can’t walk them everyday. This is a great solution for me. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply to http://www.gossipsmademefamous.net/beach-please/#comment-203755
  • Christina Bostian

    I have an adult tricycle of which I slip the leash to the handle bar and my Briard loves his exercise. She is so strong, this is the only way I can give her a good walk.

    Reply to Christina
  • Bethany Pritchett

    I have a very energetic Dane that will be 2 this month. He needs to get out his energy and this just might be perfect!

    Reply to Bethany
  • Alexia

    This article is awesome! I have three Siberian Huskies in NY, two of which are 10-month pups and their mom who is four years old, and I can’t wait to start mushing with them. They have so much energy and I know this would be a great outlet for them.

    Reply to Alexia
    • Amy Marshall

      So glad you enjoyed it! Let me know how it goes :)

      Reply to Amy
      • Elwood

        I want to get started with this. I have been considering buying a shelter dog anyway. My worry is getting one that doesn’t want to run/ pull. Please advise on how to select a dog from a shelter.
        Also, I think I am interested in the scooter style. But what is the difference between a dog scooter and a regular kick bike or adult scooter?
        Thank you in advance, Elwood.

        Reply to Elwood
        • Amy Marshall

          That’s great to hear! I’d suggest inquiring with the staff at your local animal shelter or using Google to research how to select the right shelter dog for you. Most scooters are human powered meaning the rider pushes off the ground. Kick bikes are often another term used to describe essentially the same thing. There are scooters you can buy alone, then purchase leash adapters so you can hook your dog to them. That way you can use the equipment alone or with your dog. But some brands make dog scooters with permanent fixtures to hook your dog up to. These tend to be safer for the rider and allow most people to hook up untrained dogs to them. They’re easier than teaching commands or trying to train a dog to urban mush.

          Reply to Amy
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