An Introduction to Scooterjoring
Most dogs love to run and run you may spend most of your walks trying to recall them, or chasing around after them, or if you own a Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute, being dragged around on the lead by them!
So why not dog scooter?
Dog Scootering is a growing UK sport and is well established in the States. Cheaper and easier to transport than rigs, they make a great alternative for running dogs such as Huskies and Malamutes. You can be more sociable too whereas two rigs would be cost prohibitive for one couple, both to buy and to transport, scooters can fit neatly onto a bike rack and you can both enjoy running the trails together.
But it's not just sled dogs that can pull a scooter. They're lightweight, fun and any dog who likes to run can be trained to use one easily.
If you don't have a whole team, don't worry! Dog scooters are best for one or two dogs. Want to get started? Here's a quick guide:
If your dog has already learnt how to pull a bike or a rig, then they will need no encouragement to pull you on a scooter so the best thing is for you to get used the scooter on your own first! Just practice going downhill or around corners. It won't take long to get the hang of it.
To get started you'll need:
- An off road style dog scooter
- An X-back harness or scootering harness for each dog
- Depending on the terrain you are running on, some dog booties
- Some sled dog equipment a shockabsorbing line or gangline kit which consists of:
- A shockline (to reduce the impact of pulling and stopping on the dog, and you!)
- A Tug line single lead tug or double lead tug (for two dogs)
- A neckline if you are running 2 dogs
- For most scooters you will also need a bikejoring arm to keep the line out of the wheel however this is not required for any of the Pawtrekker scooters.
- For you, wear a cycle helmet, elbow pads, kneepads and long sleeved tops and trousers. Some scooterers also wear goggles to avoid getting grit sprayed into their eyes.
The amount of safety gear you wear largely depends on the enthusiasm and speed of your dog!
Use your usual mushing commands.
Hook your dog to the gangline attached to your scooter and keep the brakes on firmly as you get yourself ready put one foot on the scooter footplate. Give the command and release the brakes and you're off! Then put your other foot on the footplate.
Watch the gangline stays tight and use your brakes gently if you need to tighten it. Keep an eye on your dog and if they suddenly stop, say, to poo, sniff some interesting blade of grass etc, apply your brakes gently and steer slightly to the side of your dog allowing the gangline to slacken a little, so you have more time to stop without running into them.
If your dog has never run in this way before, then start gently and make sure the dog has fun! A good way to get your dog to pull is to enrol the help of a friend to ride on a bike in front of them “ think rabbits at the greyhound track! They'll (hopefully) chase the bike and in the process pull you along. Keep first runs short and on quiet trails “stop well before they've had enough and they'll associate the scootering with a positive experience which they'll want to repeat.
Teach your dog mushing commands even when out walking to get them used to them:
Some basic commands:
These are just examples - use whatever commands you feel comfortable with “ just keep them consistent.
- Gee = Go Right
- Haw = Go Left
- Hike / Pull = Go Forward
- Whoa! = Stop
- Trail = Stay on the trail
- On By = Go past (e.g. past a distraction
- Easy = Go Slower
If your dog gets scared by running in front of the scooter, get them used to the sensation of dragging something behind them whilst on walks “ tie a light drag onto the end of a lead “ a small tree branch, plastic bottle, etc “ and attach the lead to the dogs harness. If you vary the terrain and the weight of the drag, your dog will become accustomed to a variety of noises and sensations, which should reduce their anxiety about the scooter. Once they get scootering, there will be no stopping them!
Keep your dog well hydrated with water “ not too cold “ to avoid heat stress. Do this before, during and after their run.
Lastly, but most importantly - have fun scootering! Your dog will love it, you'll become a team and you'll get fit too!
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