What is Urban Mushing And Can My Dog Do It?

Have you ever seen anyone being pulled by their dog while on a cart, a sled-type device, a bike, even a skateboard or roller-blades? Maybe you thought they were crazy or you were jealous of them. Or maybe a bit of both.

Well it’s called Urban Mushing and it’s sweeping the Nation. According to the Southern California Working Snow Dogs site, Urban Mushing, “Our dogs LOVE to run and pull and we give them a chance to get the exercise they need and deserve through various ‘mushing’ type of activities such as scootering, carting, bikejoring, canicross, skijoring, weight-pulling, and yes, dogsledding.”

For those who don’t live near snow, or are like me and hate the cold, the Urban Mushing choices from the above list allows you to exercise your dog without having to set foot on snow.

Can My Dog Do it?

You may already be thinking: I have a high energy breed, can I “wear him out” by urban mushing? Before you run out and tie your dog’s leash to your bike (which I highly recommend you DON’T do, for safety reasons), you need to make sure your dog is capable of mushing.

Louisa Morrissey, CPDT-KA, VSPDT is a dog trainer who teaches skijoring at the St. Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colorado.

Morrissey recommends that dogs be at least 30 pounds and at least 1 to 1.5 years old. And, of course, in good health, she adds.

But don’t think you have to own a Husky, Malamute, or other “Northern breed” to do urban mushing (or even skijoring!). There is a group here in Portland, Oregon that goes out with their Great Danes.

The best place to start is by asking your vet about it. They can tell you if your dog is physically up to the task.

How to get Started

First, you  need the equipment. Morrissey says at the bare minimum you will need a cart or a scooter, a bungee line attachment and a pulling harness for the dog.

If you are planning on running on rough ground, especially pavement, you may want to put booties on your dog, to protect their pads.

you can also start by walking next to the bike, so you have a bit more control should your dogs decide to take off. Image source: @AudreyKirchner via Flickr
you can also start by walking next to the bike, so you have a bit more control should your dogs decide to take off. Image source: @AudreyKirchner via Flickr

Don’t just hook your dog up, get in (or on), and assume your dog is going to listen to you and not run you into a tree after a squirrel.

To get started, Morrissey says, “some people have their dogs start pulling a tire behind them and encouraging them to run forward; often the easiest way is to hook up a novice dog with an experienced dog, provided both dogs are ok being in close contact with each other; or have a person the dog knows ride a bike in front of the scooter or cart with the novice dog, encouraging the dog to run (and pull) forward.”

 

Also be sure you have a way to stop your dog. A good “halt” command is important. And, you will need a way to get your dog to turn in whatever directions you choose – so a “left” and “right” are useful as well.

Safety Tips

Here are Morrissey’s Safety Tips:

  • Make sure to slowly acclimate the dog to pulling, running, and to the presence of the cart or scooter.
  • Make sure the dog does not over heat or get dehydrated.
  • Make sure the dogs paw pads are not getting torn (again, slowly acclimate a dog to pulling and running on an abrasive surface first or use booties or musher’s secret to keep the paw pads from cracking.

About the Author

Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She is the founder of A Fairytail House, a unique all-positive all-sport dog training facility that helps rescue dogs in her area and provides free seminars and training classes for the community. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.

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