WINTER IS COMING! And at one point or another, most Siberian Husky owners will come across the idea of running their dogs as a form of exercise – after all, it’s what they’ve been bred to do.
Here we’ll provide a rough guide to running your Siberian Husky, and get you pointing in the right direction.
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Like with most new sports, there is some initial financial outlay. That said, if you buy the right items initially, it can be a relatively low-cost activity. (Provided you can resist the urge to buy new harnesses on a weekly basis.)
Your dog(s) will need a suitable harness to run in. Suitability in this sense can be split equally between purpose, and fitment.
You will need a harness for the explicit purpose of pulling, most pet shops will not stock these, so you will need to find a dedicated retailer. Fortunately in the UK there are now a number of real stores you can visit as well as numerous well-respected online retailers.
Once you’ve decided which harness you want to use, you’ll need to work out what size to buy. Most suppliers can provide you with a guide as to how to measure your dog to work out what size, but if in any doubt, and if it all possible – it is often best to visit a store with your dog so they can take the measurements for you.
You will need an appropriate running ‘line’ for any running activity. These can vary from a simple bungee-lead style, all the way up to race-team gang-lines. Provided what you purchase is stated as being suitable for scootering, bikejoring, etc then you shouldn’t have any real issues here. We would always recommend buying products from a reputable vendor to ensure quality, as loose dogs are a nightmare for any husky owner.
In most cases you will require a bikejor arm/antenna to keep your lines out of the way of the front wheel. This applies to both bicycles and scooters – although some scooters may come with integrated variants as standard.
Because this kit is very use-specific, we don’t have any real preference in terms of make or manufacturer. Instead, we would urge you to match up a bikejor arm to your bike or scooter. For example, an arm that straps to the top-tube of a bicycle will not be very effective on a scooter – because the angle overhanging the wheel will then be too steep. If you were to use your bicycle for commuting or other recreational activity without your dogs, then you may wish to be with one that is easily detachable. Some arms attach around the middle of a bikes head tube or headstock – before buying these, it is important to check that you have enough space to accommodate this, as many modern bicycles do not.
Scooter, bicycle, rig; these are the main three options. Which one you should choose (if you don’t already have one) depends largely on how many dogs you would like to run.
Bicycle or scooter would be appropriate with a single dog. Which is most appropriate really comes down to what yourself feels most in control of. If you’re a keen cycling enthusiast, then a bike probably makes more sense. If you’re not very well balanced on a bicycle, then a scooter would probably make a better choice. Food for thought.
Scooter is the most frequently opted for when running two dogs. Although both other options are commonly seen too.
If you are lightweight and have strong dogs, there is no reason you would struggle on a rig, but if you are on the heavy side and your dogs may need a helping hand, a scooter or bike may be the better choice.
Traditionally bikejoring with two dogs has been frowned upon because of the increased danger to the user. That said, it is now becoming a more common format in rallies and races, so it is being done. We wouldn’t recommend a novice cyclist to do this, only those with a high degree of confidence in their bike-control abilities and their equipment should be encouraged to do so.
For safeties sake, we have to recommend that you run higher numbers of dogs only on a rig. We’re not saying it’s not being done on scooters or bikes, but it’s certainly not for the beginner.
You have sled-dogs that can easily travel 40 miles per day at an average of 10+ mph – right? Well err, no – not quite.
All of the above is true of well trained and conditioned dogs living in cold climates, but the chances are; your pet huskies are-not, can-not and will-not do that.
The majority certainly do have the urge to run, but if they have never done it before they may well tire easily, so limit your expectations of what your dogs will do in the beginning. Chances are, you couldn’t wake up tomorrow and run a marathon having not trained, so there’s no reason why your dogs should either.
It’s important to introduce them to it gradually. Start off with short distances, even if they don’t seem tired. You need to keep their interest so they keep wanting more, building your distance and pace slowly. If you do too much too soon, you may well end up with a husky who sees running simply as a chore.
The Dogs Come First
There are always some inherent dangers when running dogs at speed, so you just need to do everything you can to prevent an incident. Properly fitting harnesses, quality equipment and well-maintatined wheels are key points. Properly adjusted and working brakes are one of the most important, especially when teaching dogs new to the sport.
Here’s our quick guide to appropriate running conditions in the UK, using information recommended by the sports governing bodies.
It should go without saying that, you need a helmet. But eye-protection, gloves and even elbow/knee pads and other items of body armour are increasingly being used by budding mushers.
Location & Insurance
The laws are sketchy at best regarding running dogs, especially when using more specific equipment such as scooters or rigs. In short, there are no rules directly relating to it. However there are many animal drafting laws still present from years gone-by which could potentially land you in hot-water should you fail to run responsibly.
The preferable course of action is to get involved with a club; UCSC, BSSF, SHCGB are just a few to mention – and communicate with them about where you are best to do it and how to obtain the correct insurance policies so that you and your dog(s) are fully covered.
Many people acquire permits for Forestry Commission land or permission from military areas in order to use their land/facilities. Talking to individuals in your area would be the best place to start.
Hooner – http://www.hoonerpetsupplies.com
Snowpaw Store – http://www.snowpawstore.com/
K9 TrailTime – http://www.k9trailtime.com/
White Forest Dogs – http://www.whiteforestdogs.co.uk/
Icy Paws – http://icypaws.co.uk/
UCSC – http://www.ucsc.org.uk
SHCGB – http://siberianhuskyclub.org.uk
BSHRA – http://www.huskyracing.org.uk
Canicross Midlands – http://www.canicrossmidlands.co.uk
SSHC – http://scottishshc.org.uk