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Friday, March 11, 2011

What I've Learned About Dog Sledding

My hero's, Chance and Blaze

From my little bit of personal experience, and with what I've read, seen and heard about mushing, it can be a very physical sport.  Especially in the training phases.  Of course having the proper equipment and trained dogs makes for half the battle. 

You can be constantly on and off the sled, to correct dogs, untangle them or having them change position and quickly having to hop back on before they take off again.  You may have to run behind them such as going uphill or run along side of them in teaching them how to lead.  Since usually you start working with your lead dog first you can find yourself more off the sled than on.

When I take Chance by himself, we work as a team on the tougher parts, especially when the snow is wetter and more difficult for him to pull me through and going up hill.  I either have one foot on the sled and pushing with the other foot, or I am running behind it.

Your lead dog is the most important key to the team.  There must be a strong trust between the lead dog and driver as they must know the commands inside and out.  Lead dogs also must know how to navigate when conditions change and be able to signal when there is danger ahead. The other dogs of the team must respect the lead dog and learn to follow their leader.

Obviously having the right sled can make the difference between a new car and a clunker.  It must be sturdy enough to handle the stress of the pull of the dogs.  Different sizes and kinds are made for the amount of dogs that will be pulling.  It also must be flexible, light and HAVE BRAKES!!  :) 

 We are in the process of buying a used sled from a friend of ours.  I think it will be hard to beat our homemade version made of a chair and skis.  BOL!  The difference of running one dog as opposed to two is tremendous.  I can use my foot to slow down or stop one dog, but find it slips out from under me when I have two.  Which is how I end up using my knees or fall flat out on the snow to stop.  Every musher has fallen or slip off a sled.  It is just the nature of the sport when you have dogs pulling you.  Even being pulled by one dog still in training and you are just riding there is a physical restrain on your body just balancing and hanging on.  We have clocked two dogs pulling at around 30 miles an hour while hanging on to a handle and standing on runners that are thinner than you boots.  It can be quite a feat, but it also a rush.  The sport is addictive.  I always come home more exhausted and sore than I started out, but nothing beats the thrill of it and watching my dogs enjoying the run.  It is hard to give up because of a few pulled muscles and I never get to do it enough. 

We did get snow last night, but the plow, that never comes down our road, took it all away.  I am a little sore, but doing OK.  I felt ready to go if I could have.  What can I say?  I'm hooked.       



jen said...

I think that would be the neatest thing to sled with dogs. What a rush and a great way to bond!
It sounds like a lot of work but well worth it!

♥♥ The OP Pack ♥♥ said...

Definitely sounds like an exhilarating sport, but the Momster says she is now too old, those days are long gone. She still thinks she would like to try one of those sleds on wheels where she could try it on the trails around here, but we think she will chicken out.

Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

Sage said...

There's a group here where we live that trains in carting, skijoring, etc. Sounds like a great sport for bigger dogs!!

Unknown said...

That certainly sounds very exciting!!
Have fun n may it all be a success:)
Wags, Bud, Gin n Shadow

Pamela said...

So many of us spend a lot of time training our dogs not to pull that we forget how good it feels to some dogs. It sounds like you, Blaze, and Chance are all having a good time.

But get some brakes! Your blog readers are counting on you not to break your wrists.

FiveSibesMom said...

What a wonderful post! Love the pic and I am living vicariously through you right now as one day it is my dream to go dog sledding! I surely have a "team" but I am not able to pursue that at this time. So, in the meantime, keep up your posts about your adventures!

Road Dog Tales said...

Sounds exciting! Pretty sure everybody in this house is too lazy to attempt this. We will just watch you guys!

The Road Dogs

ForPetsSake said...

I would be hooked, too. Dog sledding is something I'd love to do. I rode in a dog sled across a frozen lake on winter when we lived in Maine (it was on my bucket list) and couldn't keep that silly grin off my face the whole time. I was amazed at the silence from the dogs and everything around me as the sled started off. Magical!