26 December 2013

Tales from the Sophomore Skijorer: Gear Review

Gear in Review

By: Carly Lodewyks

One of my favorite parts of any activity is GEAR!  You don’t really need a ton of stuff to get started with skijoring, but I have learned over the last year that there are definitely items that make it better.  In this post, I am going to review my current favorite items in my skijoring toolkit.

1. Everyone needs a harness

When we first started skijoring last winter, Ember was about 50lbs and still had her skinny puppy body. The traditional X back harness was far too wide for her slim waist so we went with an H back. It fit much better and allowed me to run a short line under her belly just in case she decided to try and wiggle her way out of it.  This worked really well until about late winter/early spring when she started to fill out.

Now Ember is about 75lbs and quite a bit wider across the chest. She has also filled out a bit more around the waist but still has a relatively long and lean body.  I decided to order her a new harness from Howling Dog Alaska. Ivana was very helpful with sizing and we went with the Light weight X back harness. I also purchased a new gangline to match.

I can’t say enough about how awesome this new harness and line are!
The harness is very light weight, and the padding is closed cell instead of fleece like the H back. I find the closed cell dries much quicker and is not as hot as the fleece when we are scootering in the fall.
The fit is perfect. The loop on the end sits right about the base of her tail and it stays remarkably well centered along her back when she is working.
The gangline is very durable and easy on the hands. The bungee section is solid and the knots surrounding are not too bulky. It is nice to have a snap on each end so you can adjust your attachments at your belt/scooter as needed. 

Also, how can Ember not look sharp in the great red design

Ember sports her new Howling Dog Light Weight Harness while out on a beautiful fall scooter.

2. Water and Energy

Everyone has a different routine for watering and feeding their working dog. It is important to make sure that dogs are well hydrated before, during and after a run.
Sometimes you need to bait water to ensure your dog is drinking enough. 
During working season, I add water to Ember’s kibble and then feed her baited water a couple hours before our run.
I have tried many things for bait but Ember’s favorite by FAR is the K9 Restart Techmix.
She drinks a whole bowl of the stuff without even stopping for a breath!
It is a great mixture of protein, easily digestible carbohydrates, electrolytes and vitamins. In warmer temps, I mix up a couple bottles of it to take out on the trail as well and then also use it for rehydration following a run to help with muscle recovery.

Also by K9 Restart- Energy bars. When we are going on a long or fast run, I pack a couple in my pocket for fuel on the trail. They are dense energy filled treats which help keep Ember going.

Finally, at the end of a run I make sure to reward my hardworking girl and bring a long a little baggie of her favorite treats from home. When we turn around on the trail to head back to the car, she knows what’s waiting for her and kicks it into high gear!

3. These boots are made for running

One of the best products for active dogs in my opinion is Pawz disposable rubber booties.  I have tried trimming her paw fur and putting on paw wax but it seems no matter what I do she still accumulates snow balls. These boots are the best! They are easy to put on and they stay on! Ember seems to tolerate them much better than the expensive fleece lined boots. Maybe because she can feel the ground better? I’m not entirely sure.
They also keep her feet safe when we are out skiing in extremely cold weather (we Outlaws don’t let -40 stop us!)

Generally a set of four lasts a couple weeks, depending on how often we are running and the conditions. It is important to keep her nails short or she pokes holes in them. I also find if we are out chasing down the Oxford Dogs on the trail, she tends to rip through the back ones because she pushes off with her hind legs so hard.

Ember stops for a quick bootie adjustment

4. Every good dog needs a good coat.

Howling Dog does it again!
I have had a tough time finding a good quality, warm winter coat for my 75lb dog. Most pet stores cater to little pups and don’t always have coats made for frigid temps.
I ordered a Duracoat from Howling Dog about a month ago and it is amazing.
It fits her entire body and is cut almost like a horse blanket so the back comes down over her rump and ends just above her tail. There is one big belly strap making it super easy to put on. The fleece lining is nice and soft and the outer shell is wind proof- so nice and warm.  The price is also affordable at $30 + shipping.
It is the perfect coat for pre/post run or just a walk on a cold, cold day.

Ember looks spiffy in her new Howling Dog Duracoat. Perfect for a chilly winter walk.

Notice how the coat covers all the way down her back to just above the tail!

There you have it!   So much good stuff out there, but right now these are our favorites.
Leave a comment and tell us a few of your favorite things!