20 August 2013

Aggresive Dogs on the trails

Please don't take your aggressive dogs out where other people and dogs are at risk.  Instead, seek out trails at non-peak times or go with a group of friends who know your dog's limitations and are willing to work with them.

It may be the case your dog is biting because he feels unsafe.  Yelling, scolding, smacking, or other negative forms of discipline will only make this problem worse.  Your dog will build more negative associations when around other dogs, and will react more and more aggressively.  Talk to other dog owners and your veterinarian to find the name of a behaviourist (not a dog trainer) in your area. 

Under the guidance of a certified behaviourist, with time and patience you can manage your dogs fears and reactions to other dogs. 

One reason your dog has become aggressive, or reactive to other dogs may be due to fear.   Your dog may have suffered an attack from another dog, and is not seeking to protect himself.  

 The problem with this, is that this behaviour can easily spread. Max bites Rascal, Rascal bites Woody, Woody bites Happy. Now Happy is no longer happy, and we have a bunch of dogs ready to lash out. 

If you find yourself on the other end, with dogs who are not reactive, and are charged by another dog(s) here's what you can do.

* Pull your team in when passing or being passed.  If you know the team to be friendly, hold your team, and ski over to the side. If the team is passing from behind, a well trained team will respond to "On-by" and will keep moving ahead.   If the teams are head on passing, give your dogs a "Gee" command and then "ON-by" Again, a well trained team will move over and go on down the trail.  

* If  you are working a new team, or don't know the team you are passing or being passed, put your dogs on your right side, and walking down the right hand side of the trail, move the team past the other team.  

 *  Train a "Watch me" command. This works best with high value treats, something your dog does not get often.   Watch me just means, you reward your dog for looking at your eyes.  If they are looking at you, you have more control over your dog, and they pose less of a "threat" to another team or other dogs you might meet on the trail.

* Do not allow contact between your dog and other dogs while in harness.  A harness should be a clear sign to your dog that this is working time.  When your dog gets "suited up" he should be focused on the task at hand, and not looking to sniff butts or engage in social (or anti-social) behaviour.   Don't confuse work and play time.

Harness on = Work Time

19 August 2013




Dré and Belle bikejoring in Alaska.
If you don't have snow or a scooter, and only have one dog, bikejoring may be a good option for you!  Bikejoring is when you bike with your dog. 

Use a bike that you feel safe on, and that is built for off road use.  I wouldn't suggest buying a brand new bike for bikejoring.  It's gonna take some abuse, and I hate to see a bike treated badly!  You should be able to put your feet down on the ground easily. 

If your dog is trained already to skijor, making the transition to biking easy.  Use the same commands, and very often the same trails.   Hard packed dirt, sand, and rocky trails are going to wear your dogs feet faster.  So be a friend, and keep an eye on those feet!  We love to bikejor in a forest near our home.  The trails are a mix of hard packed dirt, grass, and wood chips. 

If your dog is not trained for skijoring, don't start out bikejoring.   Falling off a bike is going to hurt, lots.   This is not a sport for dogs or people just starting out. 


Mechanical Aadvantage

When you bike with a dog, you have a real advantage, by changing gears and pedalling faster, you can really allow your dog to run much faster than you would at skijoring.  Which is great for those of us with speed demons.  With faster speeds comes increased risk for injury and heat stroke. So stick to your training goals and bring plenty of water.

Multiple Dogs

Sometimes I run multiple dogs.  I need to be in complete control of the dogs and the bike.  There are a lot more moving parts, and adding more than one dog multiplies the chance of something going wrong.  The most I have ever added to my bike was three, but all were well trained and I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into.

But really, running more than one dog on a bike is fairly pointless.  Your bike provides plenty of mechanical advantage, you don't need to

Single Dog

Running a single dog bikejoring is a great way to work commands for a Gee-Haw leader.  It's also a great way to work on any issues or fine tune your dog before the upcoming skijor season.  Taking the time to work your dogs one on one builds your relationship and their confidence.  

Using a  bike allows you to travel at a faster speed, with less effort than jogging, or scootering.



Wear a bike helmet.  Ensure it fits properly.  When you wiggle your head side to side, the helmet shouldn't shake and move.  


Just as on skis, it is your job to maintain the proper speed on hills.  Uphill might require you to stand up and pedal.  Downhill will require you to keep an eye on the gang line and keep it taught, riding the brakes, and steering just to side and behind your dog.

Urban Areas

Don't run your dog where there is traffic or other dangers.  With your dog out on the gang line in front of you, they are going to be encountering things before you.  Cars seldom see bikes, and they almost never expect a dog pulling a bike.  So be safe, and go find a trail.


Gang line

Oftentimes bikejorers use bayonets plastic pipes to suspend the towline above the front wheel, and to prevent it from tangling between the wheel and forks. If you fail gangline management, and your line gets on the wheel, you are likely to flip off the bike.   So be careful.  

I do not use a bayonet while bikejoring.  My dogs are trained to keep the line tight, and away from danger.  There is a danger, that if you crash or hit someone, or your dogs, you will seriously injure them.  Having said that, if your bike, or body hits them, it's also going to cause damage. 

I attach the gangline on the upright under the handlebars.  This allows the line to move from side to side, and for the dogs to pull evenly on the front of the bike.   Do not hold the gangline in your hands, and do not attach it to the handlebars.


Some of my bikes have disc brakes, but I prefer the cantilever style brakes for skijoring with my dogs.   It's a softer more gradual stop.  

If you need to stop your dogs, you will need to use your voice commands, just like in skijoring.  The brakes are there for control of the bike, not control of the dogs.  Applying the brakes too suddenly or strongly can injure the dogs shoulders, or tear their pads.   Always give your team plenty of warning when you plan to stop by using the brakes.

Want to slow the team down?  Try this tip, rather than holding down the brakes, which will most likely encourage them to dig in and pull harder, pump the brakes on and off to catch their attention.  Then give the command to slow down. 


Before you venture out, think of how fast you can dismount should you get into trouble on the trail.  

Check out this clips .. of the wrong way to dismount....
Check It
Before you hit the trail:

1. Tell someone where you are going, and when you plan to return.
2.  Bait plenty of water for the dog.
3.  Check your dogs for signs of injury.
4.  Check your gear and lines. Everything should be in order.
5.  Check the weather forecast. Avoid running your dog if it's hot out.

11 August 2013

History Lesson: Alaskan Hitch

I love all things dog, and I love history.  So I was very excited to find an example of an "Alaskan Hitch" while on my travels through Alaska this past summer. 
These harnesses marked the now familiar method of hitching dogs side by side to a gangline.  Before this the majority of mushers hitched the dogs one in front of the other in front of the sled.   Doubling up allowed for more power, but a still manageable gangline. The leader was still commonly hitched up alone.
The harness is made of leather, and wood.  The collar is very heavy, and thick.  I am not sure what the collar is filled with, but it is stuffed.  Likely straw.  Down from the collar is a strap that goes across the back, as well as a belly band, which really goes more across the chest, behind the front legs.   There is also the familiar X across the back.  Capping the ends of the spreader bar, is brass.
If you have more information on this, please leave a comment.