21 September 2013



Your dogs are working hard out there on the trail.  Winter, Summer, Spring or Fall, your dog needs water, and you need to provide it to him.

During the times of the year when the waterways are still open and not covered with ice, if you provide your dog with enough to drink, it will limit, or eliminate their need to drink from possibly contaminated water sources. 

Soaked Kibble

Drop a piece of your dog's kibble in a bowl of water, and see what happens.  It will generally swell up as it absorbs water.  This is what happens in your dog's body after a meal, the dog needs more moisture to process the food.  So if you are feeding your dog kibble, be sure to soak food you offer them before your planned runs. This is a great way to get water into your dog!  Do be aware they might need to pee a bit more once you start to soak their kibble.

Baited Water

We offer free choice water in our home.  Each kitchen has a bowl out, and so does the dog room.  The dogs have plenty of options of fresh clean water to drink.  Bowls are washed and checked on a regular basis, and are always refilled on a routine schedule.   The dogs know that water is available to them at all times, and they also seem to enjoy drinking the fresh water as we put it out.

Before, and after runs we also give them baited water.  Everyone has their own methods for baitng water, and different dogs have their own preferences as well.  Vanilla ice cream, beef fat, hot dog water, or low sodium broth mix.   There are also ready made mixes you can purchase and mix with water to get your dog to drink more.  

If your dog pees dark yellow, they need more water!  If the pee is clear or light yellow, they have had enough!   Know your dog, and know his needs! 


Winter Time-  Snow Dipping

A dog who is dipping his head for snow to eat, is developing bad habits, and not getting enough water.  If you have a few fast moving dogs, and one starts to dip, it throws the other dog(s) off their gait, and messes up your rhythm of skiing as well.

Snow is also inefficient for a dog to melt and turn into water. 

So if your dog is dipping for water, stop.   Offer plenty of water and bring more next time!  


Summer Time- Drinking from a pond

In the warmer months when we run the dogs, we still bring plenty of baited water for the dogs.  The idea being, whether we are biking, hiking, mountain boarding or scootering them, we want them to drink the water we know to be safe.  Water of the wild may look alright to drink, but may harbour parasites.  I offer my dogs the water I know to be safe, and they don't get sick!     

Kicksled with your Best Friend

Notice the length of the gangline.  Kicksleds need a longer line that skijoring, as the angle of the gangline can pull down on the dog's hips.


Kicksleds pretty much look like a chair, on a pair of runners.  The runners are made of metal, and are long and flexible.   Commonly plastic is mounted on the bottom of the runner, so you can slide over snow. 
Kicksleds are meant for kicking on.  You stand on one runner, and kick with one foot.  A similar action to skateboarding, except you don't need to bend your knee down nearly as much!  


If you are adding a dog to your kicksled, you still need to kick! 



If you are adding only one dog, go with a harness that is meant for kicksledding, we tested out the Wheel Dog Harness, read the review here.
The metal part on the front of the sled can be called the brush-bow.   Do not connect the gangline to the brush bow.   For one, it will weaken the brushbow overtime, and secondly, it will make the sled harder to steer.  Your brushbow is there to protect you, and the sled in case a tree jumps out at you.   So take care of it!
Run the gangline to a bridle, and connect the bridle to the upright stanchions.   Quality outfitters will sell kicksleds already assembled this way for use with dog power.  Some outfitters may not, but it is easy enough to rig up on your own.
This video link has some close ups of one of my kicksleds in action.  Check out how I have rigged the bridle to the sled.
In the picture below, you can see the D-links used to keep the bridle from being attached to the brush bow.   Simply add D links, or any other loops you wish where the bolts attach to the brush bow.

This is one way to hook the bridle to the stanchions.   It's not the best way, as the bridle will eventualy wear out from rubbing on the metal.    Attaching the bridle to the stanchion will mean that your kicksled steers better, and lasts longer.
We kicksled in the shoulder seasons because you can run a sled on very little snow!   Where a scooter would be too slippery, and skis would just kill you, a kicksled is able to scrape across gravel and grass pretty easily!  If you get to a bad bare patch, just pick the sled up, and run it along.  The dog's don't even need to break their stride!
You might also want to check out our Gear Review for a harness that is safe for kicksledding in! 

2 September 2013

The ABC's of Skijoring

A- A is for the Adventures you will share with your dog!

B- B is for Booties! Bootie up for your dog's feet, and avoid ripped, torn and worn pads.

C – C is for Climate. Be ready for whatever it's going to throw at you! I have skijored in the rain, fog, howling winds, and white outs.    So check the weather before you go!

D – D is for done. Know when to call it a day. Your dog is unlikely to tell you when she's had enough, so that's your job to call it quits. Ideally, you want to stop while your dog is still wagging for more.

E – E is for Equipment. Check your equipment each and every time you head out. It's a long walk home should something break!

F – F is for Fall Training. Start your skijor season early by doing some dryland work. Get your dogs feet conditioned, and brush up on some of your skills to make the most of the upcoming season.

G- is for “Gee” call it with enough time for your dog to turn right on the trail!

H- H of course is for “HIKE” a ski-dogs favourite word! Let's go, Hike!

I- I is for Iceballs! Trim, Wax and Watch! Trim the hair between your dog's feet, wax the paws (or use booties) and watch for the build up of painful iceballs between the dog's toes!

J- J is for Jingle! If you are running on a multiuse trail, attach a bear bell to your rig. The noise of the bell will help warn other people of your presence.

K- K is for Kicksled. Investing in a kicksled is a great way to extend your skijoring season. Kicksleds can be takes over rougher patches where you would never dare ski. They also need less snow, so really help with the shoulder seasons.

L- L is for Love. You and your dog love the sport! If either of you sours at the experience, take a step back, and see what's changed. Sometimes a new trail, or a week off is enough to put the spark back in it!

M- M is for Morning. Dogs tap into their natural instinct when skijoring. They love to run in the early morning, or later into the evening. Take your dog out for a dawn or dusk run. Just be careful, as wild animals are also more active at these times of day.

N- NO DOGS ALLOWED. These signs are disappointing, and often the result of a dog owner not following the rules. Train your dog to be a good citizen, and pick up after them. This will ensure that we see less of these signs.

O- O is for “On-by!”. Which comes in handy if you want your dog to leave the dead deer, passed out skier, or pee spot alone. Train “on by” on your daily walks first, and then on your skijor runs. A good “on-by” is going to keep your runs safe and fun!

P- P is for Pee! Pay attention to your dog's pee, and notice when the colour is off. A well hydrated dog will have urine that is almost clear. Pee that is too dark and yellow could mean your dog needs more water.

Q – Q is for Quiet. For the peace and quiet you will find on a beautiful winter's day. Frost on the trees, hard packed snow under your skis, and your best friend out in front of you. Enjoy it!

R – R is for Rest. You and your dog need to rest and recover after a hard work out. Monitor your dog for any signs of stiffness or soreness after a run.

S- S is for Skis! Whether you choose to use skate or classic skis, make sure you opt for the sturdy pair. Those fancy racing skis likely won't hold up to the pressures of skijoring!

T- T is for Training. Keep your goals in mind for skijoring, and train accordingly. Skijoring is both mentally and physically challenging for us, and our dogs. Ensure you are training your dog's mind as well as body. You too can also learn something new every time you go out, by paying attention to your dog.

U- U is for Underwear! Invest in a good quality pair of long-johns! They should wick the sweat away from your body, and keep you dry on the trail. Nothing ruins a day like a pair of wet undies!

V- V is for the tracks you will leave in the snow! When you are skating behind your dog, you want to see a nice “V” pattern in the snow. Not too long or wide of a “V”, as you don't want to slow your dog down, or throw off their momentum.

W- W is for Water! Bait it! Bring it! Your dog needs it, and so do you! Dipping for snow is not an effective or efficient way to stay hydrated, so offer plenty of water for your dogs!

X- X is for X-back, the most common style of harness. Harness styles come and go, but the X-back, with slight variations has been around a long time. A custom size is a good way to splurge for your skijoring buddy. Keep in mind, X-backs have been designed for northern breed dogs, with northern breed dog body shapes. If you are running a mutt, or family pet, custom is the way to go!

Y- Y is for Youth. You can start running your dog as soon as they are trained and their bodies are ready, which is usually around the one year mark. Skijoring is not just a sport for young dogs. Older dogs that have learned to conserve their energy make great skijoring partners!

Z- Z is for Zinc. Your dog can get Zinc from beef, turkey, pork, fish and peanut butter. Zinc supports your dog's entire body, but is also beneficial in helping them toughen up their feet. So spoon out the peanut butter as a healthy treat for your dog!

A. Pressenger
C. Leah.

Biking with your Dog: Your Options

Old School, River-Dog, Baby-Belle and Secret Weapon

Biking with your Dog


If you want to bike with your dog, you have a few options. If you want to work on mushing commands and enjoy great speeds, bikejoring might be the way for you! A dog running beside the bike with an attachment, such as a Springer, or Walky-Doggie are also excellent options if you want more control and a better work out. If you are looking for a leash free alternative, your third option is to train your dog to be a trail dog, and run along behind your bike.   No matter what you do, bring plenty of water for you and your dog!


Biking with your dog, while holding onto the leash is dangerous.  It does not give you proper control over the bike or the dog. 


When you run your dog with an attachment on your bike, the dog is running beside you. Generally you want to keep the dog to your right, so you can pass oncoming trail users with your dog on the right hand side of the trail. Some people running multiple dogs put the attachments on both sides of their bike. It is best to avoid putting attachments on both sides of your bike if you are running in areas where you will encounter multiple other trail users. The dogs, plus the bike will take up a lot of the trail width, which other users may not appreciate.

You lose the option of steering the dogs away from trouble as easily. Say you are biking down a path, and there is a smelly dead thing on the trail, with a dog on one side of the bike, you can simply steer your bike between yourself and the smelly dead thing, while keeping the dog moving forward. With a dog on each side, your options are limited.

If your dog is aggressive to other dogs, seek the help of a trainer before you attempt to bike with your dog. Managing this behaviours while on a bike is unsafe.

Proper gear for running your dog beside your bike will be a walking harness. This differs from a harness designed to stop a dog from pulling in that it has a clip or ring on the back of the dogs shoulders. Ensure that your dog can not reach the front wheel while attached to the bike. If your dog lunges after another animal, or trips, catching part of their body in your front wheel will be dangerous for you, and devastating for your dog. Ensure you remove any training collars from your dog, and do not attach the dog to the bike by a collar.

Do not run your dog in an X-back harness while attached to the side of your bike. The point of attachment is too far back, and the dog is at risk of contacting the front wheel of the bike.

Serious skijorers and people training pulling dogs, stick to a sledding harness for pulling, and a walking harness for not pulling in. Your dog quickly will learn what behaviour is expected with what gear you bring out. If you are biking as a way to condition you and your skidog for the upcoming season, then stick to your skijoring harness for pulling out front, and a walking harness for running alongside. Often people who have wanted a jump start on their season have set back a good pulling dog, by inadvertently training it to run alongside rather than pull out front. You train what you practice, and you practice what you train.

With your dog attached to your bike, ensure that you are running when it is cool enough for your dog, and safe enough for your dog.
Running your dog on pavement or hard surfaces will wear the pads and can damage the dog's joints. Look for well shaded trails, with access to swimming or drinking water. The best trails will be packed dirt, or woodchiped.
Some companies market dog booties for summer use to protect the dog's paws. While this sounds like a good idea, keep in mind that dogs “sweat” through their pads. Putting boots on in the summertime will heat your dog faster. So keep it simple, if the surface isn't safe to run your dog on, don't.

Trail Dog

Before you heard out with your dog off leash, check the trail system that you are planning to use. I often bike with my dogs off leash, but I always bike the area first to scout it for potential problems.
Before I bring a dog out on the bike trail, I do some focus work with the dog. Some basic obedience and a “Touch” command work well. I say “High Five” and the dog comes and touches their nose to my hand. This I teach first on foot, then on the bike while not moving, then on the bike while moving. Having some sort of focus on you, means you can pass other trail users, or distractions easily.
Some other behaviours that work well for a trail dog are:
Staying behind the bike. If your dog is heeling behind or beside your bike, it's easier to keep track of them, you see wildlife before they do, and they aren't at risk of getting hit by the bike on the downhills or slippery sections.
  1. Coming to your side. If I want the dogs to run on one side or another, they are trained to come to one side of my body or the other. This is a handy behaviour on the trail so I can position them where I would like them.
  2. Stay. If you need to clear a section of the trail, adjust something on your bike, or consult your map, it's nice to have a dog who is going to stay put and not run off! Work on your stay so it's reliable and you know your dog will hold it.
  3. Out Front. Sometimes I send the dogs out in front of me, on a steep hill, or if I want to see how deep a puddle on the trail is, I can ask the dogs to run ahead of me. They love this command, and it really gets their speed going. Which is also great motivation to keep me moving forward.
Before you head out, ensure your dog is fit enough to join you as a trail dog, you are setting the pace and your dog will be working hard to keep up. When in doubt, ask your vet. Monitor your dog for signs of lameness during and after the run. My dog, Old School, was able to bike with me until she was 15. As long as we avoided trails that weren't too steep, or muddy, she kept a good trot and enjoyed her runs.
Sometimes I put a bear bell on the dog's collars so I can easily hear where they are while I am riding, and I don't have to look down. These are also handy in more remote areas where other trail users may not be expecting a pack of dogs and a bike to sneak up behind them.



You want to train your dog for bikejoring start with a good book or join a local dry land mushing club. Bikejoring is fast, and because your dog is tethered to the bike, there's a lot more that can go wrong. Bikejoring is not for the novice or the faint of heart.
Start with training your dog in some basic obedience. Once you have good control over your dog, work on foot with your dog in harness. Have your dog “Line Out”, which means pulling the line out tight. This ensures there are no tangles and there won't be a huge jerk when the dog hits the gang line hard. A dog who is standing and yapping at you on the start line is a danger to himself and you.

Once you are moving forward a “Tighten Up” command will ensure that the line is always tight. A line which is starting to droop will get caught up in the bike, flipping the rider or injuring the dog by pulling him into the wheel.
Your dog will also need to have a “Slow” or a “Stop” command. You can't simply rely on the brakes to slow a dog. A powerful motivated dog will only see the application of the brakes as a challenge and only dig in harder. A tip works to pump on the brakes to get the dogs attention, at the same time as giving the command to slow or stop.
If your dog can do all of this, while you are on foot, then you are ready for adding the bike. Do not simply attach the dog to your bike, and head out to chase other teams. Bikejoring is a sport with many risks. Manage the risks so you and your dog can enjoy the sports for years to come.

More ways to bike with your dog? Check out Paws and Pedals.