25 October 2013

Help! My dog won't pass!

Your dog won't pass? 

You have come to the right place!

The Outlaws practice a pass. Here the Young Guns go for a pass on the Blonde Bullet.

If you want your dog to pass, you are going to have to practice passing.

The best bet is to get out with a friend and set up a good scenario to pass.  Your friend should have a dog who is stable and calm.  Your friend can be skijoring, or just walking down a trail.  

Keep your training session short, and sweet.   End on a positive note. 

With your friend up ahead of you, let them know you are passing. Most people yell "Trail!".   Begin pulling in your gangline.  Often when you shorten up the line, the dogs will respond by pulling faster and harder.   Start to increase your skiing power, in order to gain the momentum to pass smoothly and quickly.  The objective is to pass cleanly and smoothly, not to blow the other team out of the water with your amazing speed! 
Once you are past the team, keep your momentum going.  Do not allow your dogs to stop or sniff the other team you have just passed.  If they do, keep skiing forward.   Passing means, pass, and keep going!
If your dogs turn their heads back to look at the other team, correct them the moment you see their heads start to swivel, with a stern "No!" Or "On-by" or "Leave it", whatever your dogs will respond to.
Your friend might need to slow down here.  The idea is you want your dogs to pass, and keep going.  If the team is running too close behind you, it may be a distraction to your dogs.  

No Leap Frogging

If you practice leap frogging down the trail, then that's what your dogs will think passing is.  They will see it as a great game, in which you chase a team down, pass them, then slow down so they can pass you.   This is not a good habit to develop in your dogs, and not a way to make friends.  Leap frogging only heightens the risk of the dogs coming into contact with each other.  You don't want a team trained to leap frog if you need to pass a team with an aggressive dog in it, or a handler with offensive body odor.  You want to pass, and get out of there! 

Calmness Counts

Be calm. Or fake it.  Your dog will pick up on your feelings about the pass. If you are calm and confident, your dog will be too, and you will pass without any incident.   
If your dog isn't passing on skis, go back to your dryland work.   Look for opportunities to pass on your daily walk, and build up your confidence with your dog. 

Clean Passing Commandments

Members of Snow Motion at Shannondale Ski Club.  Club members know that communication is important for a clean pass!

Clean Passing Commandments

There shall be no contact between passing teams.

 Dogs shall move to one side of the trail or another, as directed by the driver.

 Dogs shall continue to move forward and shall not look back at passed team. 

The handler with the passing team shall help the dogs, by skiing.

 Unless thou are in a race situation, the team being passed shall slow and move to the side, or pull over and stop.

Thou shalt not leap frog-ith.  A team that has been passed, will remain passed. 


How do you get a clean pass? 



There are three basic scenarios in which you might ask your dog to pass.  Multi-use trails, other skijoring teams, and races. 
The young guns passing a jogger on the multi-use river trail in downtown Winnipeg.  


Multi-Use Trail

The first scenario, on a shared or mutli-use trail.  You might be passing joggers, dog walkers or people on snowshoes.  These people are most often slower than a skijoring team, and may not be expecting you to come along quickly behind them.   Sometimes this can be fun!   (If you run on a multiuse trail consider adding a bell, such as a bear bell to your gangline or belt). 
So give them some warning.   Call out early and call out loud!  The more time they have to compose themselves and move off to the side, the cleaner and smoother the pass will be.  If the people have a dog with them, be sure to pull your own dogs in. 
Even if you have to stop skiing, and slide past them, do what it takes to have control over our own dogs.  You can't control the other persons dogs, but you should be able to control yours.  
When I am passing someone on a shared trail, I call out to my dogs, loudly "WHOA!" or "EASY".  This often lets the other person know that I am coming up behind them.  In most cases they will leash their dog or gain control of it for the pass.  If they don't, I slow my team right down.  A fast moving team might be too tempting a target for a lose dog to chase.   So I don't take any chances.  I also tell them that my dog is not friendly with other dogs.   Something most people understand, and we ski past.  If I have to resort to the white lie that my dogs aren't friendly, I always make sure I am super friendly as I pass.  I don't want a call to Animal Services!   

Passing Another Team

If you are out with a group of friends, on a club run, or on a popular skijoring trail, you will run into the situation where you must pass, or be passed by another team. 
Communication is key.  Call out trail, or passing, let the other team know you intend to pass.  If they don't move over, yell louder, it's hard to hear with winter gear on.   If they still don't move over, don't risk it.  Passing an unsuspecting team can lead to injury and certainly won't win you any friends.  
If you are being passed, you are the slower team.  Once you are passed, stay passed.  They were fast enough to not only catch up to you, but pass you.   They are the faster team.   Leap frogging the team that just passed you will teach your dogs bad habits.   If your dogs are suddenly excited by the prospect of having a team in front of them to chase, snow plow a bit, or pull over for a breather.  Or follow them to the finish line, but maintain your distance. 
Always be sure to pull your team in, and stop them if you need to while being passed.  Dogs who are allowed contact while passing pick up bad habits.   Watch your poles as you pass by, as depending on your ski style, your poles are are eye level for the four legged or two legged team members you are passing. 


Passing in a Race

Rad the race rules.  Each race has it's own sets of rules for passing, designed to keep everyone safe.  If you are unsure of the rules, check with the race organizer, or someone who has run the race before.  Know and understand the passing rulers for the race BEFORE you should up to the race site. 



Your dog won't pass?  Click Here.


12 October 2013

Travel Accomidations: Hotels and Motels

There comes a time when you may be faced with the decision to travel with your dog(s).  You can take them with you or leave them at home.  If you are going for a skijoring race, then you will of course need to bring them with you! 

If you are going for pleasure, then you have your choices.  For some reasons to not take your dog, check out the excellent blog post on Paws and Pedals

If you want to bring your dog, here are some things to think about ...

Call Ahead

Call First, and make sure your dog is allowed.  Pet friendly sports book up fast in peak seasons, and only hippies sleep in the car.  So don't be stuck without somewhere to stay!


For dogs with a sensitive stomach, consider packing their own water.   The water they have from home, and that they are used to. If your dog is already stressed by the new environment, the less things you change, the better. 


Keep the Stomach Happy

Before you travel with your dog, test them for their reaction to pumpkin. You can buy canned pumpkin at the grocery store, and most pet stores. Pumpkin will help to soothe an upset stomach, which can be a nightmare on the road. 

Before long trips where a dog may become motion sick, it is also advised to feel them about half of their regular meal.  Your dog will be less active in transit, and won't need all the extra food anyways.  Plus, if your dog is a picky eater, he will show up more hungry at your destination and be more likely to eat at the end of a day of traveling. 

Bring your own travel kennel

A little piece of home.  A travel kennel allows your dog the comfort of home, anywhere!  a pet secured in the travel kennel is also not able to bolt out of the door in a strange place and become lost.  Our dogs know we have arrived, no matter where we may be, as soon as we pop open their kennels.  They often all try to cram into one, until we have set up a kennel for everyone.  


Where will you stay?

You have many options for accommodations with your pet.  Below are some of our experiences and tips.



Starting at the top of the budget list, are hotels.  If roughing it, or ruffing it, is not your style, then a hotel may be the option that affords you the best sleep.  Advantages of hotels, they tend to be close to the centre of action, if that's what you are looking for.

If your hotel has a kitchenette, you have a great place to store the dog's food.  Do not leave your pet unattended in a hotel room.  Your happy dog at home, might be stressed when you leave him in a strange place.  

Order in room service, or walk to a restraint with take out options, and walk back to the hotel with your dog.  The hotel staff can point you in the right direction. 

Book early, and ask if the room is a non-smoking pet friendly room, as some places put pets in the smoking rooms. 


Motels have the great advantage of often offering rooms with outside corridors, which is easier to for getting dogs into and out of rooms, and for pee breaks.  The disadvantage of motels, is they are often on major routes, with doors that are very close to traffic.  Ensure your dog his on a leash, or secure in a kennel whenever you must open to the door to bring things in or load the car.  With traffic so close, and being in a strange place, there is very little room for error. 

Like hotels, some allow pets in smoking rooms only.  If smoke is bothersome to you, call first and ask to avoid any nasty surprises.  


If you are in North America, you can get the book Travelling with your Pet, from CAA, or AAA.  The book is a directory of member hotels and motels which allow pets.  Your auto-club membership often offsets the pet fee charged per room.   


If your dog is a barker, the strange noises of a hotel or motel might set him off.   Leaving the bathroom exhaust fan on, or the TV may make the dog less likely to bark at the noises in the hotel.  

Doing some obedience work in the room will help your dog relax and stay focused on

Lastly, packing some suitcases against the door or rolling towels along the bottom of the door will help muffle the sounds from the hallway and the other guests. 


Enjoy your travels! 

Where have you taken your dog?  

11 October 2013

Dogs Need Jobs

Your Dog Needs A Job

A study of more than 100,000 Americans found that those who are not in the workforce are the most likely to be depressed. The student was conducted by  Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. It says 16.6% of unemployed Americans are depressed compared to 5.6% of those who work full time. 
Simple.  If you have a job to do, you feel better that if you do not have a job to do.   Being employed leads to a sense of self worth, purpose, and feeling wanted.   A job is also an opportunity meet some of our social, creative and work needs.  We feel happy with a job well done, and proud of our accomplishments. 
Your dog is no different.  A dog with a job, is a happy dog! 

Dogs With Jobs

Modern dogs have been selectively bred for generations for purposes that the majority of them never get to fulfil.   A terrier is hard wired to seek and destroy, a herding dog has a brain for running and rounding up stock.  Retrievers would love nothing more than to swim and chase down winged waterfowl.    Our modern lives have mostly eliminated the need for our dogs to perform such tasks.   Yet generations of their ancestors have contributed to genes that tell them they must!  Leaving many of our modern dogs frustrated!
This leaves many dogs seeking other outlets, such as digging, barking or eating your house.  A dog needs a job, and it can be the job you gave him, or one he finds on his own.

Happy Dog! Happy People!  Secret Weapon, Belle, Old School and River-dog work hard and play hard!


Job Options

The list of dog jobs is endless.   You can look for organised and formal classes or competitions like Rally, Skijoring ,Agility, Flyball and Herding classes for you and your pup to enjoy.   Talk to the people at your local pet store, rescue groups or your veterinarian.  The sports are out there, and likely have a dedicated follower or two in your area.  
A few dogs have the proper temperaments to work with seniors or people with special needs as therapy dogs.  Watch your dog for signs of stress and burn out caused by these activates, but know that volunteering your dog and yourself will be a life changing and rewarding experience.

Taking a Class

Before taking a class, do your homework.  Find out how long the instructor has been working in the sport.  There are many passionate people in the world of dog sports, but some may not be experienced to offer you the support and safety you and your dog need to grow and move forward.  Look for an instructor who knows how to talk to people, you will come home feeling more successful, and be more likely to ask them questions.    Just because someone is good at training dogs, doesn't mean they have the skills to train people.


Less Formal Options

You can also do less formal activites like carrying a backpack on hikes, or to the grocery store.   You can train your dog for jobs around the house, just be creative.  Perhaps you teach your dog to lay down and stay while you garden, or bring you his toys by name.  You can instill these simple tasks with a sense of meaning, that will make your dog beam, and be PROUD!  

Dog Park = Party Bar!

Going to the dog park is not a job for a dog, but many people use it as an outlet for their dogs energy.   I equate going to the dog park, kinda like going out to a club.  It's busy, loud and some of us enjoy it!  For other's it's too busy and too loud.   A dog park is a non-stop party, where the majority of dogs are also highly aroused and hyper.  There can be issues with bullying, between the dogs, and the people too!  

If your aim is to have a well behaved dog, with a sense of purpose and pride, a dog park is not the place to accomplish this. 

Giving your dog a skill or a task to learn, and they will work their mind and body, and be satisfied for having done so. 

Oxford Dogs at Work

Here are some of the things that the Oxford Dogs enjoy....

Riv enjoying a tunnel at agility @ Crazy Jumpers Dog School

We use agility training to build our dog's confidence, and the dog's confidence in themselves and with us as well!  Agility gets us some exercise as well! 

In the Yukon, the dogs carry gear and food for us.

We love our hiking packs, these are made by Ruff Wear.  They are water proof, and hold a lot of gear! I like the dogs to carry their own food and poop in, and we tuck in anything extra as well.  We have used our dog packs from everything from panning for gold to walking home from the grocery store.  The dogs enjoy being useful, and with a bit of a heavier load, it's easier to keep up with them on longer journeys.   The dogs are always proud to carry something, and we offer them lots of praise for a job well done.  

 It seems there is always something new to learn as we grow in the sport.   Start  Any dog powered sport is a team sport, you and your dog are a team, unlike any other canine sport, you are both responsible for moving yourselves.   It s a beautiful bonding experience and the thrill of a lifetime! Dog power is a passion at our house, and the dogs go NUTS when they see we are loading the truck for an outing.  

  Our dogs love to play Frisbee and enjoy the challenge and excitement!  It's a great way to work one on one with each dog, and to really bond and build up some excitement.   We use doggie safe discs, which are made of a shatter proof plastic.  If the dogs bit too hard, it punctures the disc, but the plastic is still soft enough not to cut their mouths.     Disc is a great activity for when it's too hot to scooter. 

Our dogs attend training classes through out their lives.  The change to train around new dogs, new distractions and learn new skills is so rewarding.  Training classes aren't very expensive, and they are so worth it for keeping everyone's skills sharp. 
What work does your dog do?   What do your and your dog do that is meaningful?  What is your dog's job? Comments welcome.

1 October 2013

Book Review: Dog Scooter by Daphne B. Lewis


Dog Scooter
by Daphne B. Lewis

I don't even know how many times I have read, and re-read this book.  It's an easy book to read from cover to cover, or go back and pick up what you need.    This is a "How to" book written by the always positive Daphne B. Lewis.  

This book is a good starting point for those looking to get into the sport of dog scootering.  The book starts out with reasons why you should take your dog out scootering.  Which, is you are reading this, you are likely already a convert.   But it also handy, because if you do scooter with your dog, you are likely to run into people who know nothing about the sport, and want to tell you it is cruel.    So having some arguments from an experienced musher can certainly show you, that you are doing the right thing for your dog.   

Another section of the book describes the equipment needed, and offers suggestions on finding the right sized harness to fit your dog.   Not everyone runs huskies, and sometimes fitting for your non-husky dog can be a bit of a challenge.   

There is a detailed section of the book that deals with how to train the dog, which pretty much covers every scenario I have encountered.   Everything from the young pup, to a dog who is just a little too keen to charge ahead.  If you are just getting started, GET THIS BOOK!

The physical book is about the size of a magazine.  It has lots of  black and white pictures.  This is an easy and enjoyable book to read, and I have read it many times. Worth picking up if you want to scooter with your dog, or if you already are and want to expand your skill set!  

4 Paws Up!