24 November 2014

Want to start a skijoring club?

So you want to start a skijoring club!  Great!  You got some things to think about!  I borrowed this template from Snow Shoe Magazine.    Check them out here:  http://www.snowshoemag.com


What are your goals? What is the purpose?

To teach lessons? To promote the sport? To race? To organize? To commune with nature, mushers and dogs?  Know where you are going, or have a general idea before you start out. 


Contact Potential Members

Contact other skijorers.   Look on Facebook, ask mushing supply companies.  Get a group of enthusiasts together who are interested in organizing a club. Set a time and place for the first meeting or event. Send out emails, contact rescue allumi groups and Humane Societies.  Dog training places are another great source of potential skijorers.  Be all over Social Media, and they will come!    

Create Rules and an Agenda

Create a set of informal rules for general group operations and establish membership criteria and benefits. Establish a regular schedule for get-togethers.  As this is a winter sport, think about how often you will be out, and have another part where people can meet up for a coffee or something after a run.

You might decide to elect officers: President, vice president, treasurer, and secretary.  If the club is collecting money or dues, it's important to have a person in charge of collecting and keeping track of this! 


Schedule Meetings

Scheduling events and meetings in your area can quickly increase participation.  How will you deal with new members wanting to join?   Will you be holding a workshop?  Or will you be looking for people who already know how to do the sport?  


Communicate with club members!  Allow them to communicate with each other as well.  This will encourage the group to be strong, and support each other.  A Facebook group is a great way to do this, as people don't have to be getting a ton of e-mails from the active members.   Some of us type faster than others, and some people simply don't want their e-mail inbox filled up!  Be open to  new ideas and suggestions from group members. .


This sounds super scary and formal, but examine the by-laws of other skijoring clubs for examples.  They rules should be clearly stated on their websites.   For a new group, start with something short and simple. Include the following:
  • The name of the club
  • Purpose and goals
  • Benefits to the members
  • Responsibilities of the members
  • Responsibilities of the officers
  • Procedure for becoming a member
  • Procedure for becoming an officer (elections)
  • Schedule for official meetings (monthly? annually?) for the purpose of conducting elections, amending bylaws, determining the budget, and other official business
  • State non profit status (unless otherwise desired)

19 November 2014

Guest Post: Close Encounter (of the Wolf Kind)

Our friend Justine, is an experienced outdoor adventurer.  She has logged countless hours in the bush on dirt bike, horseback and sled.  If you are looking to tour the Sandilands, Justine is the guide you want!   Justine is an  avid musher and enjoys the companionship of her canines.   Recently she ran into a canine that she didn't enjoy so much,  a wolf!  We thought the story was one worth sharing.  Justine obliged.     Here is her story:

Close Encounter of the Wolf Kind 

Story and photos by Justine Swaka 

My “pups” and I love to get out to bikejor/scooter/sled and hike at least 3-4 times per week.  Our favourite trails are out at the Sandilands Provincial Forest, in Manitoba.  Here the dogs can run off leash and have the opportunity to smell all the great smells of the forest and swim in the many ponds. 
We’ve come across many critters in the years that we’ve gone out there, including squirrels, sharp tail grouse, deer, bears, skunks and porcupines, among others.  Up until recently though, we had never crossed paths with a wolf. 

This particular day the dogs were off leash and not only did I have my three dogs, but also my son’s dog.  As I hiked down the fireguard road the dogs were off in the nearby bush and ponds.  I noticed a large animal up ahead on the trail and initially thought it may be a deer. 
However, as I walked closer and closer I noticed that it did not run away as the deer usually do. 
Instead, it turned to face me and stood his ground.  It was then I realized that it was a large wolf. 
As I slowly walked towards it, I yelled and started banging my hiking poles together to get it to run off into the woods. 
Instead of running away it did the opposite; it came trotting towards me with what looked like paws the size of dinner plates! 
I continued to yell and bang my poles and hoping against hope that the dogs would not notice it. 
As luck would have it we were walking upwind of the wolf and the dogs did not scent it, and they were too distracted by the scents of the bush and water to even notice the wolf. 
I continued to slowly walk towards it knowing if I turned around and walked in the opposite direction that it could very well start following us.  I didn’t want it to see us as prey and although I only saw this one wolf there was a likelihood that he had his pack mates somewhere close by.  Eventually he did slink off back into the woods, but on my way back to my vehicle I kept a close eye on what was behind us.  He definitely was not afraid of humans and was in no hurry to go his own way. 
During this time I had kept my husband informed of what was happening.  Needless to say he was worried about us getting safely back to the car which was an hour’s walk away. 
All the years I had been going out to the bush, I had never really felt the need to have any kind of protection.  After this encounter though, I have taken the advice to at least get some bear spray. 
The worry about the safety of my pack remains though…what would I have done if they had scented the wolf and run after it?  Though they have good recall, would the scent of the wolf and the chase have been enough to override the command to come back to me? 
It’s a worrisome thought that remains with me now as we head out on our adventures.

11 November 2014

Free Running

Free Running
Above is a picture of Belle as she runs. Free. No harness, no leash.  Our dogs are obedience trained, and have excellent recall.  If they weren't, we couldn't safely let them off the leash!

What is free running?

Free Running refers to the practice of letting your pulling dog run free, off leash, no harness.  It's an important concept for dogs who pull.  In some ways, it's a bit of a vacation from the work of pulling.  Our dogs love to pull, but no matter how much you love your job, a break is always a healthy thing!    
Leader of the Pack!

The Pack

Free running allows for different pack dynamics than a regular, regulated sled pull or harness activity.  When our dogs are working, they are working.  Focused, eyes forward, dig their shoulders in and go!   They take their jobs seriously and work hard.  During a free run, the dogs are encouraged to play as they run together. Something that is never allowed when in harness!   This fast paced play time keeps their bond strong, but also serves to keep their mind sharp.  We see different pack dynamics at play here than we do when the dogs are on a gangline or at home.

Free Running as a Training Tool

Free running will also help with your training goals.  You can free run your dogs while you go for a jog, or a bike ride and build up your own endurance! 
When you let the dogs free run, they will be building up their muscles and strengthen their cardio as well.   They will push themselves and each other, to run harder and faster.   
Another benefit is that dogs that are allowed to free run, will be building and strengthening muscles in a way they would not otherwise be when pulling in harness.   Watch two dogs at play, as they twist, jump and wrestle.  How often can a dog exercise those muscles while in harness or on a leash? 

When your dog is free running, this is your opportunity to observe and watch.  Look at your dog's usual gait.  Watch how they move and run, and handle corners and fast turns.  
It is your job to know your dog, and to know when something is wrong.   For a dog with a sore toe, foot or leg,  running is often easier than walking for a dog.  As they are moving at a faster pace, they put less pressure on the affected appendage.   It is up to you to know your dog, and to see the slight difference when something may be wrong.   To the inexperienced eye, it might be assumed that because the dog is running, everything is fine.  
By knowing your dog, and observing his movement in a free run, you can intervene and head off minor sprains and strains before they become much larger problems. 

Now, get out there and Free Run and Play with your dogs!  


8 November 2014

What to do while you wait for the snow....

It's okay to be one of those people who walk around smiling like an idiot as soon as the temperatures start to get a bit chilly.    You are in good company!  We are excited for snow as well! 

Just don't expect non-skijoring people to understand.  Those poor folk can only think of winter as a negative!   Well, you my friend know how to turn a negative (temperature) into a positive (adventure)!

Sitting around, waiting for the snow

Our topic is "What you can do while you wait for the snow.... Following these steps might help keep you from going crazy!  (Might)

1.  Go over all your gear.  Look over your skis, lines and harnesses.  How are the booties holding up?   Now is the time to replace or fix anything that was worn a little or broken from the last season.  There is nothing wrong with "accidentally" breaking a ski, so you can get that new pair you have had your eye on.  If you need new dog gear, order your gear now, before the mushing supply companies get really busy!             

2.   Check excess baggage.   Thanksgiving is over, and all the Halloween candy is gone.   Which means it's time to get out there and get in shape!  Don't overdue it, but do, do it.   Focusing in on core strengthening exercises and cardio.  The better shape you start your season in, the more you will enjoy it!   Also check that Fido is fit,  your dog needs to be fit and trim for skijoring season as well.

3.   Start thinking about your goals for this season.   Will you be attending races or going on a new adventure?  Thinking about your season now, and planning for it will ensure that you will get the most of this winter. 

4.   Brush up on your team work.  Take your dog out for a walk in harness, there's no need to go fast, and go over your basic skijoring commands.  How's that Line Out looking?  Shake the cobwebs off Gee and Haw.   Perfect that On-By.     The more you brush up on your training before the snow falls, the more time you have to enjoy yourselves once the snow falls.

5.  Foot Work.   Pay attention to your dog's feet.  Not just in the fall, but all season long.  Fall is the time to start condition your dogs paw pads for the snow.  Long walks on pavement, called "Roading" will help toughen up those pads.   Get your dog back in the habit of letting you inspect his feet.  Maybe make this a fun activity and do some foot work during doggie dinner time!    Be on the look out for any cracks, tears or split nails. 

This should be enough to keep you busy, while you wait for the snow to fall in your area!    

1 October 2014

On By

Your Dog's List of Excellent Things to Stop for on the Trail

10. Somewhere another dog might have gone pee.
9.  Somewhere another dog did pee.
8.  Somewhere your dog wants to pee where another dog already went pee.
7.  Another dog's poo
6.  Another animal's poo.  Mmmmm. Poo.
5. Another dog.
4.A person who might have treats.
3. A person who doesn't like dogs, but this is your dog's chance to win them over to the Dog Side.
2. Dead things.
1.  Smelly dead things!

Your Response to Your Dog's List of Excellent Things to Stop for on the Trail

1. On By!

Pretty Simple

Don't let your dog reward themselves by stopping.  Be alert, and be ready. Keep your dog moving, and when they move past the distraction, offer so much praise! 

On By! is best trained while you are on foot.   In which you have control over the situation and your speed.  Work on this with one dog at a time, and do it on your daily walks.

Let your dog have some room to move and freedom on the leash.   Walk down the trail or sidewalk.   When your dog stops to sniff, correct him with an "Oh by!" then keep moving!   When your dog moves forward, PRAISE!     Keep moving.

Soon, you will be so good at knowing when your dog is going to stop and sniff that you will just see the head turn, and you will give the "On by" correction and not even have to stop at all.


Your dog may be stopping because he is bored of pulling, or overwhelmed.  Increase your speed and distance slowly, and always leave your dog wanting more.   

30 September 2014

Book Review: Skijor With your Dog: Second Edition

Burger as a puppy, learning the ropes of skijoring!

Skijor With your Dog: Second Edition

by Marji Hoe-Raitto Carol Kaynor

The combined efforts of a  professional writer, and a professional dog driver, Skijor With your Dog, is easy to read, and full of skijoring knowledge. The book covers everything from falling, to competition tips.

Similar to the first version, the book has many diagrams and pictures to illustrate their points. A nice change from the old book, are the new pictures, many of which are full page.

The book offers a through section called "Potential Problems and Possible Solutions". Which is a must read for anyone who is feeling frustrated that their dog just doesn't seem to "get it". If you are having problems getting going, it is worth buying this book, for this section alone.

The book takes you through everything you could want to know about skijoring. From the early history of the sport in North America, to picking your skis and your dog, to racing and winter camping. There is something for everyone in this book.

This is an easy to read, informative book. Rather than just simply a step by step, how to guide on skijoring, the rationale and reasoning behind the training and choices are presented.

A few take aways for me from this book:

I enjoyed the section at the back of the book, on a suggested training colander. It has given me some ideas about how to improve my own training schedule.

Training Philosophy. I am always thinking about this, and trying to learn from my dogs. I enjoy a book like this, that teaches you and gets you to think.

An excellent read. 5 Paws up.

29 September 2014

Tales from the Sophomore Skijorer: Getting Started

Getting Started
By: Carly Lodewyks

I’m told I started skiing almost before I could walk. As a kid I spent many hours cross country skiing around Manitoba with my family. When permitted, our dogs came with us and free ran the trails as we skied.  There was talk about this sport called skijoring but we none of our family dogs were ever trained.

Fast forward several years to Dec 2011. My husband and I adopted our first dog together from the Winnipeg Humane Society. Ember was 4 months old and a bundle of energy + puppy brain. From the time she came home with us I knew I wanted to give skijoring a try.  I did some internet research on skijoring in Winnipeg and came upon Snow Motion’s website. I then patiently waited until the following fall when they were hosting their next beginners workshop.  By this point Ember was about 70lbs of athletic mutt who loved to run and pull. I had a feeling she would be perfect for the sport.

Family Photo

The workshop was a fantastic learning experience. We fit Ember for a harness and I came home full of ideas to get her training started.
We went slow at first. While out on our walks I began using “Gee” and “Haw” as we turned corners. And “whoa” when we came to street crossings. In a very short period of time Ember began to understand what these terms meant and I started to use them as commands to dictate our path. I strapped on my belt and gang line to work on “line out and hike”.  I could see things coming together very quickly and couldn’t wait to get out on skis.

Finally the snow came! Our very first skijoring run was by ourselves at Bird’s Hill Park and she did great- at this point I knew both of us were hooked!
We spent the winter last year skiing our hearts out with Snow Motion, the Oxford Dogs and the Blonde Bullet. An extra long winter meant we had great trail conditions until the beginning of April. We raced in the Snow Motion Classic race in February and placed 2nd in the Novice 2 dog category.

Snow Motion Classic 2013- Photo courtesy of Hodge Podge Creative

Looking back on our first season I made the following observations:

- like most dogs, Ember LOVES to chase and is extremely motivated to catch the team up ahead. I’ve clocked us going nearly 30km/h running down Kevin and the Oxford Dogs on the trail. In some ways this is great- she is strong, runs hard and we have crazy amounts of fun. But I have always been worried that she would just be trained to chase, meaning we would not be able to go out by ourselves for a run.
One of my goals over the summer/fall season has been to boost her confidence while running alone. 
When the weather cooled off in August we took to the trails on our scooter and I tried to get out on our own at least once a week. During these runs I made sure to keep them short and fun with lots of praise.   If she slowed down we stopped for a bit until she was pulling on the line to go again. I let HER make the decisions
Kev also suggested I try letting her pick the trail- this was amazing! I could see her waiting for me to give a command as we came to a fork in the trail and when I instead encouraged her to keep going where she wanted, she accelerated into the turn. Great positive reinforcement!

Photo by Kev Roberts. Prairie sky by Headingly, Manitoba

- Saturday morning we went out for our first skijor of the 2013-2014 season and I was pleasantly surprised to see Ember pull strong and steady for nearly 5km without slowing down. It was so gratifying to see our hard work paying off.
I have learned that to have a good pulling dog, the running needs to be the reward. It takes some time to get there but it is possible!

- Ember struggles with leash reactivity. I was initially quite concerned about how she would do in harness around so many other dogs. At first it was tough and I had to keep some distance. But as she got used to the dogs and realized that her job was to work around them and not play with them she has been great. Occasionally we still have incidents but if everyone respects the “no contact in harness rule” everything goes well.
In the end I think the skijoring environment has actually improved her reactivity because she has gotten used to working in harness around other dogs.

Photo by Kev Roberts

- Lastly, I have learned it is easy to over do it.  The snow comes, the conditions are great, you have some free time, and you go for a really long ski.  Great for you, but not so great for your dog. As Kev has mentioned it is important to quit before your dog is exhausted. You don’t want them to associate skiing with exhaustion. Building up to longer distances is important.  My second goal for this season is to work up to a non-stop 5km. After our runs this weekend, I think we are well on the way!

Well, there you have it. I could probably go on for pages and pages about what I have learned in the last year.  Becoming a mushing team with my dog has been one of the most amazing experiences and I am totally in love with every aspect of the sport.
There is nothing like the connection between musher and dog.
Get out there and give it a try! You won’t regret it!

First snow fall cani-cross selfie.

26 May 2014

Behind the scenes- Oxford Dogs & Friends on TV

Did you see us on TV? 

Here is the clip! 

We got the call about a week ago, “Would you be interested in talking about Micro Mushing?”

Interested?  Just try and stop me!   It’s my passion!  I love spreading the word about micro mushing and activities people can do with their dogs!   We were so in!

So we called up some friends from our local skijoring club, Snow Motion, and picked the place to meet.  Shawna brought her dog Pepper.  Chris brought Blizzard, and Kirsty brought Askum.   We brought Penny, and Belle and Burger.  A great crowd, with awesome dogs!  

I am so thankful to have such awesome mushing friends.    They love their dogs, and we always have a good time with lots of laughs.    
The reporter and camera person were super chill.  They really made this enjoyable, and took the stress out of being in front of the camera.  We had prepared the reporter before hand with some videos and blog posts about what to expect.   My husband, AndrĂ© acted as the media wrangler.  He was the behind the scenes guy that led them to set up their shots, and prompted questions and explained what they were seeing. 
The entire shoot took about 2 hours, with the dogs going back and forth.   As they got bored, we gave them plenty of breaks, and switched trails.      It’s all about the dogs, and we told that to the reporter.  We do this for our dogs.  If they aren't happy, we aren't doing it.    

The main idea we wanted to get across was how to do this safely.   Get the right gear, and get off the roads!  We want people to get out there and share some good experiences with their dogs!  

6 May 2014

First Scooter Run!


First Scooter Run of the Year!

Burger and Belle have been out with my husband on the scooter this year, but finally, I got my chance!   
We headed to La Barrier park.  A super cool park, with a variety of trails, only a few minutes from my house!   We started out crossing the bridge, and into the river bottom.  The trails were a little wet!  So we cruised along the river bottom for awhile.   When we headed up the trails deeper into the woods and away from the river, we ran into snow!  So we turned around and booked it for the open prairie.    The killdeer were out, and shrieking!  Burger has never seen one before, so he was really interested!  But he managed to keep his cool, and not fall for their fake "my wing is broken" antics. 
Click on the picture above to check out the video!  We love comments on here, or on You-Tube!  But even more than comments, we love to see other teams in action!  So please feel free to share a picture or a video!  

3 May 2014

Top 6 reasons your dog needs a backpack!

Your dog needs a backpack.  It's true.  Dog's need jobs, and back packs are great ways to keep them employed. 

People have been putting backpacks on dogs, for hundreds of years.   People have been putting dogs IN backpacks for a long time as well, but that is beyond the scope of this article.   

Top 5 Reasons Your Dog Needs a Backpack

1.  Backpacks can be enjoyed by dogs of almost any size!  

There are a ton of backpacks out there for dogs, from tiny poodles, to giant danes.  Finding a backpack to fit your dog and your budget is easy!   Whenever possible, it is advisable to "try before you buy".  Check that the pack is easy to put on, adjustable, and that your dog does not have an adverse reaction to it before you shell out the cash.  

2.  Makes them tired.

Hey! That's reason enough right there!  A tired dog is a good dog!  We find that a backpack doesn't need to have very much in it, it can even be empty, for a dog to feel mentally tired, and physically fulfilled!  

Here Secret Weapon carries a pack with water in it.  Not only is the water handy, he was a little calmer with the added weight.

3.  Makes them useful.

The possibilities of what you can pack in your dog's pack are endless!   Extra batteries for the camera, water, sunscreen, a first aid kit for the dogs, dry socks, extra shoes, a bathing suit.  A backpack is convenient, and can carry whatever you  and your dog need!  River has even packed gold out for me!   

There's gold in them there pack!

4.  Boosts their confidence.

The more training you do with your dog, the more confident your dog is.  The more confident your dog is, the happier your dog is.  It's a win-win situation!  

In addition, you will receive comments form other trail users about how cool  your dog looks in his pack.   Dogs love to be noticed, especially when they are working hard!  Who doesn't love to be praised?!  

River is happy to carry firewood back to camp

5.  They look cooler. 

Okay, so that one is a bit subjective, but in all seriousness, I think that when other trail users see a dog,  they see a dog who is working. They see a useful dog, with a purpose.  People can respect that.   Not all trail users are fans of dogs, and not all trail users want to share their trails with dogs.   The more Public Relations you and your dog can do, the more access to trails we all enjoy! 

6.  Your dog can carry his own stuff

On longer treks our dogs carry their own food, and bowls in, and they carry their bowls, and poop out.   When in bear country, we always double bag the food.  We double bag the poop as well.  When talking bags, make sure you squeeze out any extra air in the bags, so the plastic doesn't pop, leaving a mess in the pack! 

There you have it.  The Top 6 reasons your dog needs a backpack.  So go, get a backpack! Visit our Gear for Sale Page.    You, and your dog will both be happier for it. 

Burger is just learning to use a backpack so he can carry his own stuff on our adventures!

We love comments! Please leave a comment or share a picture of your pup in a pack!


12 April 2014

Book Review: A Guide for the Serious Musher

Dog Driver

A Guide for the Serious Musher 

 by Miki Collins and Julie Collins


I came across this book while in Alaska.  I am so happy I picked it up!  The Collins are twin sisters, who live on a trapline in Alaska.  They have been running dogs since they were teenagers.   They take a no nonsense, no BS approach to everything related to running dogs.   The main focus of this book is sled dogs, which they branch into recreational, freight and racing teams.   Miki and Julie Colins also write for Mushing magazine.    
The Collins know dogs.  Spending winters on isolated traplines in Alaska, they have to rely on their dogs, not only for their livelihood, but for their very life.     So  well trained, confident dogs are key to their operation.  

The book is full of black and white glossy photos that will take your breath away.   The book reads in part like an adventure story and a how-to mush manual. 

They have an extensive section on medical problems with dogs and how to treat them. This may be beyond some of us, but it's written in a straightforward style, and is easy to re-read.  

The Collins mix a good amount of story telling with facts.  This book will not only entertain you, but it will steer you in the right direction on many sled dog related issues. 

I love this book because there is no attitude.  They tell it like it is, and their vast knowledge is laid out in an easy to understand way.  They live this everyday, and their knowledge and know0how is second to none.   An excellent read!   

5 Paws Up! 

6 April 2014

Ski Storage

Sadly, it's that time of year that we start to think about putting the skis in storage for the summer months.     Taking some time now to care for your skis, will ensure you are ready to go when the snow comes back!

Whether you are storing classic skis, or skate skis, hot wax them before you put them away, then find a nice cool place to store them.  We store ours in an interior closet, on the main floor of the house.  It does not get too humid like the basement, and don't heat up like the garage.

Wax On

Use a nice soft glide wax, we often use yellow for this, and apply a generous amount.  We don't scrape it, or polish it, as the thicker wax protects the ski base from dust or scratches while in storage.  We remove this wax at the start of the season, by scraping it down, and rewaxing the ski for the right conditions.      

A little dab will do ya

We give the bindings a quick squirt of silicone lubricant, and put the skis in a breathable ski bag.   Don's store them in a plastic bag, as it will trap any mositure that was on your ski.  

Tie em up, or Leave em lose?

There is some debate over whether or not to use ski ties when storing your skis for the summer.  We do, but we leave the ties fairly lose.  We have a fair number os skis, and leaving them all lose is just not feasible or convient for us.    

Some people advise against it, as putting the skis together too tightly, may result in them sticking together when you go back to use them again.  Some people use a piece of parchmen paper to keep the skis seperated.   I would only see this as being an issue if you are keeping your skis somewhere that is will get hot enough for the wax to soften or melt together.    

We do bind our classic skis together, and we leave the skate skis lose!  How's that for indecision! 


Good bye skis!  See you in the fall!  

Dear Readers, what do you do with your skis at the end of the season? I would love to see comments on how you put your skis away for the season.

2 March 2014

Gear Review: Howling Dog Duracoat

Gear Review: Howling Dog Duracoat

A good coat is a must.  Yes, even for a big dog.  Even for a hair monster.  Even for a dog with so much hair they could audition for the musical Hair.  Well, maybe not that dog.  But most dogs!   All of our the Oxford dogs have a nice thick double coat, which nature gave.  Nature favored some more than others, but we coat them all.

The Howling Dog Duracoat is an easy to put on, medium weight coat.  The inside is a soft fleece, and the outside has an waterproof and windproof outershell. Between those layers is a polyester filling. Think layers people!  Layers are what keep you and your pets warm on a blustry winter day!    

The coat slips on over the dogs head, and wraps around the dog with a nice wide belly strap that closes with velcro.  Easy.    I think of it like a horse blanket for a dog, it covers the back.   

What I really love about this coat, is that it is long enough.  It goes all the way down the back, and then some.     

Often when I have found coats that fit my dogs, they only come part way down the back.   I want a coat to keep my dog as warm as possible, but still allow them to pee.  This coat does that!

Follow the link to our Gear for Sale Page for the DuraCoat!

My dogs are all around good Canadian dogs.  We go out no matter what the weather.  We just take precautions.  We use these coats in the car on the way to the skijoring trail, so the dogs muscles are nice and warm, and we avoid injuries.   

Another plus, is that I find this coat stays on well.   River is a roller, and she loves to throw her body around and run on anything she finds!  But the coat stay on, and stays in position, despite her rolling.  Because the coat is waterproof, all that rolling does not compromise the warmth of the coat either.   She can roll and roll and roll and not get wet!   Which means we can stay out longer!

In the winter we spend lots of time in the bush, cause there is less wind, and the trails don`t get as blown in.   But in the woods, a number of fabrics can easily become snagged on branches.  Which ruins the coat, or can even trap your dog!   This coat is smooth, with nothing to snag.  It`s held up very well, more so than any other dog coat we have used.  

The coat also have some nice reflective strips, across the front, and by the back legs, making it highly visible during our night skijoring runs and walks.

The verdict!

We love this coat,  it is easy to put on, easy to wash, stays put, and covers enough of the dogs body.   We love it!

Here is what the Sophomore Skijorer has to say about the Dura Coat 

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 $40 + 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!

Disclosure:   Oxford Dogs is a distributor for Howling Dog Alaska, the manufacturer of the Duracoat. The Sophomore Skijorer was not paid or compensated for her thoughts on this product.   


To order the Howling Dog DuraCoat, check out Howling Dog Alaska or the Oxford Dog`s Gear  Page

25 February 2014

Happy, Healthy Dogs and Harness Selection

Though skijoring, kicksledding, scootering or any dog powered activity, you and your dog develop a close, trusting relationship because of the amount of time you spend together.  You are striving hard to work as a team, and through exercise releasing endorphins.    The love of the trail only serves to strengthen your bond.  

The goal of is a happy, healthy, highly motivated team.

Throughout this blog are many tips and ideas exploring how to keep your dog happy, healthy and motivated.  Today we will focus on the wide amount of choices you have for harnesses. 

As you can see in the collage above, there are many, many, many kinds of harnesses out there on the market!  I haven't even been able to scratch the surface of all the options out there.  So this is only a small selection of course.   Every musher has their own preference, but it really comes down to the dogs.   

How does your dog perform when wearing a harness?  We want the best for our dogs, and we want them to be happy, harness selection has a large part to play in that.     

This article is going to get into proper harness fit, design and how the harness you choose affects the health of your dog.

Harness Fit

Seems like a good place to start!  The basics of any harness, is that they should be fitting around the dog's shoulders, and not riding up to the neck.  The "neck hole" should fit over the shoulder blades at the top, and the breast bone at the bottom.   A harness that is too big will slip down over the shoulders, and get in the way of the dogs legs.   A harness that is too small will ride up around the dog's throat.  A harness that does not fit properly can distract your dog, rub their coat bald or even cause injury!

A typical X-back harness is meant to fit a typical northern breed dog.  Wider across the chest, and narrower down to the hips.  Many mushers use X-back or H-back harnesses, but pay attention to the types of dogs they are running.

If you are running a hound dog, look at some of the options meant for hound deep chested hound and hound crosses which are popular in the sprinting races of dog mushing.

For those of us running family pets, and mutts, the sizing can be a bit more tricky.  There is no real standard across the industry for what a Large or a Small is, and it varies from outfitter to outfitter.   Read their instructions for sizing carefully, and ask about a return policy just in case!

While it is true that not all harnesses are created equal, there simply is not one harness that is hands down the best harness out there.  If someone insists that the harness they have is the best one out there, it may be the case, for their particular team, or their own dog.  It does not mean that will translate to you our own experience!

Here is an excellent video on how to fit a harness.


Two questions to keep in mind when shopping for a harness.  What was this harness intended for?   Is that what you will be doing?

There are so many options out there for harness designs, that there is no reason not to run your dog in a harness for the intended activity.   Most important when thinking of harness design, is to look at the attachment point.  Where you hook up the gangline.

Them compare the height of your dog, with the height of how the dog will be attached.  In any harness design your dog should be pulling forward from their shoulders, by pushing against the harness.  That's the basic idea.

For example, the attachment point for a skier who is of average height, with an average height dog, means that the gangline goes up off the dog to the skiers waist, as in the picture above.     This means that when the dog leans forward and pulls, the dog is using her shoulders to pull.  There is no pressure put down on the dog's hips, because the line goes up. .

In this shot, the line is going up off the dog, and the dog is leaning in to pull a skijorer.

The same is true in biking and scootering, the dog leans forward on their shoulders, with an angle up to the attachment point on the scooter or bike.

So skijoring, scootering and sledding, you can likely get away with the same style of harness.  If you have a tall dog, or a low attachment point on your scooter, you will need to look at the angle.   

If you are using a dog sled or a kicksled, the attachment point will be lower on the dog.  In some cases, shoter people with tall dogs skijoring will also fit into this category.

A lower attachment point needs to be taken into account and the use of a harness which will take the pressure off of the dog's hips.  Adding a longer gangline will also help reduce the pressure pushing down on a dog's back end.  A dog pulling forward, while at the same time having a downward force pushing down on their back end is going to cause discomfort and possibly injury.  

In this picture, you can see the attachment point is below the dog's hips, so she uses a harness designed to take the pressure off of the hips  

Many people know not to make a dog Sit, but applying pressure downwards on their back end or hips.  That's common knowledge.  But oftentimes we are still guilty of applying too much pressure to dog's hips through pulling sports.   It makes me wince when I see a picture of a dog pulling a kicksled with gangline pushing down on the dog's hips.  Either add a longer gangline, or get another harness.  It's a simple thing to avoid putting too much downward pressure on your dog's read end. 

Healthy dogs and harness fit

To pull properly and safely, your dog needs to be outfitted in the harness which fits them the best.  Look for a harness that fits properly, and don't outfit your dog if he is too fat. Have your dog drop some weight before asking him to pull.   Then you know your dog is healthy, and ready to pull and be fit properly. 

Now we have already gone over the importance of a good fitting harness, but now I am going to suggest you have not one, but two well fitting harnesses for each dog on your team.  

Why is that?  Well, roatating through different styles of well fitting harennes will relive the pressure points off the dog's body.   We rotate our dogs through different styles of harnesses throughout the season.

Our dogs spend the majority of their time working in front of the scooter and skijoring.  We use the sled for training, and in the shoulder seasons.   When we load up gear, we pack the right harness for the dog, and the activity.  If we have been working hard at skijoring for a few months, we make sure that within that time we rotate them through their harnesses, so we prevent pressure point injuries.

Some dogs take to a new harness, no problem at all.  Other's need a bit more time to become used to it until they perform at their best.    We are always careful to ensure that our dogs race in the harness in which they perform the best in.   

How many harnesses do you have for each dog?