Activities For A Sled Dog

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Introduction

Sled dogs, by nature, enjoy the companionship of others and also have an enthusiastic attitude toward working. There are a variety of breeds that have been classified as sled dogs. The more well-known sled dog breeds include Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, and Chinook. More recently, other breeds have been designated as sled dogs, as they too exhibit the qualities and traits required to mush with a pack. These breeds include Border Collie, German and English Pointers, as well as hound breeds such as Greyhounds, to name a few. Though certain breeds are more commonly used for sledding, all dog owners can determine if their pooch would benefit from and enjoy partaking in sledding activities.

For a pooch to be successful at sledding, they require tough feet for diverse terrain as well as high energy and endurance levels. Sled dogs need to wear a harness, so being comfortable with this gear is another criteria, unless the alternative activity doesn't call for one. It's definitely not possible nor easy to take a dog for a snowy sled run daily, which is why having alternative activities for entertainment is always a good option. With just a little creativity, sledding in even the hottest climates is possible!

Urban Sledding & Mushing

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Sunny Day
Free
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Scooter or Cart
Leash or hookup line
Harness
Healthy Treat
Activity description

What better way to please a dog with sledding instincts than to bring the sledding into an urban setting? Sound difficult? Not in the least, actually — all it requires is some creativity and imagination. 

There are two ways to go about urban mushing/sledding. One involves you directly, which is known as urban mushing. The other requires your pooch to pull some form of a sled that has a weighted object inside. Either way, the idea is the same; a dog will utilize a wheeled, sled-like object to complete the activity without requiring snow! Wheeled carts intended for urban sledding can be purchased, but good old-fashioned DIY sleds are another option. After securing a sled and harness, the activity is essentially free. Plot out your route, and get sledding with your pooch! (Just make sure your pup knows basic commands before you start.)

Step
1
Getting equipped
The first step to sledding is finding the "pawfect" sled. Depending on the type of scenario you wish to create for your pooch, you will need to pick a suitable sled. For example, if you're interested in mushing, wheeled scooters, bikes, roller-blades or skateboards are ideal. If you prefer your pooch to pull a sled with weighted objects inside, try a standard cart or red wagon. You also need a harness for your pooch to safely attach to the pull object.
Step
2
Preparing your pooch
After you know what object is being used as a sled, it's time to decide how your pooch will be secured to said object. If pulling a wagon or cart, secure one end of the leash or pull line to the dog's harness and the other to the object. If you prefer, you can hold the leash, if possible, around your wrist. If you're using roller-blades or a skateboard, holding the leash is ideal. After you've safely secured your pooch for the journey, set out.
Step
3
Sledding the streets
With a route in mind, head out with your pooch. If it’s their first time trying out urban sledding, expect setbacks and be patient. Any dog with a knack for pulling will get satisfaction from the activity, but they will need to learn the process and your expectations to be successful. Decide upon a command to give for your pooch to begin. If you’ve decided to mush, begin with short distances and check in with your pooch regularly to ensure their harness is comfortable. If your pooch is pulling a cart or wagon, run alongside them while they sled.
Step
4
Mastering mushing
Once your pooch has become more comfortable with the activity, you can enjoy navigating the community with ease. Have fun with your pooch by adding challenges to the activity such as tougher terrain or heavier weights in the sled or cart. This activity is a “furtastic” way to improve physical endurance while also providing mental stimulation in the form of a job or task for your pup!
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Carting Classes

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Cart
Harness
Activity description

One way to prepare your pup for urban sledding is by enrolling them in a formal carting class. Carting classes are exactly what they sound like: classes that involve your pooch pulling along a cart. These carts come in various sizes, depending on the dog, and are usually provided by the facility where the training occurs. You're always encouraged to purchase your own cart, which can be used at home. Information about purchasing carts is likely provided by the institution where you receive your training.

Depending on the facility the classes are being "offured" through, class lengths may very in addition to costs for lessons and carts. Explore your options by checking online and calling around. Once you know where you're going, get started by scheduling your first lesson.

Step
1
Finding the right class
Finding the right carting class for your pup requires some energy and optimism. Jump online and search local listings for options. If you live in a city, it's likely you'll have more than one. Smaller municipalities may have limited options, depending on your location.
Step
2
Learning the process
Once you've enrolled in classes, it will be a process for your pooch to learn how to cart successfully. Depending on the facility, different exercising and maneuvering techniques will be explored. Weights are also used in carts to increase the intensity of the experience for pups.
Step
3
"Oppawtunities" to compete
Interestingly, dog carting competitions, also known as draft-dog competitions, are actually open to all dog breeds, including mixed-breed pups. Competitions are held state-wide, country-wide, as well as internationally. Check out your training facility for more information about chances your pooch may have to show off their mastery of the sport.
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Adding Weight to Walks

Popular
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Any Day
Moderate
Easy
30 - 60 min
Items needed
Weighted Dog Vest
Activity description

A weighted walk is another option for upping the ante when you take your pooch out. Weighted walks are great for sled dogs, because like sleds, the specialized vest or backpack adds weight, helping to prepare the pooch to sled or just to increase the difficulty of the activity.

When it comes to finding the right vest or backpack, you can check out both online and in-store options. Vests are designed specifically for dog weights and dimensions. It's good to gather this information before setting out on your quest to purchase the right vest or pack. Weighted vests and backpacks range in price, but be prepared to shell out a pretty penny. It's a good idea to wait until your pup is done growing before purchasing the weighted pack. Vests are adjustable and have weight ranges to allow some wiggle room for small weight gains and losses. Backpacks allow for more freedom as it is the owner who fills the pack with weighted objects.

Step
1
Consulting with a veterinarian
It's important to consult with your veterinarian to determine how much weight your pooch can withstand and if they're healthy enough to pursue the activity. Senior dogs and dogs who have experienced injuries may not be up for the challenge. For those who are, the typical weight recommendation for packs and vests ranges between 10% and 12% of a dog’s mass.
Step
2
Purchasing a weighted vest or backpack
Depending on your preference, you may want to explore the difference between weighted vests and backpacks. Be sure the equipment you purchase is for the correct dog size and weight. Measurements must be accurate as vests and packs are intended to fit snugly and incorrect sizes can lead to injury.
Step
3
Introducing the walk
When the walk is first introduced, it’s common to experience some resistance from a dog, especially if they're stubborn by nature. A weighted walk requires more endurance on the pooch's part; therefore, weighted walks must be shorter than normal walks. A 10-minute weighted walk is “ruffly” the same as a 20-minute non-weighted walk. Beginning with shorter walks is essential to build your dog's muscle mass and endurance. As a dog’s endurance builds, walk lengths can be increased.
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More Fun Ideas...

Aquatic Activities

Swimming and exploring the water will force your dog to move against the resistance of the water, further intensifying their exercise. This, in turn, will result in them exerting more energy. Increase the challenge by adding in a water sport, such as fetch or dock diving.

Going for a Hike

Going for a hike is another way to make a walk more challenging. Natural terrain, especially if hilly with lots of inclines, can really get your pup's heart going. The challenge won't be quite what they experience with a sled, but it will be a step up from a traditional walk.

Conclusion

When it comes to sledding, any dog breed and even mixed breeds can excel at the activity. Traditionally, specific dog breeds have been used for arctic mushing and sledding, but more recently, a wider range of breeds have begun to indulge in the activity. Wondering if this activity is "pawfect" for your dog? Well, dogs characterized as having high energy levels and requiring rigorous mental and physical stimulation are ideal candidates for sledding activities, as well as those who have a need to lead and a tendency to pull.

Harnessing that pulling energy into a fun and challenging activity will stimulate your pooch mentally while simultaneously working them physically. As we don't all live in areas that experience a true winter climate, it's beneficial to have backup sledding activities, such as urban mushing/sledding, carting, or weighted walks. Enhance your pup's experience by providing them with access to sledding-like fun year-round, which will improve their overall health and happiness.