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Your high energy Husky was bred to pull, but if you live in the city or suburbs, and not on the tundra, his natural pulling talents can go to waste. Your Husky needs exercise, lots of exercise, and even if you are athletic and take your Husky for lots of runs, you will be hard-pressed to match his stamina and speed and provide him with the exercise he craves.
One possible solution that is becoming popular with owners of big, high energy dogs like Huskies is teaching them to pull a bike. Sometimes called urban mushing or bikejoring, teaching your Husky to pull you on a bike can be the perfect solution to exercise your dog and utilize his natural pulling ability. Huskies are working dogs, and giving them an outlet to allow them to perform the job they were bred for is good for them physically and mentally. Besides, having your Husky pull you on a bike could be a great way to get around and save gas money!
Make sure your Husky is mature and that his joints and muscles have developed so that they do not experience excessive strain pulling a bike, resulting in your dog becoming injured. Huskies are large dogs that are well suited in size and conformation to pull, but they should be fully developed before introducing pulling activities. Most Huskies are eager and willing to pull a bike but you should assess your pet's aptitude for this, there are always exceptions to the rule.
You will need to obtain a well fitting harness appropriate for pulling a bike. The harness should distribute weight over your Husky's breastbone, not his neck. Acquire appropriate equipment from a supply store that caters to urban mushing to ensure that the harness will not injure your dog and fits and distributes pulling weight appropriately. Some harnesses are also equipped with spring attachments to attach to your bike and allow for some give when your dog pulls your bike.
You may want to teach your Husky typical mushing commands prior to hitching your dog up to your bike, like 'gee' for turn right, 'haw' for turn left, 'stop' or 'whoa', 'slow', 'leave it', 'on by', and 'hike' for go. That way, he'll be familiar with commands and you have a verbal method to direct your dog before you entrust your Husky to start pulling you on a two-wheeler. You can use these commands to direct your dog when he is pulling you as a passenger on your bike to avoid obstacles and provide control.
Make sure you use appropriate equipment that will not put strain on your dog. The harness should distribute weight evenly over the breast and not put pressure on your Husky's neck. You do not want to use choke, pinch or halti collars, which could injure your dog. Remember, this activity is supposed to be fun for your dog as well as you. Avoid using punishment when teaching your dog bikejoring. You may correct your dog, especially if safety is an issue, but avoid yelling and do not lose your temper or patience with your Husky.
When out on a bike pulling excursion, make sure you take water for your Husky and keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't become overexerted. A Husky may be motivated to run and pull beyond safe physical limits and your dog needs to be monitored for signs of strain. Appropriate bike harnesses, sometimes with bungees or springs affixed to reduce strain on your dog, and you on your bike, are available from supply stores that specialize in urban mushing or you can rig this yourself. You should also ensure you are wearing a bike helmet. Knee, elbow and wrist guards are also recommended as spills during training can happen. Be sure to invest in high-quality gear--do your research, it will be well worth it.
The Shape Bike Pulling Method
Hook harness to a drag
Prepare with a clicker and treats. Put a harness on your Husky and attach the harness with a clip to a 7 foot long cord. Attach the other end of the cord to a 4 foot long, 4"x4" piece of wood by drilling a hole through the wood to tie the cord to.
Reinforce pulling the drag
Walk beside your dog with a leash and encourage your Husky to pull and drag the piece of wood. When your dog pulls the wood a few feet, click and treat. Ask him to continue pulling and click and treat every few feet. Reassure your dog if he is afraid of the wood dragging behind him and continue reinforcing. Be patient until your dog is comfortable with this step.
Practice mushing commands
Teach your Husky commands like 'hike' for go forward, 'whoa' for stop, 'gee' for turn right, and 'haw' for turn left as you walk dragging the wood behind you. Associate these commands with starting, stopping and turning.
Set up bike
Get a bike that is somewhat undersized for you to use during training, like a bmx bike or a youth bike, that you can easily control. Warp a bungee cord around the base of your handlebars, fasten well. You can duct tape hooks together so they will not come apart. This will act as a shock absorber. Also, tie a longer rope around the handlebars in a loop larger than the bungee. Take a 5 foot long leash with clips at both ends. Attach one large clip to both the rope and bungee loop around your handlebars to form a gangline. Attach the other end of the gangline to your dog's harness while your bike is lying on its side.
Practice with bike
Hold onto the gangline and pick up your bike and mount. Give the command for 'hike' and let your dog go forward as you pedal your bike. Practice various commands and reassure and praise your dog as you go. Eventually, when you and your dog have confidence with bikejoring you can switch to a regular sized bike.
The Verbal Commands Method
Tecah commands while walking
Teach your Husky verbal commands such as 'Gee' (turn right), 'Haw' (turn left), “'Wait' or 'Whoa' (stop), 'Easy' (slow),and 'Hike', 'Hup Hup' or 'Mush' to go forward. Teach these commands when walking your dog on a regular lead line by associating them with actions while you walk. Use treats to reinforce correct responses.
Practice with harness
Put a harness on your dog and continue practicing commands. Teach your dog to 'Go on by' to move past distractions while out on walks. Encourage him to ignore distractions and reward for compliance.
Practice commands from behind
Attach guidelines to your Husky’s harness and start walking behind your dog. Teach your dog to 'line out', to pull the guidelines snug while you walk behind him. Practice previous commands while walking behind your Husky.
Practice with drag
Attach one end of the tug line to a drag, and ask your dog to move out until the line is taut and stop and wait for further directions. Guide your dog and reinforce with treats, and praise.
Attach a bike to your Husky’s harness and walk with the bike behind your dog while practicing verbal commands. Mount the bike and have your Husky pull you while practicing verbal commands.
The Acclimatize to Bike Method
Acclimatize to harness
Put a bike pulling harness on your Husky and take him for walks wearing the harness.
Acclimatize to commands
Start walking behind your Husky with guidelines attached to his harness. Practice commands like 'gee', 'haw', 'whoa' and 'easy' while walking from behind.
Have an assistant walk a bike next to your dog while you walk behind your dog and give commands. Have your assistant ride the bike behind, and to the side, of your dog while you jog behind, holding the guidelines and practicing commands.
Attach your dog's guidelines to the harness and to your bike. Have a spring or bungee cord rigged to absorb shock.
Have your assistant run next to your dog while you get on the bike, attached with guidelines to your dog's harness. Have your assistant provide guidance running next to your dog with a lead, while you slowly ride the bike behind your dog. Gradually increase distance away from the assistant, and allow your Husky to start pulling the bike and practice commands.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 03/02/2018, edited: 01/08/2021