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HARNESSES - Racing harness or Freight harness - which to choose?

The racing/recreational harness, whether an x-back style or  h-back style, is designed for the efficiency and comfort of a dog pulling a light load at anything from a walk/trot to a gallop. This may be either as an individual or working in a team.  This harness is not well suited to heavy weight pulling.

The freight harness is designed to allow the dog to use his strength more effectively and without strain to pull a fairly heavy load.  This work is usually done at a slow pace.  It may be just pulling a heavy weight a few feet, as in competitive weight pulling, or an extended trot as in a freighting team.  The freight harness is also popular for such useful work as hauling firewood.  The design allows the dog to pull with his chest and shoulders comfortably even when the load and hook-up are close to ground level.

Harnesses should be properly fitted.  Refer to the Resha guide to proper harness fit.  Most Northern breed dogs as well as many others can be fitted with standard size x-back, h-backs, or adjustable freight harnesses according to their weight.  To weight your dog, pick him up and stand on a bathroom scale, then subtract your own weight.  Most people think the dog weighs more than he actually does.  The best fit for non-Northern type breeds (sporting, collies, smaller breeds, etc.) can be obtained by fitting the dog with an adjustable "measuring" harness and having a custom harness made.

COLLARS - Do not use a full choke or chain collar.  The most useful and efficient collar  is the adjustable semi-choke or circle collar with no buckles to cause problems.

GANGLINES - The gangline is the means of attaching the dog(s) by harness to the sled, other vehicle, or weight to be pulled.

For one dog:  use a one dog line, 6 ft. long.

For two dogs: use a two dog line which consists of a short (2 ft.) center line with a loop to attach to the vehicle.  Two tug lines (4 ft.) attach to the center line by loops and to the dogs harnesses with snaps.  A double neckline is used between the dogs' collars.

For up to four dogs: use a two dog add-on in addition to a two dog line.  We call this a 1-4 dog line. It is the  best choice for beginners as it can be looped together or taken apart to run any combination of from one to four dogs.  When running one dog alone in any position, simply snap two tug lines to the single harness loop.  Note that when running two dogs in the lead position, there is no center line between them but they are attached at the collars by the double neck line.  Additional two dog add-ons can be used as team size increases.

A shock cord section should be used in conjunction with the gangline to lesson jolts.

Ski-jor or bicycle pulling lines: should be at least an additional 3 feet long and include a shock cord section.

What to pull - The sled or toboggan of course is the ideal "vehicle" , however, most mushers train and condition their dogs and or teams prior to snowfall for several months using training carts.  These can be three wheeled "rigs", Sacco carts, or in the case of large teams - ATVs.

Sled dogs can also be trained to pull a person on a bicycle, roller-blades, or skis. Many mushers living in no snow areas train year round on wheels.

CARABINER  A large clip used by mountain climbers and adapted by mushers as a convenient way to attach lines to the sled or other objects to be pulled.  Lines attached to the carabiner would be the gangline and shock line as well as quick release line and snowhook line.  The carabiner is attached to the bridle of the sled.  The bridle is a harness made of poly rope that attaches to several points on a sled so the pull of the dogs will not place undue stress on any one point of the sled.

QUICK RELEASE This is a piece of locking hardware.  Attached to a rope inserted into the carabiner, it allows the musher to tie off the sled or rig so the dogs won't take off until the snap is released.  The quick release locks onto another rope fastened around a post or truck bumper.  If you plan to stop and tie off on the trail it is best to use the QR snap with a long line which trails behind the sled after being released.  When you are safely under way you can gather up the long line and put it in a gear bag for later use as a tie-off line.

SNOWHOOKS  While a snowhook is a very important piece of equipment it must be remembered that they are also potentially dangerous.  Most beginners starting out with two dogs are probably better off relying on their own strength to hold the dogs if necessary.  After some experience is gained in handling the sled, paying attention  to the dogs and lines, etc. then it would be soon enough to add a snowhook.  The hook is used to hold the team when stopped on the trail.  However, experienced mushers never trust the look to hold.  Much of the usefulness of the hook depends on the snow into which it is set.  When the dogs are jumping and pulling, they can often "pop" the hook loose.  Because a loose hook can be dangerous it is wise to keep an eye on the hook and walk on the opposite side of the sled.

SLED BAGS Sled bags are extremely useful to have.  They are required equipment for racing, as they can be used to carry a dog on the sled if the dog should become injured and unable to run.  They can also be used to carry extra gear: lines, harnesses, water and dishes for dogs as well as first aid supplies, extra clothing, camping gear and/or picnic supplies and photo equipment.

This guide is not intended to be anything more than a very brief and basic introduction to sled dog equipment.   

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How to Construct A Cable Run For One Dog or A Full Kennel

Long narrow run areas encourage dogs to get more exercise. Recommended length is 20 to 30 feet depending on available space. A 4 - foot neckline allows ample freedom for the dog to jump on top of his house. With more that one dog, parallel runs take up the least amount of space and work best to encourage chasing type exercise. Runs should be placed far enough apart so that the dogs can touch but cannot get tangled with one another. With the lines set about one foot above ground level dogs become adept at footwork in avoiding the line - useful behavior for sled dogs.

Posts - iron pipe, approximately 2" in diameter works well, it should be 4 feet long with holes drilled for eyebolts. Set the pipe in a concrete base 2 to 3 feet below ground level for a sturdy attachment. Wooden posts, trees, or the side wall of a building can also be used.

Before stringing the long wire, place bolts in extended positions in the posts so they can be tightened after the wire is strung. Run the wire over the thimble placed in the eye of each bolt leaving 8 to 10 inches extra and fasten with two wire rope clips. Tighten up the long wire by fastening down the eyebolts at each end. Then re-tighten the rope clips.

Stops" prevent the dog from going to the end of the line. Place a "  wire rope clip at the point where you want the stop. Back up the " clip with the smaller 3/16" clip to keep the larger clip from moving.

The four foot neckline is made up of 4 feet of cable with loops at each end which are best fastened permanently with sleeve clamps. A swivel set into one of the loops is fastened to the long line by a quick link. This quick link, which runs up and down the long line, will be the first piece of hardware to need replacing - how soon depends on the activity level of the dog. The link can be replaced by simply unscrewing it thus saving the rest of the neckline. The brass snap, which fastens to the dog collar, is attached to the neckline with a small link and can also be replaced if necessary without having to replace the entire line.

All hardware should be checked periodically for wear and tightness.

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Measurements are for " plywood.  Exterior grade is recommended.  Nailing strips should be used for reinforcing the contact points.  When using " material nailing strips are not necessary, however, note that the floor should then measure 33 " in length.  When nailing together - the sides overlap the bottom, front and back panels.  The front and back panels also overlap the bottom.  By nailing blocks to the  inside of the roof it can simply sit on top of the house without sliding and be conveniently lifted off when cleaning out the house.  The box should be painted and placed on blocks of 2 by 4's to keep it off the ground.

Make sure the dog's line is long enough to allow jumping up onto the roof.


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