Getting Started in Dog Sledding Articles
BRIEF GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS
- Racing harness or Freight harness - which to choose?
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.
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.
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
- 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
- The gangline is the means of attaching the dog(s) by harness to the
sled, other vehicle, or weight to be pulled.
one dog: use a one dog line, 6 ft. long.
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.
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.
shock cord section should be used in conjunction with the gangline
to lesson jolts.
or bicycle pulling lines:
should be at least an additional 3 feet long and include a shock cord
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
guide is not intended to be anything more than a very brief and basic introduction
to sled dog equipment.
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to Construct A Cable Run For One Dog or A Full Kennel
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.
- 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 ½ to 3 feet below ground level for a sturdy
attachment. Wooden posts, trees, or the side wall of a building can
also be used.
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
Stops" prevent the dog from going to the end of the line. Place a
¼" wire rope clip
at the point where you want the stop. Back up the ¼" clip with
the smaller 3/16" clip to keep the larger clip from moving.
four foot neckline is made up of 4 ½ 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.
hardware should be checked periodically for wear and tightness.
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SHEET (4' X 8') PLYWOOD DOG HOUSE
are for ½" plywood. Exterior
grade is recommended. Nailing
strips should be used for reinforcing the contact points.
When using ¾" material nailing strips are not necessary,
however, note that the floor should then measure 33 ½" 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.
sure the dog's line is long enough to allow jumping up onto the roof.
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