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Sunday, 28 November 2010 09:08

Frequently Asked Questions
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How small a dog can pull a scooter?

Like so many questions the answer is, "it depends". It depends on the athleticism of the dog, the smoothness of the trail, the quality of the scooter and how far and fast you want to go. Of course if you want to go miles you probably need a dog who weighs 40 pounds and up. If you are content with time spent rather than miles traveled, a smaller dog can pull just fine. For many people the measurement is time spent rather than miles traveled. Before work you scooter your dog for say 40 minutes. Does it matter whether you go 2 or 10 miles in that amount of time?

Once your small dog is trained and not likely to cause you to crash, you can switch from a scooter to a mountain bike. By pedaling a bike you can take a lot of the weight off him so he can run flat out if that is what he likes.

With a small dog weighing say 20 to 30 pounds you can run two or more at a time. Two 20 pound dogs can out-perform one 30 or 40 pound dog. Two dogs together aid each other psychologically. Distance sled dogs tend to be in the 30 to 40 pound range. Sprint sled dogs tend to be 40 to 55 pounds. How many dogs can be hitched to a scooter? Like so many questions the answer is, "it depends". If you have several untrained dogs, do ground training individually (make this a link to the training page). Then train them individually to the scooter.

Once the dogs are trained to pull the scooter safely, hitch two together. You can use these two to help train a third and even a fourth dog to pull. Three dogs tend to be hitched in a fan formation. Four dogs tend to be hitched like sled dogs, in pairs.

Huskies will pull ANYTHING!

The danger is the dogs crashing you off the scooter and then taking off dragging the scooter down the trail. If your dogs have good voice control you can hitch more than one or two. If your dog goes deaf when it sees prey, stick with one or two pulling the scooter.

How long does it take to train a dog? Again, "it depends". Partly it depends on what "trained" means. If trained means the dog will pull on the command, "Pull"  and will stop on  "wait", then training may take no longer than a week or so. If trained means the dog will reliably run down the trail without veering off to pee on a tree or say hello to stray dog or chase a rabbit, then training will take months or years or last a lifetime. In reality, training is every time you go out the gate.

It may take longer to train an obedience trained dog to pull than a novice dog. The obedience dog may be so accustomed to walking in heel position that he is timid to walk, run and pull up front. See "How to Train" for more information.

How far can a dog go?

Again, "it depends". It depends on physique, fitness, conditioning, terrain, and temperature. At one extreme, trained sled dogs go 100 miles in a day - if the weather is well below 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1°C). They slow down as the temperature rises above freezing. Running as hard and long as they do makes cooling their bodies a limiting factor.Distance dogs run for 4 to 6 hours; then stop, eat, and sleep for 4 to 6 hours. They do this around the clock. The rest of us do not have time to condition our dogs to that state of fitness - and our dogs aren't bred to be able to do it even if we did have the time and inclination.

Many pet dogs can easily trot at 6 to 8 miles an hour for an hour or two. If the weather is warm, they may need to stop for water several times during this two hours. Other dogs can alternate a lope, gallop and trot for two hours. All dogs can go farther and faster in cooler weather. You will note that your "tired" dog has incredible energy and stamina when a squirrel or rabbit or deer runs in front of him.

What temperature is too hot to run a dog?

Dogs acclimate to the climate they live in. Huskies can  run in Florida. Huskies training in Alaska overheat easily at 50°F (10°C). Huskies living in Florida think 50°F is cool. However, the Floridians can't run the 4 to 6 hours that their Alaskan relatives can. They can't cool themselves well enough.

Deb Thompson runs her catahoulas in southern Florida after midnight for 25 miles with a break in the middle for water and snacks. She can run them at warmer temperatures than the huskies that she used to own. Southern breeds like catahoulas and American pit bull terriers tolerate warm temperatures better than northern breeds. These dogs have short coats without an undercoat.

Be aware of overheating. An overheated dog can die. If you plan a long run, give water baited with broth or a bit of stirred cat food or anything that makes the dog drink a lot of water about two hours before the run. Carry water with you and when the dog's tongue gets very long, stop and give him water. When the tongue shortens up, restart the run.  You can use canned broths, but, check your local health food store for unsalted broths, they're better for your dogs.

How fast can a dog pull?

My chinook trots at 5 to 12 mph depending on whether he is going uphill or on level ground. I keep the brakes on going downhill because I do not want shoulder or wrist injuries. Between 11 and 19 mph Brett lopes or gallops. Sprint sled dogs win races that are 20 miles long in an hour of running, This is in a team of 4 to 12 dogs on groomed snow. Dogs that win races at 20 miles per hour run free when playing at 25 to 35 mph. What breed of dog can pull? Most dogs can pull a scooter or sulky or bike or sled. Of course tiny dogs get enough exercise running near you with a flexi-leash. They don't need to pull to be fit. Generally speaking dogs over 30 pounds can pull a scooter. Most scooter dogs are in the 40 to 80 pound range. I know a great dane who loves his scooter and goes 15 to 20 miles on a typical outing.

How do you pass horses on a trail?

Generally, it's a good idea to pull off the trail, lay your scooter down, and hold your dogs, either in a down-stay, or facing away from the trail, so they're less threatening if a horse is not used to dogs or is afraid, and so as not to provoke aggression from a horse that dislikes dogs.

It is easy to frighten a horse with the combination of Scooter, human and dog. A frightened horse can buck its rider off or gallop out of control down the trail. Excited barking is not OK.

What is good etiquette for scooterers on public trails?

There are no "set in stone rules", just common sense, mainly. If another team is trying to overtake you on a trail, slow your dog/s, to allow them to pass. Usually, your dog/s will get revved by a passing team and want to "race", so you may have to slow them to let the other team pass.

When you are overtaking walkers on a multi-use trail, call out, "passing on your left (/right)", to let people know which side you're coming around on. Generally you should try to pass on the left on public trails, but sometimes it's not feasible, if pedestrians are walking down the center.

Generally, it's a good idea to yield to horses, bicycles, and steer as clear as you can around pet dog walkers, especially if they're coming up behind you. If dog walkers don't yield the trail when coming up in a head-on situation voluntarily, it's a good idea to stop and pull your dog/s off the trail and wait for them to pass. They're too clueless, most times, to keep their dog on a short lead or under control, so don't take a chance of their dog getting into the middle of your rig. You can usually cut it pretty close to walkers/pedestrians without causing them trouble, so just let them know you're passing, and then let the dog/s find a path through the throng, if necessary.

Seems to be a generally accepted notion on most trails to run it like a road, moving forward in the right lane, so you would do best to move over to the right for head-on passing.

What are scooter races like?

The one and two dog class use the scooters, three dogs and over use rigs. It is not unusual to have up to 100 entries in the one dog class and almost as many in the two dog class at larger races in Australia. The top five - ten places in these classes are very hotly contested - things are getting very tight - there have been occasions where first and second have been decided by 100ths of a second, and the top ten competitors separated by less than a few seconds. Attendance at scooter racing in the US is picking as more scooters and accessories are becoming more available in a wide range of prices and types.

By having these smaller teams racing, it gets people involved who have small numbers of dogs and a lot of them go on to race larger teams. (a bit sneaky really, getting all those poor mushers addicted :) Before they know it, they have 10 dogs and a large fuel bill from travelling to races all over the countryside!)

What kind of harness is best for my dog?

Simply speaking, you should buy a sled dog type harness. Do not use a carting harness, weight pull harness or tracking harness. Sled dog harnesses are light weight, strong, comfortable and inexpensive. Most sled dogs wear the X-back harness as pictured in the photo of the siberians running and the pit bull lining out. These harnesses are light weight, inexpensive and leave the shoulders free to move.

The Urban Trail harness was developed for scootering by Alpine Outfitters of Marysville, Washington State. It fits some round chested dogs better than the sled dog harness. It works well with a scooter because the angle of the tug line is up to the scooter instead of back to the sled.There is no downward pressure on the dog's back and hips. This harness is good for skijoring.
The hybrid performance Y-back harness is also developed by Alpine Outfitters. It is the Urban Trails harness plus a strap down the dog's back. The strap has a d-ring for the tugline. With this harness the dog's back is free to move when he runs as if he had no harness at all. Some dogs run more easily with this harness than with the x back harness which puts pressure on the hips.

Can older dogs with arthritis pull a scooter?

Older dogs may have trouble lying down and getting up, but trotting down the trail keeps their joints lubricated. Aerobic exercise is good for old dogs and old humans! The key is conditioning, start out slow and go short distances, and be patient! As your dog moves more, they will be able to do more.

How Long Should the Tugline Be?

The length of the tugline depends on the speed of the dog and where you are scootering. In a city when scootering on sidewalks, the dog pretty much needs to trot slowly. The line that is 4 or 5 feet long is convenient for control among pedestrians, for seeing around blind corners (buildings), and for managing the wait at traffic lights.

Longer lines work with fast trots, lopes and runs and on open trails with good visibility. Too long a line and it drags on the ground. The tugline that I sell is six to eight feet long. The length is adjustable and the built in bungee makes it function at seven feet at speed.

Skijorers use longer tuglines than scooterer. Their lines can be as long as twelve feet. That is the maximum length allowed by the IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports).

What is the Best Wheel Size for a Dog Scooter?

The answer depends on the work you are asking the scooter to do and on cost. It also depends on your body size. The 16 inch scooters are sized for children and small adults. Get 20 inch wheels and up if you are taller than say 5'- 8" or heavier than say 160 pounds.

If you have a minimal budget, the Torker is a GREAT scooter.

If y ou have racing sled dogs and you want to compete in 2 dog sprint races for 10 or 20 miles at 15 to 21 miles an hour, choose a scooter with large wheels, say 20 to 26 inches and most likely no fenders. Personally I hate mud and dust spraying up and down my legs, see the Willy with fenders.

If you live in a city and your dog will rarely run faster than 14 miles an hour, you have a car not a truck, you like to scooter on sidewalks to do errands in the city, on weekends you like to put dog and scooter in the car and go rain or shine to the country and hit logging roads and single track trails for several hours, a scooter with 16 inch wheels is perfect. Either the Torker or the Dirt Dawg.

If you take your dog with you many places and like to snatch pieces of time to train and scooter, and you need to a scooter to keep in the trunk of the car out of the way, get a folding scooter with 12 inch pneumatic wheels, like the Blauwerk Micro.

If you live where trails are sandy and soft . Get a scooter with fat tires that won't sink in the sand.

Questions From a Beginner:

Q: My husband and I have two dogs, an Australian shepherd and an Australian cattle dog, about 45-50 lb. each and almost exactly the same height. Would they work well as a team?

A: Same weight and size is best for a scooter dog team. Unmatched dogs can be scootered fine, however. It is racing people who are concerned about matching gaits. Recreational scooterers use whatever dogs live in the house.

Q: They have WAY too much energy and get far too little exercise. Would they be good for scootering?

A: Dog scootering is a great sport for this kind of dog. Scootering really helps the exercise dependant dog.

Q: My husband is a little worried about the safety issues with a scooter, mainly for me. I have many good qualities, but balance and coordination don't make the list. Can a confirmed klutz learn to love scootering with her dog?

A: If you can ride a bike then kicking (scooting) and riding a scooter is easy. If you can roller blade, you can scoot and ride a scooter. Go ahead and become good at scootering without the dogs before hitching them up. Be sure the dogs know commands like “Stand!” and “Wait” before hitching them up.

Q: Does the dog scooter you offer have an integrated mechanism for hitching your dog to it, or do you just tie your leash to the fork?

A: I am selling a tugline designed and built by Alpine Outfitters. It is much stronger than a leash and has a built-in shock cord and a strap for winding around the down tube. The strap works as a leash handle for when you get to your destination and need a leash. I also sell a 2 dog tugline. See them on the Gear page or buy them from Alpine Outfitters.

Should I buy a 3 wheeler or a scooter?

Mushers run three to many strong, fast dogs. They use carts and three wheelers that are heavy enough to stop their dogs when the brakes are on. Scooters are for one to two dogs and even, rarely, for up to 4 dogs if the dogs are quiet, well trained, and not especially athletic. In the context of running one or two pet dogs, I prefer the two wheeled scooter over the three wheeled tricycle or cart:

  1. A scooter is safer going around corners. Your feet bank with the scooter instead of sliding off the foot rest of the tricycle which does not bank.
  2. A scooter is easier to fit into a car than a tricycle.
  3. It is easier to get all wheels of the scooter on the smoothest part of the trail. With a tricycle the front wheel may track the smooth part of the rough road but the other two wheels have to deal with the stones, grass, ruts.
  4. It is easier for the dog to pull two wheels than three.
  5. The stance on a three wheeler is unnatural with legs spread apart. When you kick to help the dog, your leg is to one side or the other.

Can I use a razor scooter for starters before buying a bigger scooter?

by Sharon Morris, New Hampshire

When I first hooked up my mere 100 pound Giant Schnauzer to a razor scooter (I was waiting for my Diggler to arrive and couldn't wait). Well hooked up Big Jake and said HIKE and HIKE he did. It's a strange feeling to have the front wheel of your vehicle do a 360 while you're still going straight, then the back wheel fall completely off while you're doing say 12 mph. Actually I think he was going faster. It was within the first 1/2 mile. They have a lot of speed when they first start off. Oh, I forgot, no brakes. So here I am going 12 - 15+ mph down the road with the front wheel spinning like a top under me and the back wheel totally gone and the platform making a awful racket as it's being dragged down the road and me swearing at the top of my lungs cause this Giant isn't stopping because that awful noise is chasing him. Did I mention the fillings in my teeth felt like they where vibrating out of my mouth.

We lived and came walking home and picking up bits and pieces of the razor on the way and waited for the Diggler to come in. Thanks for the great memories

Ps. Don't forget a piece of bunge hooked on your tugline makes a lot of differance.

Do I get exercise when I scooter with my dogs?

Yes, definately! You can scoot to help your dog pull your scooter up steep hills and scoot just to go faster! If you alternate feet when you scoot, both legs will get in the action! You can also scooter without your dog, which will give you PLENTY of exercise!

Last Updated on Sunday, 09 January 2011 07:44
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