Dog scootering is dangerous. Don't kid yourself. You can hurt yourself or your dog in the blink of an eye. When you buy a scooter from us, either know how to adjust the brakes so they work PERFECTLY or take the scooter to a bike mechanic before you hook up the dog. Don't use a scooter with under-inflated tires or sloppy brakes. BE CAREFUL!
Consider how you can be hurt; Let me count the ways:
1. Your dog can be pulling you nicely down the trail. He slows down just slightly and ¡wham! the tugline wraps around the front wheel. The wheel stops turning INSTANTLY. You find yourself flying over the handlebars and if you are lucky you land on your chest without scraping your face. If you are wearing gloves you still have skin on your hands although they are red and they hurt. If the fly-over was perfect, your knees are undamaged and your ankles are not turned.
2. Your dog suddenly veers sideways after (choose one) a squirrel, rabbit, loose dog, skunk or desire to pee. You instinctively squeeze the brakes and while holding tight to the handlebars and brake levers, you crash sideways like a falling tree. You land on your elbow because your hands are frozen to the handlebars. BROKEN ELBOWS ARE THE MOST COMMON SERIOUS SCOOTER INJURY. Some people wear elbow, wrist and knee guards as well as helmets (you can get them at any thrift shop!).
3. You and your fast dog are whipping down the mountain following the switchbacks. The dog(s) go around the curve following the trail. You hit a projecting root. The scooter continues straight. You dive into the bushes. WEAR A HELMET. It makes bush diving much less damaging.
4. You are with a group. Your excited dogs are harnessed and attached to the scooter. You wait for the others to get ready. Your dogs leap forward ("hammering the harness") while you are standing beside the scooter holding them back. Except you can't hold them. They are too wired, too eager, too strong. The back wheel tips up while the front wheel stays down. Since you are holding the handlebars, down you crash to the ground along with the handlebars. The back wheel whacks you on your head as you lie on your stomach. You are dragged on your stomach with the scooter on top of you. Always wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, good shoes or boots, and a helmet. In this particular kind of accident, you have not even begun the run and you have crashed!
5. The dogs are blasting down the trail. The grit and rocks from their feet are spraying up into your face and hitting your eyes. Goggles? Driving the sulky I have had to lower the brim of my hat and put my arm over my nose to keep rocks out of my eyes. I am looking out out of a narrow slit between brim and forearm.
Most pet dogs do not need to wear booties. Usually they have been walked on leash on the sidewalks and trails that they will be scootering on. Their feet are accustomed to these surfaces. As you scooter more you build up distance gradually and their pads build up also. However, pay attention to their feet. Keep the nails short enough that when the foot is bearing weight the toe nail is at least 1/8 of an inch above the floor. Check the pads after runs to see if there is wear. Wear shows up with beads of sweat coming through or pink flesh showing.
As you build up the mileage, you may need to bootie the feet. Sometimes just one foot is more vulnerable. Carry booties with you in case of sharp gravel, or hot pavement, or broken glass. Some dogs have sore joints and run more easily with booties with rubber soles. Mushers use booties for abrasive snow and for extreme distances - 20 to 100 miles in one day.
Overheating can kill. Once a dog has overheated, he is more vulnerable to overheating in future. Don't let your dog overheat. r scooter club has a simple way to manage overheating in dogs. We head down the trail. The tongues get longer. When they are too long, we stop in the shade, give water, and wait until the tongues shorten up. Then we go again. You will note that your dogs run more enthusiastically in cold weather than in warm.
Heat is relative. Florida dogs run in 80 degree F weather - at night and out of the sun. This temperature would kill a husky acclimated to Alaska. There is a difference between a dog trotting a few miles in heat and a dog loping or sprinting 10 miles. A Texan runs his dogs at 100 degrees but runs them from pool to spring to pool. The dogs cool off in the pool before running again.
Many scooterers switch to other sports in summer months.
Baited water. About 2 to 4 hours before a run, give the dog baited water to drink. Baited water is water that has been baited with something to make the dog lap it up. For example this morning I took bits of turkey and turkey broth and added a cup of kibble (this was a light breakfast) and added water to make about a quart of liquid. My picky eater lapped it up. My two dogs were not thirsty after a 9 mile run. I carried water and offered it. They did not want or need it during or after the run.
If you used canned broths, look for unsalted broths generally available in a health food store, it's better for your dogs.
Here's a GREAT ARTICLE about Heat Stress in Dogs, by Robert L. Downey.
Whichever style of harness you choose, pay attention to your dog's breathing. If you hear wheezing or heavy breathing, the collar of the harness is slipping up and the dog is pulling with his neck. His windpipe is being squeezed. In the case of the urban trail and hybrid performance harnesses, tighten the girth. The girth must be tight enough to hold the collar in place. If you are having trouble with your harness and you bought it from DogScooter or Alpine Outfitters, please give Carmen Rasmussen of Alpine Outfitters a call. She can figure out the problem with you. Do NOT let your dog pull with an ill-fitting harness!