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Scooter joring with your dog

Friday, April 11, 2014

When you hear the term "dog mushing," you probably think of the vast, snow covered lands of Alaska and Northern Canada rather than the trails in and around the green spaces of your city. However, many modern humans and their furry friends are finding that urban mushing is an excellent way to indulge in outdoor fun -- and they don't have to hop on a plane to Alaska to do it. Both scooters and mountain bikes are used in this fledgling sport, and the dogs seem to enjoy it just as much as their people do. Best of all, you won't have to bundle up in a parka and brave the extreme cold because urban mushing doesn't depend on having sufficient snow on the ground.

Is Your Dog the Right Breed?

Naturally, toy breeds won't make good candidates for this activity, but any healthy, medium-to-large dog who loves to run will relish the prospect of pulling your and your bike or scooter along behind it. If you live in an apartment, condo, or otherwise don't have a significant yard area where your pet's exercise needs can be met, urban mushing provides an excellent outlet for energetic dogs. It's also a great way for city dogs to be able to get the chance to really get out and run. Even if your local dog park has an off-leash area, certain breeds have activity requirements that are best met by a daily dose of running. Dogs who receive regular workouts are generally more relaxed and content than their exercise-deprived counterparts, and they're also much more healthy.

Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Samoyeds, and other breeds that have been bred to pull sleds will take to mushing more easily than retrievers or rat dogs, and some may need very little training because the instinct to to pull is so high. However, you can still train breeds that don't have a genetic history of dogsledding to mush. Dogs that have been bred for sheep and cattle herding purposes such as Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Australian Shepherds also take to mushing quickly because they simply love to run. And don't underestimate the merits of the good old lovable mutt -- your Heinz 57 may have an Iditarod winner swimming somewhere in its ancestral gene pool.

Embarking on the Trail

Fortunately, all you need to get started in this fun activity is a scooter or a mountain bike, an adventurous spirit, and a willing furry friend. Of course, a harness and a scooter line help too. The harness should be fairly sturdy, and the line should be strong and durable -- few things are more embarrassing than having the line snap as you and your dog are sailing along the trail.

Although some communities have organizations dedicated to urban mushing, it's still relatively rare in others. If you haven't seen it happening where you live, it's probably time for you and your dog to become trendsetters and blaze the trail. If you and your canine companion are seen out and around your community on a regular basis enjoying urban mushing, other dogs and their humans are bound to follow in your footsteps, and you'll soon have plenty of company.

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