By Cindy Filmore
If you are just starting out in the world of dogsledding, chances are you don’t have a “full” team yet – or at least not as big a team as you dream of owning. But, just because you’ve only got one or two dogs, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun of dog-powered sports!
Owning a kennel full of dogs allows me the opportunity to run a “big” team any time I want, but quite often, I’ll opt to work with one or two dogs. Why ? Well, apart from being easier to handle (let’s face it, one dog IS easier to handle than 6 or 8 ), it allows me to pay closer attention to those one or two dogs on my line. I can work on specific commands, or special needs of a particular dog, or even on a particular trail without involving the numbers of dogs I usually have.
So, HOW do I have fun with only 1 or 2 dogs? Lots of ways!
Bike-joring is one item in our repetoire of dog-powered sports. Hooking one or two dogs up in harness, I securely fasten them to my bike, and off we go ! We hit the trails if I’m on the dirt-bike (actually, an old motorbike with no motor), or stay in the fields and roadways if I’m on the mountain bike. There are those who are talented enough to handle the speeds a dog can pull you at while on a bicycle, while pounding over rocks and stumps. I am not one of them, but bike-joring races are staking a claim to the race fields, and you will quite often see bike-joring races on the roster at dryland races across the country.
My sons (infintely braver and younger than I) opt for dirt boards to run one or two dogs (well, they are even brave enough to hook up a 4 or 6 dog team, but they ARE teenagers). The speeds are incredible, like dirtboarding down a very big hill, but allow them the control (with hand brakes) that skateboards don’t. Plus, as they use a hand-held gang-line, they can release the dogs if needed.
I also have a light weight dog rig (check out Risdon Rigs at www.risdonrigs.com for some fine examples) that works GREAT for one or two dogs. If the idea of splurging on a rig “just for dogs” isn’t quite in your budget, why not consider a scooter? Dogscootering is growing in popularity (see www.dogscootering.com ) and gives another option to the bike-joring scene.
Cani-cross makes good use of a dog in harness, and a pair of running shoes ! This sport is very popular in Europe, where races are often held. But, you don’t have to enter a race to have fun. Find a nice trail, slip on your running shoes, grab Fido (in harness) and RUN down that trail!!! Your dog will be thrilled with a change from his normal “evening walk”, and a chance to stretch his legs, and you’ll have the added power to keep YOU running, even on the uphill stretches.
Winter doesn’t require a “full sized” team, either. Quite often, we will hook up one or two dogs to a kicksled, and hit the trails. While you don’t quite get the speed or the distance of a race team, it is still a lot of fun to quietly slip through the bush, and spot the wildlife and scenery. And, for short bursts, and down hill runs, 2 dogs are plenty of power!
Some folks enjoyski-joring, too. With a trusty pair of cross country skis strapped to your feet, you can head out on the trails or enter a weekend race, just you and a dog or two ! Practice first without your dog, so that you are comfortable skiing, make sure you can turn and stop safely (although, at dog speed, it will be all new, again!).
The point is, you can have lots of fun with one or two dogs. You don’t really need a whole team…..but trust me, once you get started, huskies are like potato chips “Betcha can’t have just one !”