Thursday, May 22, 2008

Equipment needed for Skijoring, Bikejoring and Canicross

The Dog's Harness

The preferred harness for your dog is the X-back harness which is the standard for most sled dog sports. Avoid pet store walking harnesses that ring the chest perpendicular to the spine of your dog. These type of harnesses can restrict chest expansion and inhibit breathing. They also can severely encroach on the leg room that your dog needs to run. Harnesses that have webbing too close to your dogs fore legs can cause chafing and discomfort for your dog. Other harnesses that purport to be designed for skijoring are not as comfortable for the dog as the typical X-back.

The harness in the photo is an X-back. Notice how much room the fore legs of the dog have. The transverse webbing allows for chest expansion.

The X-back wraps the dog's body and allows the dog to pull with the whole body. Harnesses can be ordered with padding on the neck and chest. Other options are reflective strips for night running and closed cell padding that is lighter and will not absorb water. Harnesses can be ordered online for 17 to 25 dollars depending on the options you choose.

The Towline

You should not use a leash for a towline. A leash will be too short and will also be too jerky when a dog is pulling. The line needs to have a bungee section incorporated into the core of the line to smooth out the yo yo motion of the skier and rider. The bungee is a form of suspension that makes it comfortable for the dog and the driver.

The line should be at least nine feet long. You need the extra length beyond the length of a leash so that you have more reaction time in case your dog stops to poop or mark. Without the extra length, you might be in danger of running into your dog. If you have very fast dogs then you should consider an even longer line. The end of the line that attaches to the dog's harness should have a small brass swivel snap. The end of the line that attaches to your wheeled rig or skijor belt should have a loop. Here is a link that will help you make your own lines. For canicross, it is not necessary to have such a long line. You will still like a bungee section. A canicross line should be about seven feet long.

Always attach the line to the front and center of your rig. Do not attach the line to the grips of your bike. This is a common mistake that will make you fight for control of your bike with your dog. When the line is attached at the center at either the stem or the head tube, then your hands are free to use your brakes and control your steering. Do not use your skijor belt as an attachment when bikejoring or scootering. A line attached to your body will get you dragged in case of an accident. If the line is attached to the bike, then the bike may get scuffed and dragged for a short distance before the dogs will stop. Human bodies are much more expensive and painful to repair than a bike.

This is one of the places your dog team can take you. Left to right, Tempo, Flash

The Skijor / Canicross Belt

Skijoring is a relatively new sport and equipment is still evolving. The driver needs some kind of harness that will be comfortable and allow your dog to pull you without the pulling forces digging into your back. Older skijor belts were lightly padded, narrow waist belts. These belts become very uncomfortable after a few miles with hard charging dogs tugging on you. They also tend to make your clothes ride up exposing bare skin to cold air. A newer innovation is a belt that wraps your butt and pulls you at a much lower center of gravity. Leg loops help keep the belt in place . I call these belts "diaper" belts. The diapers do not dig into your spine and are not uncomfortable after long distances. The same belt can be used for canicross.
There are some climbing harnesses that have been adapted for skijoring and canicross. Some of the limitations of climbing harnesses is that often the padding behind the back is inadequate. The leg loops on some climbing harnesses will chafe when used for running and XC skiing.

In the next post I will discuss the skis and the different wheeled rigs you can use to run a small dog team.
This is the road to Relay Peak. There is a fog layer over Lake Tahoe.

Go With Dog
Mike Callahan


CHAD said...

Nice photos and dogs. I will have to bring my guys up to Tahoe to xcski some trails this winter.

CHAD said...

put some more posts up this winter. We have to do our skijoring on rollerblades here in Texas. Nice to see the pups on some snow

Man In The Field said...

Any idea where these supplies can be found cheaply and ship internationally?


red neck musher said...

Hi Man-i-f, if you didn't get your equipment yet try Howling Dog, Alaska. I got the distance harness, not the X-back after reading many of these blogs about both and I'm quite satisfied with my choice.
Good luck.

Unknown said...

I feel there is one element that is left out or is very hard to find. In Bikejoring some kind of attachment is needed to extend the line beyond the front wheel. I've seen images of something like it and the Paw trekker scooters have it built in as a part of the frame. Where can I get something like this?

Oh, btw I picked up my lines other equipment from Awesome stuff.

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