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An exciting aspect of canine draft work is mushing. Originally mushing was synonymous with Inuit style dog sledding but no more. Even mushers started working all year round by using three wheeled carts to maintain the training and conditioning of their dogs.

So what now defines mushing? Well unlike dog carting, there are no shafts and usually a single trace rather than the double traces normally used for carts and wagons. The biggest difference is that instead of walking the draft dog in the heel position and on-lead, a mushing dog runs, not walks, ahead and is controlled only by voice commands.

Recently spawned is the term urban mushing and this has come about as most people now live in Urban settings and are restricted by municipal bylaws to two or three dogs with many folks having only one pet of the canine persuasion. To maintain a full dog sled team you would need many more dogs than that, probably 20 to 30.

Urban mushing comprises such sports as:

SKI-JORING – dog pulls a person on cross country skis via a line attached to a waist band; ski poles may be employed.

BIKE-JORING – dog pulls a person on a bicycle.

SCOOTERING – dog pulls a person on a specially designed scooter, often with extra large wheels for cross country travel.

CANI-CROSS – essentially ski-joring without the skis. The dog pulls you from a waist band while you walk or run behind. Ski poles are also often used in this sport.

For all of these sports I must stress that only professional harness should be used. This will ensure that you have a bungee section in the tow line to prevent shock from a quick start by the dog (learned the hard way from personal experience). Also included is a quick release device in case of emergency situations. Where a waist band or body harness for the human is involved, the professionally made harness will also be designed to prevent injury.

Best way to start is to take an Urban Mushing Clinic. These are quite common in the United States but still somewhat rare in Canada. However for those of you in south western British Columbia there will be a Clinic on January 15/16, 2011 held at Release the Hounds – 408 East Kent Avenue, Vancouver – (604) 327-DOGS. Website is www.releasethehounds.ca.

Peter Maniate has been writing columns for the Newf News, the magazine of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada, since 1979.  In 1996 he started writing a Newfoundland dog column in the Breedlines section of Dogs in Canada magazine on behalf of the Newfoundland Dog Club of Canada.  When Dogs in Canada ceased publication at the end of 2011 he continued the Breedlines column in the Newf Newfs.

Permission is granted for re-publication of the preceding article or excerpts from it as long as the author is credited and the name of the original publication and date of first publication is included.

Newf News

November/December 2010