Dog Care 101 Tip #181 - Dog Sports: Bikejoring
Bikejoring: it’s a funny word, but it’s an exciting and fun way for you and your dog to exercise and enjoy the outdoors together. If you don’t know anything about bikejoring, the first part of the word should clue you in to this great dog sport. Best Bully Sticks actually stumped Google when searching for a better understanding of “joring” but from what we can understand you can “jor” with pretty much any combination of “leading” animal and across-land vehicle. You can skijor, which is a dog or horse pulling a person on ski’s or even scooterjor, which is another dog-mushing sport with a non-motorized scooter. Just like the word, these sports may seem weird, but they are becoming increasingly popular across the U.S. and not to forget, dogs love it! Let’s talk more about Bikejoring!
Bikerjoring is similar to dog sled mushing, but instead of a sled, a singular dog or team of 2 to 3 dogs is helping propel a person on a bike. This sport is sometimes used to train sled dogs out of season. The dog/dogs are attached to the front of the bike by a length of leash and a then a harness on the dog. As the dogs run in front of the bike, the cyclist pedals. Bikejoring is best for Fall and Winter seasons because dogs run best during the cool weather months. Bikejoring takes place on soft, dirt trails. Generally, dogs used for this sport are American Pit Bulls, Huskies, Malamutes and Pointers, but really any dog over 30-35 pounds can be a good fit. But is Bikejoring right for you and your dog? Consider:
A Bike – Nothing too special, but your bike does need good brakes and good tires.
A Harness – Most Bikejorers suggest an x-back harness. Never use a standard collar for this sport. Comfort and safety is key.
Bike Attachment – If your dog is going to pull you and your bike, you’ve got find a safe way to attach your dog to your bike. A length of climbing rope about 5 feet long is a good place to start. A swivel snap is needed where the rope attaches to your dog’s harness. This allows the rope move unhindered at the dog’s end of the leash.
Another important thing to consider is the way the rope will interact with the front of your bike; namely, making sure the line doesn’t get caught in the gears or wheel. Many bikejorers have different ways to control this by using plastic piping, antennas or bayonet-type fixtures, which help suspend the rope at a safe distance outside the wheel or gears.
Paw Protection – Dog Booties are a piece of equipment that aren’t used by all bikejorers. Some think booties hinder a dog’s natural paw movement and others believe dog’s paws need to be protected. However, if you want to ensure your dog’s paws are protected you can always try booties or even use Musher’s Secret. Trimming your dog’s nails is also very important for Bikejoring. Long nails can most definitely hinder a dog’s natural movement, so always keep nails trimmed and filed.
Helmet - You must always wear a helmet! It’s just common sense and smart bicycling etiquette anyway! Whether it’s while you’re training, your dog being distracted by another animal, or a sneaky pothole, you’re going to fall off at some point. It’s inevitable, so wear head protection!
It’s pretty easy to figure out, but dogs like to pull. Starting slow is key as well as making sure you and your dog are both comfortable with the basic setup. You don’t want to brake too hard or go too fast because if your dog has never done this before, you don’t want to turn him off to the idea completely.
Having a helper during the training process is important, too. This second helper can keep the dogs, leash and bike organized while you focus on the general actions. This helper can also ride ahead of the dogs on a bike to encourage the dogs to move as well. Of course, treats are always a good motivator, so this person can also be designated treat dispenser, too!
One of the biggest goals in training besides making sure you and your dog are comfortable is the happy medium between braking and the tightness of the leash. Keeping the line taunt, the dogs moving and the bike going a steady speed may seem quite a task at first, but obtaining a good rhythm is the goal of training.
Biking very short 50-100 yard lengths at a time then stopping, rewarding with treats and then taking a break is a good way to begin training. Repeating this a few times a day will help your dog or dogs warm up to this sport. After you and your dog have gotten into a good rhythm, try upping your run time, but go slowly! Your dog and you will begin having great times out on the trails!
If you’re still unsure about Bikejoring, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I have all the correct equipment?
2. Is my dog healthy enough for Bikejoring? (Ask your vet!)
3. Is my dog comfortable while riding?
4. Am I comfortable when riding?
5. Does my dog have good focus and listening skills when riding?
6. Am I prepared for Bikejoring to become our new favorite way to bond?!
BBS hopes we’ve given you a good look into the great Dog Sport of Bikejoring! It’s a great new way for you and your dog to enjoy the upcoming Fall weather. If you want more information about Dog Sports, check out last week's blog on Dog Agility and stay tuned for more Dog Sport blogs in the following Monday's. Next week BBS will talk about Flyball!