Sled Dogs of Asheville

Asheville – Winter Storm Jonas 2016

If you live on the East Coast, the effects of Winter Storm Jonas are still in the current news, on our minds and, depending where you live, covering the streets. An inch of snow will bring southern cities, like Asheville, NC, to a standstill. The last official total snow accumulation reported for Asheville was 13 inches. Needless to say, Asheville is covered by a thick blanket of beautiful, glimmering snow crystals and no one is going anywhere anytime soon.

Snow Days – Lucky Dogs, Kids & Parents

The storm hit Asheville on Friday morning – Snow Day! Snowstorms in the South are extraordinary. Young and old were out and about playing in the snow. Some fortunate dogs have faithful human companions who braved near-blizzard-conditions to partake in their daily walks. And then there are those lucky dogs who have children to play with them at home.  Snow days are so exciting with dogs.  In fact, the combination of children & dogs in snow is a match made in heaven! Check out the fun.

Asheville Dog Training - Sled Dogs 1

Proper Sled Gear is Essential

What it takes to be Sled Dogs

Whenever it snows, the sleds come out for play. If you have the right type of dog and proper equipment, your furry friend can get in on the fun. Your sled dog does not have to be a Husky, Malamute or other dog breed that typically runs Iditarod through Alaska, but these breeds are definitely top on the list for sled dogs. Any strong, high-energy dog can definitely enjoy the snow fun. Why strong, high-energy dogs? Because pulling a sled is a sport that takes strength and energy.  So, if you are blessed with a high-energy dog, they are great candidates for sledding! This is one of the many reasons why high-energy dogs are such wonderful playmates for kids. However, before you decide to sled with your dog, proper sledding gear is required.

Asheville Dog Training - Harness 1

Non-Restrictive Tracking Harness

Sled Dog Harness

Snow sledding kids should always wear proper snow gear – that is a given. This also goes for dog sledding gear. Non-Restrictive Harnesses are the ONLY equipment to be used for dog sledding. Tracking and sledding harnesses are ideal because they do not restrict a dog’s movement in any way. The leash attachment on the harness should be on the dog’s back, closest to the dog’s tail – nowhere near the dog’s neck. Unfortunately, finding non-restrictive harnesses is not an easy task because of the popularity of restrictive harnesses for obedience training.

Any harness labeled as a “no pull harness” cannot be used for sledding because the “no pull” feature will deter your dog from pulling.  Pulling is a skill required for activities like sledding and tracking. Dogs are encouraged to pull when wearing a harness. Non-Restrictive Harnesses should NEVER be used for obedience because they are totally ineffective for obedience training. In fact, pulling a dog back on a harness discourages dogs to develop the pulling skill needed for sledding and tracking. The leash should be held with both gloved hands low towards the humans center of gravity on the sled. Leash length will vary based on personal preference and strength; however, we find ~10 feet in length to be an ideal length.  Do NOT attach the leash to the sled.

NO Collars or Halters for Sledding

Never, ever attach a dog to a sled by any type of collar around their neck. It does not matter what type of collar it is. Never use a collar for sledding because it will definitely choke your dog, damage their necks and will probably be fatal. In addition, halters like the Gentle Leaders should NEVER be used for dog sledding because it will damage dogs’ mouths and noses. The only acceptable gear for sledding are non-movement-restrictive harnesses.

Kids Play & Common Sense

Finally, common sense is a critical ingredient for dog sledding to be safe. First, the dog needs to be physically sounds and not be too young (less than 1.5 years old) or too old (depends on individual dog). It is essential that the sled dog is under voice control so they will stop running when asked. Also, this is kids play, but small adults can enjoy the fun. Unfortunately, big kids and adults need to watch and observe the fun. The adult weight limit should match the dog’s weight and strength. This requires common sense and is based on variations in human and dog sizes. As an example, our high-energy 60-pound pup Calypso is able to pull a 125-pound human downhill easily on a sled. Finally, never make your dog pull the sled uphill. That is the human’s job. The only thing the dog should be asked to carry uphill is their own leash, if they want to carry it. Dog sledding is a great way to keep kids entertained, dogs exercised and parents happy, making everyone lucky dogs on snow days!

Dog Training - Asheville Sled Dog 2

Kathryn R. Gubista, PhD offers concierge dog training, dog walks, dog runs and pet care services through Lucky Dog Training Asheville and has over 30 years of training experience in obedience, tracking, agility, sheep herding, dock diving and fieldwork. The Dog’s Perspective is a training philosophy based on how dogs think. Kathryn is an evolutionary biologist and teaches diverse biology courses in higher education settings.

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