• Fanny Mahìngan Peltier

Kicksledding

The sled's little sister, the kick sled is gaining popularity in many provinces of Canada. Foldable, malleable, light and affordable, the kick sled is finding more and more followers. People play this sport for fun and even for competition. Oh yeah! There are kicksledding competitions over distances that vary between 1km and 5km with different types of dogs! However, we are not dealing with the competition aspect in this article, but rather the leisure aspect and the essentials to practice this sport safely!



Although the dog's training in the basic instructions are still the same, all harnessed dog sports are different and have their own particularities. the kick sled will require a much more constant and sustained effort from your dog than canicross, skijoring and even bikejoring. In order to maximize the experience of your duo or trio, here are some important things to consider.



AGE, WEIGHT AND TYPE OF DOG

Although the minimum age required to allow a dog to practice a sport remains a major concern, we find little specific data on this subject. The canine species shows significant morphological variations from one breed to another, without forgetting the genetic predispositions and the sex of the animal. Moreover, even if the dog stops growing, the fact remains that, until the end of its growth, its bones will grow thicker. Without forgetting the muscle mass which will become more important. In short, the stopping of growth will vary from one subject to another and that is why it is not advisable to start the scooter before the age of 12 to 18 months.




Also, your dog does not have to be an athlete, but he must be in good physical condition. To limit the risk of injury, he must be at a healthy weight and have good muscle mass. Know that if in doubt about your pet's health and abilities, the best person to reassure you on this side is your veterinarian.


Regarding the type of dog, rest assured that all medium and large breeds can tow and have fun doing so. Also, if you have a dog of around 20 lbs, it is always possible to team up with another dog to allow him to practice this sport without having an unrealistic load to tow given his weight.




EQUIPMENT

Kick sled

The Kick sled is technically designed to be easier to maneuver than the sled considering the number of dogs that we can attach to it, i.e. 1-2 dogs. Unlike the traditional sled, it folds up for easy transport or storage and is much lighter. We're talking about an average weight of 18 lbs. In addition, it does not require regular maintenance. Depending on what you do with it, you will have to think about changing the polythene runners or the skates after a few seasons.


Currently, we can find several models of kick sled in Canada, but some that are imported from Europe were not originally designed for hitching with a dog or two dogs. You have to modify them somewhat to attach your partner to them and to maximize their skiing experience. In addition, you can find a model to sit a young child on or carry your backpack.







Bungee

This tool is essential to minimize the impact on the musculoskeletal structure in your dog when pulling. It is specially designed to sufficiently absorb impact while minimizing energy loss. This type of bungee is different from that for canicross. On a scooter, your dog must pull a load that offers more resistance and is not as moving as a human when running.

Some Kick sled models offer a long front rope system without a bungee. By trying it, you will notice that your dog will lose stability and therefore energy. At this time, it is better to change the front of the rope for a bungee suitable for the practice of this sport.



Draft line for one or two dogs

The draft line attaches to the bungee at the front of the Kick sled and connects the dog (s) to the Kick sled. The line should not be too long and suitable for the height of your dogs. If the line is too long, you will have difficulty maneuvering your car on a narrow path with turns.



Neckline or halter

The neck line, also called halter, is a 4 to 6 inch line that we use when we have 2 dogs to tie them collar to collar. So, you can't end up with one dog going to the right and the other to the left of a tree. Can you see the picture well?


However, before tying two dogs together, you must make sure that they know each other well, have roughly the same build and the same work energy. Otherwise, the experience may be difficult for your partners.




Brake

Some models of Kick sled on the market come with the brake as an option. This is an important detail to consider when making your purchase, because depending on the strength of your dog as well as your ease in handling the car, the brake may be a must. Otherwise, many people manage to brake easily in boots.



Harness

The traction harness is essential equipment for your dog. A good harness should be like a second skin and be perfectly adapted to its morphology to maximize traction and limit the risk of injury.


To date, there are a lot of harness models on the market. Recommend an X-back type harness, as it is made to allow your dog to lean on his center of gravity in the sternum. In addition, the cross straps on the back will distribute the load when pulling and allow your dog to maximize his energy and balance. You should absolutely avoid half-back type harnesses, also called half-body harnesses, which will tend to move a lot on your partner's back when pulling. Remember that the dog will adapt his pulling motion according to his harness and by the same token, adopt movements that can generate posture problems or injuries.


Regarding dogs with a large chest, such as the short-haired types, there are models like the Faster Harness from the company ZeroDC which are better suited to this type of morphology.




Booties

No matter what name you give them, many dogs need boots to limit pad injuries. Again, everything will depend on the dog's resistance to the cold and the type of terrain. Recommend boots suitable for sports, because they are easy to fit, durable and much more affordable than city boots.


For more information on caring for your dog's paws in winter, you can read the following article: Dog paw care in winter



Coat

Buying a coat suitable for dog harnessing is a must if your dog does not have a dense enough undercoat for the winter. Again, recommend a light coat that will not restrict your dog in his movements. The harness will be worn under the jacket to keep stability when pulling in addition to avoiding being too tight and difficult to put on.



Helmet

The helmet is a part of the equipment which is not negligible if you have one or both powerful dogs, if you are more or less skilled and have a tendency to fall often and depending on the level of difficulty of your practice. Again, the helmet is discussed in the middle as well as the wearing of the helmet on the slopes of downhill skiing. However, several good athletes have avoided a concussion with the helmet. Please note that a strong dog in good condition can easily tow you at speeds in excess of 15km / h.





HUMAN PREPARATION

Ideally, before you jump into your new winter toy, try it out without your dog on different play surfaces. Take the time to find your balance, be able to run in the center of the skis, going up and down a slope, to turn.


To give you an idea of a towing dog, you can have someone pull you several yards so you can find your center of gravity and maneuver the Kick sled well. To run in the middle of skates and get used to jumping on them.


And if you thought you were going to be standing on your scooter without helping your dog, we have some news for you! It's a team sport ! Even the best musher helps his team of more than 8 dogs. Come on! You may discover new muscles in your thighs and groin. A short jog and / or a few warm-ups are sometimes necessary in order to stretch out properly.




DOG PREPARATION

Has your dog never practiced harnessed sport?

No stress, you can allow him to discover the sport without being a champion. However, here are some concepts to put into practice to maximize your experience:


Learn the Pulling Motion: Condition your dog to pull a load by adopting an optimal posture to limit injury.


Desensitization to the equipment: gradually introduce your dog to the Kick sled. Be aware that the friction of the skates on the snow or just the sight of the car can be stressors for your partner. So imagine a big weird thing strapped behind him that seems to be chasing him ?!

  1. Ride the Kick sled around the house, take a walk with the dog on one side and the Kick sled on the other.

  2. Tie your dog to the Kick sled and attach his leash to the collar or harness. Walk alongside him, strengthening his efforts.

  3. You can also have two: one person on the Kick sled and the other who accompanies the dog on a leash or encourages him by standing in front.

  4. Avoid letting your dog tow the Kick sled without having someone on it or by his side. If your dog goes into a panic, he can pick himself up with the scooter on his buttocks and you will have a much harder time desensitizing him afterwards. In the worst case scenario, you will find it several meters away.

Choice of course: recommend a terrain offering a realistic level of difficulty that you will do in a loop. The snow on the ground must be well compacted to prevent the dog from injuring itself when passing a paw through a snowbank.




FIRST TEST WITH YOUR DOG

That's it, there you are! A light snow is falling, the atmosphere is magical and you are about to make your first distances with your dog. To maximize your experience, start on optimal terrain in an environment with few distractions. Especially if your dog is powerful and loves chasing squirrels!


If not, if your dog is lacking in motivation, ask someone for help to motivate your dog up front or follow a team that is already experienced. In addition, if your dog has a boyfriend or girlfriend who practices this sport and has roughly the same build, you can tie them up as a duo. So your dog will learn by following the other. However, you need to be sure it is okay for dogs to be tied together to avoid an argument.

Do you have two dogs to learn? Unless you have dogs with a lot of experience in two-dog harnessing, it's best to start one at a time before tying them together.


Otherwise, a course to learn the basics of the sport is also a great option. However, we prefer to warn you, you will become completely addicted and never see winter the same way again!



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