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Celtic Radio Community > The Trail Sign > Dog Powered Sports

Posted by: Swanny 05-Sep-2008, 04:36 PM
In the camping thread, Flora wrote
May I ask how do train yourself for the running of your dog team? Is this something that you do year round?

When touring with the dog team on back country trails over relatively flat terrain, the intensity level on the musher is similar to that of downhill skiing. On very hilly terrain it is about the same as cross country skiing (striding vs skating) over similar terrain.

I run dogs one wheeled rigs as much as I can during summer, but they are short runs as dogs can't tolerate heat very well. They are at their best in temperatures between 40 above to 40 below zero.

During the mushing season just running the dogs keeps me in good enough shape to have fun. From mid-September through mid to late April I typically run my own team 4 days a week, and teams belonging to other mushers another 2 days. During the off season I have to work out on the recumbent bike 3 to 4 times a week an hour per session to maintain leg strength and aerobic capacity. Those workouts are with a high level of resistance but a moderate pace. If I weren't a big guy with 54 years of bad habits behind me I could get away with less. Unfortunately knee issues won't let me substitute running for the bike.

The dog powered sports of bikejoring and dog scootering are gaining a huge following, especially in the Lower-48 States. Either can be done with just one or 2 dogs and represent a nice workout for both dog and musher.

Skijoring (running dogs with cross country skis) is very popular in the north, especially in more urbanized areas where it is impractical to keep a kennel with multiple sled dogs. Canicross is essentially cross country running while being pulled by one or two dogs. It's an easy workout for the dogs, but brutal on the human. That'll get you in great shape in very short order.


Posted by: flora 05-Sep-2008, 06:42 PM
Thank you for your knowledge, Swanny.

Thank you for starting a new subject forum because I have a habit of asking questions without going to a different forum. I'm a bad person.

You threw a lot of new words at me which I will research and try to better my understanding of the sports.

You certainly are commited to your sport. May I ask how you became involved with this? How do you determine the dogs for your kennel? What do you have to do to maintain your dogs?

Sorry if I am asking to many questions!


Posted by: Harlot 05-Sep-2008, 10:01 PM
It's not the same thing you do ,but I had a 165 lb. male Rott Maxwell and he loved to pull anything sled full of kids or a load of wood.He really enjoyed thatHe would of love to do what you do with your dogs.
Keep up the good work biggrin.gif

Posted by: Swanny 07-Sep-2008, 08:12 AM
Thank you for starting a new subject forum because I have a habit of asking questions without going to a different forum. I'm a bad person.

Hurting or killing someone might make you a bad person. Being curious does not. thumbs_up.gif

May I ask how you became involved with this?

That's posted on my website at

How do you determine the dogs for your kennel?

That's at

What do you have to do to maintain your dogs?

"Keep a big balance in my check book." (paraphrasing a quote from 5 time Iditarod champion and one of my neighbors, Rick Swenson)

Although that's tongue in cheek, in financial terms my team costs about $1,000.00 per dog per year. That's not bad when you consider that according to 2005-2006 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) National Pet Owners Survey, the average yearly cost of owning a dog is $1571.00.

I currently have 10 adults and 6 puppies in the kennel. 2 of the adults are semi-retired in that they do short runs for training puppies and to maintain their physical and psychological health, but they are no longer physically able to do the longer and faster runs associated with back-country touring.

My dogs are fed Dr. Tim's Momentum brand kibble, a very high quality corn-free kibble specially formulated for athletic dogs. They are also supplemented with raw protein (meat, fish or fowl), probiotic and salmon oil. Thus far this year nutritional expenses have averaged about $253.00 per month. Because of my work schedule at a remote industrial site I have to board my team with other mushers 2 weeks out of every month, which adds boarding fees of $300.00 a month to my mushing budget. If I were home every day like most mushers my nutrition budget would run about $500.00 a month, or $50.00 per adult dog.

Although I can do most of my own veterinary work (I'm a paramedic by trade and a quick study) veterinary expenses nonetheless average about $9.00 per dog per month. My vet expenses include spay/neuters, annual "well dog" physical examinations, cost of vaccines and of course the cost of veterinary services I am unable to do myself.

Thus far this year my equipment costs have been pretty minimal, only $50.00 per month or so. That will go up slightly over the next few months as I replace worn or chewed harnesses and lines, make repairs on my rigs and sleds, and so forth. Last year my total equipment cost was about $2500.00, but that included the purchase of a new sled along with new lines, snowhooks and other accessories.

Daily kennel chores are done in two sessions, while watering in the morning and feeding in the evening and scooping the entire kennel each session (a clean kennel is a healthy kennel). If I must rush through them to meet an appointment or something, I can have the dogs tended and the kennel scooped in about 30 minutes, but most of the time it requires closer to an hour and 1/2 each session as I use the additional time for behavior training sessions, trimming nails, grooming or just lovin' up on my buddies.

Since my litter was born there is an addition 2 hours or so each day, broken up into 10 or 15 minute sessions, for puppy socialization. During the "off" season each adult dog gets at least one 10 to 15 minute behavior training session each day, focusing on whatever behavior I am working on with the individual dog. Although that time isn't "necessary" to maintain a team of sled dogs, I feel it is necessary to maintain psychologically healthy and well-mannered dogs, which is very important to me.

So, this summer I've spent about 8 hours out of most days doing something or another relating to the team.

During the mushing season the time commitment increases considerably. While training on wheels during the fall we run relatively short distances and hours, but we run small teams so it takes more training runs to get all of the dogs done. Dur autumn I train with a partner or two so we are running dogs from everyone's kennels to spread the workload and the funload.

Once there is enough snow on the ground to run sleds our training group starts to break up a little bit, because we do different mushing disciplines. My primary training partner is a sprint racer, her dogs are bred, conditioned and trained to run as fast as possible over relatively short distances (8 to 10 miles in her class). For back country touring, my dogs just trot along at an easy pace, but do so while hauling about 150 lb of weight plus my heavy carcass for four to six hours at a time.

If you think that is intensive, keep in mind that I am just a recreational dog musher. Imagine the time and work commitment of a competitive long-distance racing musher who has anywhere from 30 to 150 (or more) dogs in the kennel, training their teams to run 100+ miles per day. Now THAT will knock your socks off.

Most truly competitive long distance mushers earn they money at seasonal occupations during summer so they can focus their time on their teams the rest of the year. Actually, I think they work during summer in order to rest up for the mushing season. <BG>

Posted by: jime307 15-Sep-2008, 08:11 PM
Sounds Like a great sport to me, I've seen a few races around here during the winter and it certainly is entertaining.

Posted by: flora 16-Sep-2008, 02:42 PM

Thank you for great information! I appreciate the time you took to answer my questions. You have my upmost respect for your dedication and your chosen sport.

Please continue to keep us updated on you and your great dogs.


Posted by: Swanny 21-Feb-2009, 07:56 PM
I wasn't sure whether to post it here or on the animal talk category, so figured I put it on both.

Yesterday I took a team of 8 on a training run, pulling a 19th century style toboggan. I had some time this morning, so made some clips, found some nice music, and posted the video on YouTube. If you'd like a vicarious taste of running with the big dogs, just click

Swanny and the Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs

Posted by: jime307 21-Apr-2009, 07:54 AM
Wow! That looks like quite an adventure!

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