Dog scootering involves having your dog(s) pull you on a wheeled scooter whilst attached via an adaptor and sled dog harness. The sport is also known as dryland mushing and provides a great way for sled dog breeds to stay in shape during the warm seasons when snow coverage is minimal.
Dog scootering is tremendous fun and right up the alley of anyone seeking an adrenaline rush at the same time as satisfying your dog’s exercise needs.
It helps however to know the basics before first giving it a go – and that’s exactly what we’ll cover below.
What do you need to get started in dog scootering?
Dog scootering is a wheeled equivalent of dog sledding where instead of pulling you across snow your dog (or multiple dogs) will tow you across dry land.
In a similar manner to dog sledding you will hitch your dog up to the scooter using a harness and leash, and then your dog can pull you along all your favorite trails.
If you have a hound that is hard to tire out and loves to run, it can be a good way to increase their exercise whilst making your own time outdoors even more adventurous!
To start dog scootering, alongside an enthusiastic dog who is energetic and responsive to training you’ll need the following equipment:
- A scooter (2 wheeled or 3 wheeled)
- A strong sled harness that is comfortable for your dog
- A shock absorbing leash
- An adapter to prevent the leash from going under the scooter wheels
What does dog scootering equipment cost?
A beginner’s dog scootering setup can be acquired for as little as $270, with the cost distributed roughly as follows…
- $120 entry-level adult scooter
- $60 sled dog harness
- $40 crash helmet for yourself
- $30 scooter to leash attachment
- $20 shock-absorbing leash
What makes a good dog scooter?
When acquiring a kit to start dog scootering, the scooter itself is going to be your most significant investment, but you don’t need an expensive specialist unit, especially if you plan on simply scooting over smooth urban surfaces rather than forest trails.
If you’re buying new, prices can range enormously, but suitable adult scooters start from about $120 or a little less.
A KNUS scooter, for example, provides a wide enough platform to maintain a good footing, whilst having both front and rear brakes to slow you both down as you corner or when your dog suddenly stops!
If you get keen on the sport, you may invest in a better scooter with a greater clearance and handles off-roading well, but for starting, pretty much any scooter should do.
When dog scootering, use a harness that allows your dog to pull
If you already own a dog harness, check that it will spread the weight it’s pulling evenly and that the quality of the harness will allow it to take sudden force without stitching starting to fall apart or materials beginning to tear.
A sled harness such as the Non-Stop Dogwear FreeMotion is ideal and what we use. This will usually set you back around $80 to buy new, but they are relatively easy to find second-hand at a tad lower cost.
Any X-style harness will ensure your dog can breathe easily as it runs. This is crucial for the high activity levels associated with the sport.
Any harness that restricts your dog’s airways, even a little bit, is unsuitable.
What kind of leash do you need for dog scootering?
A shock-absorbing elastic leash is best for dog scootering as it will help absorb the forces that your dog exerts when accelerating and limit the jolt that they will experience when trying to pull the scooter and rider.
These are not too expensive; you are looking at around $20-$30 for most brands.
If buying a new leash for the express purpose of scootering, make sure it is long enough to stop your scooter before you crash into the dog if it stops abruptly when you’re traveling at speed.
Go for at least 2m (6.5ft) in length.
You will also need a bikejoring adapter to attach the leash to the scooter for around $30.
You should also consider some safety gear, especially if you intend to ride fast and hard.
A helmet is a good plan, and you may even want to add some knee and elbow pads to your kitlist. Goggles are also helpful to protect your eyes from dirt being kicked up, although they aren’t necessary.
Can any dog take part in dog scootering?
As the scooter can be kicked along and aided by the rider, essentially, any dog who is healthy enough to run can participate in dog scootering.
However, there are a few unwritten health and safety rules that mean not all dogs should participate in dog scootering. These include dogs that are…
- too young: dogs need to be more than 18 months old to start this sport, or it could damage their bodies
- too old: dogs over eight shouldn’t be involved in strenuous exercise that could promote the risk of injury
- brachycephalic: a short-nosed breed such as a bulldog or pug that may have breathing difficulties during exertion
- prone to suffering from any joint weakness such as hip dysplasia
Remember to also take into account the climate. Don’t start scootering around in the middle of the day in extremely hot conditions with the breed that has evolved for cold climates; you could put them at serious risk of heatstroke and even death.
Also, if you want to get serious about the sport, consider whether your dog breed is suited to bikejoring, i.e., it has physiologically evolved to pull.
Of course, if in doubt, chat with your vet before taking up this kind of exercise. Your dog needs to be in good physical condition for scootering.
How can I start training my dog to pull a scooter?
While most dogs are strong, enthusiastic about exercise, and can easily pull many multiples of their own body weight, it’s essential to see how your dog responds and to make the first sessions fun and easy.
Snacks and treats will be necessary, so you can reward your dog for doing even partially well. You will need to teach your dog some commands to follow so that you have control over where the two of you end up, when you start, and when you stop.
Decide on some clear commands and begin training your dog while you aren’t on the scooter. Maybe whilst out walking, or even better when out running with a dog that pulls.
Some popular commands you will hear at dog scootering competitions are…
- “Mush or Go” – to begin
- “Stop or Woah” – to come to a full stop
- “Easy” – to slow down
- “Right (or more traditionally Gee)” – turn right
- “Left (also referred to as Haw)” – turn left
- “Straight” – to continue forward at crossroads
- “Leave it” – avoid or disregard distractions
Once your dog has started to follow the commands, have a few tries while riding on the scooter. Some dogs will pick this up this transition very quickly; whilst others may be nervous and need a little more time to learn that this metal monster chasing them isn’t going to cause any harm.
If you encounter any difficulties you may need a friend, mainly if your dog is used to walking beside you, not ahead of you.
Get a friend to walk in front, calling and encouraging your dog while you walk the scooter.
It’s always a good idea to start out slowly, on level ground, in a clear, open space with minimal distractions.
Do not progress to riding the scooter or taking on more challenging trails until both you and the dog are confident and have a good level of communication and understanding.
Hopefully, by now, you’ll comfortably be able to answer the question ‘What is dog scootering?’, but to recap, it’s a dryland mushing sport where dogs are attached via an elastic leash and adaptor to a wheeled scooter.
The principle is the same as sled dog racing in that the aim is to complete a course in the fastest time possible.
Except instead of snowy landscapes, dog scootering competitions will take you around wide forest trails and grassland tracks.
If you’re a beginner, consider starting by working in a scooter to your regular walks and taking slow leisurely rides along the sidewalk.