Over the past couple of years, we’ve received quite a few emails and calls from excited would-be mushers, who want to know how to get involved in our sport. We decided to add a second “Beginners” column to the magazine which focuses on how the average person, with the average active dog can get involved. So without further adieu here it is, our first dryland basics column. G.S.You’re a good skier and you have a dog so you decide to try connecting your dog to your waist while you cross country ski (skijoring). Never mind that your dog is an Australian Shepherd who thinks the best place to run is between your legs so the ski tips won’t bite him. This is how Liz’s story started, with Jake, an Aussie who at first didn’t understand being out front, and once he figured it out he embraced the job—being a working dog, Jake never met a job he didn’t like. It took awhile, but once he got the idea to stop herding every moving thing in sight he decided the command “on-by” meant go faster!!! They spent many happy hours carting in the San Francisco Baylands.Barb on the other hand, started with a Husky. A pretty good downhill skier, she figured how hard could cross country skiing with a dog be? So she hooked up Kyla and gave it a try. They would do out and back trails with her husband John skiing out front being the lead dog on the way out and Barb being the lead dog on the way back. Barb did figure out she didn’t need snow to do what Huskies LOVE to do—RUN!!! She would exercise Kyla in town, connecting Kyla to her bicycle (this was way before dog scooters) and John would be on the other bike out front encouraging Kyla. One magical day they saw Dottie Dennis out in a snow covered meadow with a 6-dog team. Barb figured that’s how to do it, get more dogs!!! So she added a bunch more Siberian Huskies and kept trying to get them to run out front on their own, mostly trying to get them to pull a bike or a Sacco cart since they live in California and it was quite a good drive to get to the snow. Barb and John still needed to take turns being the lead dog. What Barb didn’t realize until later was, she didn’t need more dogs, she just needed to learn how to train her existing dogs. Sound familiar?Welcome to No Snow…No Problem! This column is a new regular feature of Mushing Magazine, and we’re thrilled to be here and to share our expertise, insights, experience and answer your questions, all around the exciting sport of mushing without snow, also called dryland mushing. We’re passionate about training, racing and exercising your dog(s) without snow—because it is FUN! Whether you’re in the middle of a big city, in a suburban neighborhood, at a county park, on vacation with your pooch or fortunate enough to have wide open spaces to run in…there’s no limit to what fun you can have with dog powered travel. Guess what? You don’t even need a husky! Practically any breed or size of dog can enjoy dog powered travel. Some breeds like Liz’s Australian Shepherd didn’t get it right away. Instinct for herding does not necessarily mean he knew what to do when first put in harness, but like every breed he had the capacity to learn and it was a marvelous way for them to bond and grow closer as they learned together how to make this work. Many urban or suburban households have one or two house pets and you’d like to have a way to easily and safely exercise them. You’ve come to the right place!Our plan is to have a regular column in each issue of Mushing, and to work our way through many of the topics we see when teaching urban dog sledding on wheels. Some of those are common topics that anyone running a dog in harness needs to know…but with a “no snow” perspective, since that often puts a twist into a typical topic. That would include areas such as foot care, training distractions, conditioning and weight, how to start puppies, etc. There are another set of topics which we will explore in some detail which are much more specific to dryland mushing. This will include dealing with heat and humidity, nutrition and health issues for house pets/dryland athletes, using dog powered travel as cross-training for other dog sports, snowless dog powered travel competitions, group outings, and much more. Finally, we will intersperse interviews with others who are doing the no-snow sports and who have graciously agreed to share their insights and tips with us so we could pass them along to you. Yes, folks are actually successfully doing this in warm climates, big cities, and with rescue dogs of various breeds. We want you to be able to take advantage of their expertise and experience and share that in this column.So, just what is this “mushing without snow?” Let’s start by saying what it is NOT…the focus is not intended to be just early-season training for big sled dog teams, who switch over to sleds and snow as quickly as humanly possible. Although there’s certainly some overlap in training and techniques, that is not our intended target audience.Rather, mushing without snow is a year-round (in many locales) activity with small teams—often just one dog. The dog or dogs are typically house pets and an intimate part of their owner’s lives. You, the urban musher, like to do fun activities WITH your dogs! Your dog has a lot of energy, often way more energy than you have time to exercise them. At the same time, you typically live in an urban or suburban neighborhood, and you may or may not get to go play in the snow a few times each winter. Mushing without snow then is typically exercising your urban dog, having them pull you safely and easily with you in control. The variations are nearly endless: your dog(s) can pull you while you’re on wheels (dog scooters, bicycles, carts, trikes, even roller blades), or on foot (also known as cani-cross). Snowless mushers and their dogs are more active and healthier than their couch-potato counterparts. OK, we know what you’re thinking. My dog already pulls my arm out of the socket when we’re “walking” down the street! Why on earth would I want to encourage him/her to pull more? The short answer is that dogs love to run and by teaching them an appropriate place to pull they can assist you in exercising them by powering you along. By giving them an outlet for their pulling energies, and teaching them a way to pull (in harness) and be praised for it, you also teach that leash walks are different, and not the time for pulling.Other things to consider in performing this sport are dealing with temperatures (how hot is too hot?), health (how can I make sure my dog is in good enough shape?), proper gear and equipment for safety and fun, trail and travelling etiquette, and hydration and nutrition, just to name a few. These are all topics for upcoming columns…so stay tuned! So who are we? Just like you, Barb and Liz started their dog sledding careers in an urban setting, and continue to enjoy one-on-one and small team work as a key component of their own team development. Barb Schaefer and Liz Parrish have combined experience of training sled dogs over 30 years and 20,000+ miles, and successfully work with a wide variety of dogs and people.   Liz (Iditarod’s Littlest Musher) finished the 2008 Iditarod in celebration of her first half century. Liz devoted 10 years to accomplish her Iditarod dream, starting her own dog sled learning from her first team of house dogs in 1997 of an Australian Shepherd, Norwegian Elkhound, and a Beagle mix. Liz really enjoys dog training and building the special bond she shares with her 4-legged best friends, and has taught agility, flyball and dog sledding to breeds ranging from Golden Retrievers, Labs, Poodles, Spaniels, Rottweilers and many others.  She has trained and ran championship dogs in agility and flyball, enjoyed working stock, obedience, lure coursing and search and rescue. Along the way, she met and conquered challenges from cancer, meningitis, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis. Liz and her team finished the 2008 Iditarod in 14 days with 14 dogs, an extraordinary achievement for a rookie. Liz spent a lifetime preparing for the challenge of Iditarod, and she lives by the motto, “Quitting is NOT an option.” Barb has been raising, training and running with her Siberian Huskies since 1987.  For the first 10+ years Barb and her dogs participated in obedience and conformation competitions earning many championships. Her dog, Sparky, was a top winning Siberian Husky two years in a row. Maya in Disney’s Eight Below is played by Jasmine, who Barb raised and trained. Barb and her dogs are featured in Animal Planet’s Breed All About It, Siberian Husky. Barb volunteered out on the Iditarod trail in remote checkpoints caring for dropped dogs for 10 consecutive Iditarods and with this experience earned a great amount of knowledge about dog care. In the Fall of 1998 we both attended Jamie Nelson/Ann Stead’s Mushing Boot Camp and were propelled into the world of sled dog racing. In a typical year we train our dogs over 1000 miles, 800+ of those miles being on dirt. Thus we bring to you a wealth of “no snow” experience. Q&A section:Q. My dog seems to have a sore foot after we get back from a short bikejoring run in our neighborhood (1-2 miles). I’m not sure what to look for. How can I tell if she has a foot problem?A. Is your dog limping? Is she lifting her paw? Is she licking one of her paws excessively? These are all indicators of a sore or injured foot. Examine her feet. Start by looking at her healthy feet, this will give you a baseline for how the foot should look. Inspect the pads—are they worn or swollen? Now look at the webbing (the skin between the toes)—is it soft and pliable? Is it cracked or split? If you see redness she could be licking it, or an irritation may be present like a foxtail. Inspect the nails being sure to pull back the fur at the base of the toenail and check for cracking or bruising. Now compare this to the foot you think is sore, what differences do you see? Most of the time if you catch a sore foot early the injury will be very slight—remember a split, or crack, or bruise can be very painful.Q. How do I get my dogs to go other than when they are pulling the tire? They have that down—they like pulling the tire and they “get it” and understand what to do when I say “Let’s go” when they are hooked up to the tire. But any other time they just stare and blink at me…A. They will learn the starting command beyond a tire, and doing more variety of training exercises will help with that—repetition is the best thing.  Doing your training (tire, walk or scooter) different places will also help.  Doing it with you in slightly different positions would be another suggestion…all tools to help your dogs generalize so that “let’s go” means “let’s go” no matter what the circumstance. Practice makes perfect!Liz Parrish, 2008 Iditarod Finisher, is known as Iditarod’s Littlest Musher. Liz is the co-author of the inspirational book Crimp! On-By!!, The True Story of a Most Unlikely Iditarod Lead Dog, which can be found at: CrimpOnBy.com. Barbara Schaefer has been raising and training Siberian Huskies: Qualobo.com in California for over 20 years competing in obedience, conformation, and dog sled races. Together their joint venture is known as Life…Through DogsSM, which provides hands-on urban dog sledding clinics: UrbanGoDogs.com and ultimate dog sledding adventure experiences: RunYourOwnIditarod.com as well as presentations, coaching and more.


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