Dog scootering is a sport where one or more dogs pull a human riding an unmotorized kick scooter. It is similar to mushing, which is done in the winter, but generally with fewer dogs and with a scooter instead of a dogsled. The dogs wear the same harnesses that sled dogs wear, and are hooked to the scooter with a gangline. The gangline usually incorporates a bungie to smooth out the shocks of speeding up and takeoff. Most of the same commands are used, although dog scooterers tend to be more relaxed about their commands, sometimes using "right" and "left" instead of "gee" and "haw", for example.
The scooter is generally unmotorized, and has mountain-bike-style tires ranging from 16" to 26". These are not razor-type scooters, which would be dangerous in this sport. The scooters incorporate mountain-bike-style brakes and have a large footboard to stand on and kick off from. The scooters are occasionally called kick bikes because they are not yet largely marketed for the sport of dog scootering, although Pawtrekkers have a 'brushbow' attachment on the front to protect the dogs from the wheel and to provide an ideal pulling position for connecting the ganglines. Some of the newer scooters also incorporate front shocks similar to mountain bikes to absorb bumps better.
An alternative is to use a bicycle instead of a scooter. This is seen as a more dangerous alternative, as it is more difficult to dismount a bicycle in an emergency. This alternative sport of harnessing dogs to a bicycle is known as bikejoring.
There have been new developments in harnesses, and many owners who scooter prefer the multi-sport (also called Urban Trails) harness; a harness that is similar to an H-style harness found in stores, but with a specially fitted neck (ZIMA design) and a tighter fit on the girth. This harness has been found to take pressure off the dogs back, and allows for better extension, and curvature of the dogs' back. It is especially useful for shorter dogs whose gangline goes upward towards the point of attachment. It is also useful for dogs who excel at backing out of their X-Back harnesses. There is also a newer design on the Multi-sport harness, called a Y-Back or Hybrid Performance harness. It allows for a straight line back from the harness to the hitching point, and can be used for many different sports. These harnesses can be found on sites such as Adanacsleds.com, Dogscooter.com and Pawtrekker.com (UK, Canada and USA)
This sport is open to many dogs, from Huskies, to Great Danes, and Schnauzers to Pit Bulls. Any dog over 30 lbs can pull a scooter, but smaller dogs in teams can also be used. The smaller the dog, the more you will have to help out on hills and rough spots. All dogs, regardless of size, must be slowly worked into fitness, along with their owners. Don't expect to run the Iditarod in your first month! There is often an adjustment period for the dog's paws, and they may bleed initially if on a longer run, until they toughen up to pavement. The owner should ALWAYS carry booties along for cuts and abrasions, as well as a bottle of New Skin which seals over the cut and prevents infection.
To start off, some important gadgets are necessary!
A scooter, for one. It can run anywhere from $100-$800.
A Well-fit, sport-appropriate harness.$20-$40
A gangline, about $30 for a premade one, or you can use a leash. I like the gadget that keeps the line up in the air when you stop, to keep it out of the wheels. This can run about $25.
A helmet, gloves, and Elbow pads. Knee pads are nice, too. This IS a dangerous (yet addictive) sport, and broken elbows are the most common injury.
An air pump and sealant is nice for those nails and glass fragments..
A cell phone should be on you at ALL times for emergencies.
WATER, WATER, WATER. Enough said. Don't forget the bowls!
A mini first aid kit is great, along with some gauze or Vet wrap. I always include New Skin ointment which dries like glue over the wound. (It stings a bit!)
A set of dog booties per dog for hot pavement, glass-strewn trails, or sore, bleeding pads.
Treats for stops. I like Vienna Sausages myself, but whatever makes your dog's tail wag!
PATIENCE. It takes a long time to get (near) perfection with your dog. Every trip is a learning experience, and you and your dog(s) will never stop learning from each other how to work as a team.
Commands should be taught on foot before hooking up the dog to your scooter. A dog not trained to lead will be hazardous to you and other trail users. The line should be taut at all times and the dog should know how to go on by all distractions before you hook up. Using another lead dog to help you train your dog is the fastest and easiest way to train a dog to lead. Use either a two dog line side by side or a single file line to train the novice dog. A single file line is a better line to use if the dogs are strangers to each other.
Use the terms "gee" for right and "haw" for left. Teach these commands in ground work with the dog out in front of you, and a leash attached from the harness to your belt, and a leash on either side of the dog's collar. As you turn, say the command you choose, and pull on the leash to turn the dog in the correct direction.Use the command, "Straight" or "Straight Ahead" when you want the dog to go sraight at an intersection. "Line out" teaches your dog to keep the line taut and not come back to you to say hi when you are stopped. To make a "U" turn, use the command "Come Around" gee or haw depending on the direction.
"Whoa" is essential to get down before hooking him up to the scooter. Having good brakes on the scooter is essential for stopping dogs. Most dogs consider the command "whoa" as only a suggestion.
"Hike" or "Pull".. the usual commands for your dog to begin to work. You can train this initially in ground work, and then when you hook up to a scooter, you might have to use a "rabbit" in the form of a friend on a bike riding ahead and calling your dog. Learning to pull is a difficult concept for some dogs. Pulling is most easily taught using another dog that is already trained.
"On-by" and "leave it".. teaches your dog to go by distractions such as other dogs, people, bikes, blowing leaves, pee breaks, and yummy smells. This command can take a long time to learn, but it is quite worthwhile. Gentle scolding is usually effective when training "on by" Most dogs know the word, "No". Say "No" and then "on by" when encouraging the dog to move ahead. This command is also more easily taught using another trained leader.
"Easy" is helpful to slow down the team when you're going down a hill on foot, and they're still ready to run. Often "easy" is a difficult command for even the most experienced dogs to learn. Use the brakes on the scooter to enforce the easy command.
A few other commands I've used with my dogs are "Sidewalk" to let them know that I want them on the sidewalk instead of the road or at least off of the road for safety. Another of my favorites is "Let's go home" and the dogs will take me home or back to the car. It prevents us from getting lost, and I'm glad they see the car as a way home, otherwise, I'd be in for trouble.
If your dogs need to move over to the right or left to avoid traffic then "Gee Over" or Haw Over" are handy to know.
Most dogs take to this sport with little encouragement. They get to run as fast as they can and get to see and visit new places. As dog scooterers become more experienced, they tend to take their dog(s) and scooter(s) with them to new trails. This can lead to a stronger bond between people and their dogs.
Dog scooterers get together for fun runs, where a number of dog scooterers run their dogs and scooters on the same trails. Fun runs may be just a morning run, or can be a weekend-long activity with multiple runs scheduled. This is still a maturing sport, but there are a few formal dog races that include scooter events.
In December 2005, dog scooterers are putting on the first Dog Powered Sports relay, Dogs Across America, where participants from around the country will choose one of the trails in their state and ride it in relay style to cover the entire length. Dog scootering is now a growing sport in the UK, with scootering classes having been introduced to the major dryland sled dog race associations calendars.