Do you have some energetic dog or dogs and you’re thinking about becoming a musher? Dog sledding is a great way for your dog to have fun whilst they burn off their energy. Sledding can also be a great way to bond with your dog as well as providing mental enrichment. Now you’re wondering, what equipment do I need to start dog sledding?
We have prepared a list of dog sledding equipment you will need to embark on this fantastic adventure.
Dog Sledding Equipment For Dogs
A Dog Sled Harness
The most important piece of dog sledding equipment you will use is a specially designed harness. It needs to be supportive, strong, and comfortable.
A collar is used to attach dogs to each other side by side when racing, to a leash for a walk, or a tie-out so they don’t run away when not racing.
The collar should have no buckles and not be a choke chain or choke collar.
Dog Sled Booties
Strangely enough, booties aren’t primarily used to keep the dog’s feet warm. They are used to protect the dog’s feet from injury. When running large distances and on rough terrain, their pads can easily become chapped or torn.
High-quality booties prevent this from happening. In a 1000 mile race, a musher can pack 3000 booties for their dogs.
The dog’s feet don’t get cold as running keeps the blood circulating and they are specifically bred to run on snow.
The only time they will have cold feet is after the race when they are standing around. To solve this, the dog will lift their paw off the ground to keep the blood circulating.
Dog Sled Paw Ointment/Protection/Care/Wax
Paw ointment is used to soothe a dog’s sore, chaffed or cut pads.
A male wrap or “pecker protector” is made from fur or wind and waterproof synthetic material to prevent frostbite in a dog’s nether regions. Both the penis and the covering can become frozen and develop frostbite.
The wrap is made from a material that can be peed on but won’t stick to the dog and create ice build-up.
Frostbite can develop in even moderate conditions, so a musher must be aware at all times to prevent this painful condition from occurring.
A belly wrap is made out of fleece or the same material as dog jackets and are used to prevent a female dog from getting frostbite on her teats.
A dog that has recently had pups is especially susceptible, so because their undersides don’t have a lot of fur, a belly strap will protect them from the cold conditions. Some dog jackets even have them built-in.
Dogs can use a lot of energy to keep warm. A jacket will help them to conserve energy, when racing in extremely cold temperatures, giving them added strength to run. They are also put on at night to sleep
Straw is used for the dogs to rest or sleep on. The straw keeps their bodies off the ground, keeping them warm. In a race, there is a bale of straw waiting for contestants at check-points.
Some mushers take some straw with them on the trail to use for the dogs when having a rest between checkpoints.
In really cold conditions snow can become abrasive and rub the fur off the dog’s legs.
Not only is this painful if left unattended, but it will take a while for the fur to grow back. Mushers use wraps made of a tough material called ripstop or fleece.
Sled Dog Tie Out
A tie out is a line made of wire that allows the dogs a bit of freedom to move while resting.
All dogs must be fully vaccinated before mingling with other dogs or racing
A kennel is sometimes used for night sleeping, some mushers use them and some use straw.
Dog Sledding Equipment For Humans
There are many types of sleds, so it might be a good idea to seek advice on which dog sled will best suit your needs.
Dog Sled Bag
A dog sled bag is waterproof and attaches to the basket. It is used to store gear or an injured dog.
A musher needs to stay warm and dry, while plowing through the snow. They use several layers of clothing to accomplish this.
The gear has to be quick drying in order to wick away the moisture and stay warm.
Lightweight, durable, and water and wind resistant boots are a must. A thick sole adds protection from the cold as well as added boot liners.
Racing a 1000 mile race can become tedious, so having an iPod for music or listening to an audiobook can be helpful for the driver to stay focused.
Some mushers sing along to some of the songs which in turn keeps up the spirits of the pack.
Goggles or sunglasses prevent the eyes from burning or any debris from entering.
Warm Hat That Covers The Ears
Merino can be a good choice in hats
Skis For Ski Jouring
Another form of dog sledding is ski jouring. The musher is on skis instead of a dog sled but is still towed by the dogs.
Ski poles are used for skijoring or to help your dogs along at the end of a race when they slow down.
What better way to capture the best moments of the race, or for studying the race to make improvements for the next one?
Sled Dog Walking Belt
A waist belt is used for skijoring, bikejoring or running. The belt allows you to be hands free whilst still connected to your dog for when they are towing you.
The rope that connects your dogs harness to the object or person they are towing
Dog Sledding Timer
Especially good for training runs
An axe is used to chop the dogs meat for meals and to chop firewood.
Heet is a fuel used in the cookstoves used by mushers. It is an alcohol-based fluid
Cooker And Pot
A specialized cooker is used to melt snow for meals and water. The cooker needs to be large enough to heat at least 3 gallons of water at a time.
A headlamp is needed for checking on and feeding the dogs at night
Waterproof gloves or mittens are necessary to keep your fingers warm and frost bite free.
Sled Dog Trailer
A sled dog trailer is a trailer you tow behind your vehicle. Each dog has a separate kennel. Often there are holes the dogs can put their head out of for a look around.
Sled Dog Truck Box
A sled dog truck box is in the bed of the vehicle. It has separate kennels for the dogs and often a hole so they can put their heads out.
Snow dog sledding is a fantastic way to bond with your dog. It can be physically demanding making it a fun way to exercise.
Not only is the scenery beautiful but you can participate in races and meet like minded people.
If you want to give it a try but aren’t quite ready to purchase all the items on the dog sledding equipment list, most clubs will have members that will lend you what you need to get started.
If you live in a warm climate you can find out about dryland dog sledding here.