Dog Scootering a journey

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MPbandmom
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Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:35 pm

My dog scooter arrived today and I thought I would start a thread documenting my journey and what I learn as I go along in the hopes that it will assist others who may be interested in trying this out.

A little background on me and how I have come to this journey. Four years ago, I was a lifelong cat person with no thoughts whatsoever of owing a dog. I am a casual outdoors person. I would rather be doing yard work than house work, but am death on most plants I touch, so other than basic mowing the lawn, I don't do much yard work either. My idea of an ideal family vacation involves camping (flush toilets and hot showers please :D ) and bicycle riding (3 to 25 miles depending of prior conditioning.) From the moment each of my children reached the age of 9 months old (neck strong enough to support the extra weight of a bike helmet) I took them out riding.

Initially I had one of those child seat things that go on the back of a bicycle. My son would look to one side, look to the other side, fall asleep half hanging out of the seat to one side, and all of this motion from this extra person produced a very unstable ride requiring constant shifting of my weight to counterbalance whatever it was that he was doing; not much fun.

When he was two, we moved to our current location, entered the local bike shop one day and there in the showroom was a Burley bicycle trailer designed to haul your kids, groceries, whatever. We bought the trailer and after one ride pulling it, the back of the bike child seat was never used again. Each of my children cycled through the trailer. We spent nice weekends (lack of wind, rain, or cold) in the spring summer and fall on the W&OD (Washington and Old Dominion) a local multiuse rail trail. We took family vacations to family friendly organized cycling events. But as the children got older and entered high school, we seemed to find less and less time to get together to ride and with the state of the world being what it is, I wasn't comfortable riding by myself. Even just walking in the neighborhood didn't seem safe as the sidewalk traffic changed from families pushing strollers to young adult males singly or in small groups walking past the house.

Then when my youngest was a senior in high school, getting ready to go away to college in the fall, my oldest returned home from time in the military with two dogs in tow. I started walking the dogs and noticed that the young adult males avoided my little fluffy group like the plague. At last I was free to get out and about again. It quickly became apparent however that Sky needed more exercise (like a jogging partner) than I could give her. Co workers guided me to a certain television dog trainer who promoted the idea of using a bicycle to get the necessary physical advantage to properly exercise a dog.

As a bicyclist, I thought his methodologies for doing this were both crazy and just plain dangerous. I turned my attention to my good old faithful burley trailer which had been sitting in the shed for years. The fabric was rotted off, but the basic frame was still good, I could build a platform and make sides for it I thought. (I had replaced the original fabric once during its peak usage period and at that time had determined never again.) The trailer seemed like a good option also as Sky's energy level was much higher than Sirius. I thought Sirius could run part way and ride the rest of the way while Sky got more running in. My problem was how to attach the dogs to the trailer? How far behind the bike, placing them behind the trailer would put them? How would I keep an eye on them? What if they needed to stop or fell? I tried some rough experiments with tying a leash to the trailer frame and walking it around the yard and it was obvious that the dogs weren't keen on the idea of being anywhere close to this strange contraption, so that idea was abandoned.

I continued to research the various attachment systems for dogs to bicycles, eventually being convinced that these things had been thought out, were being used and people seemed to think they worked fine. I got a walkey dog. Let me just say that having a dog attached to a bike by a walkey dog was like returning to the days of my son in that child seat on the back of the bike, NOT FUN. Not only not fun, but the dogs running kept pulling the bar forward to interfere with my peddeling the bike. Scrap that idea.

Then one day I was watching a show on tv called "Your Pet wants This" and they showed a modified kick scooter that was basically propelled by dog power. That caught my eye. I reasoned that feet closer to the ground with no bar between my legs meant more confidence in not falling off and wrecking.

I researched this idea off and on for several months. I learned that scooters are a great starter ride for individuals having trouble balancing on a bicycle and being fearful of falling. I learned that there are two basic styles of dog scootering. I will add links for these in a little while. So, now I am ready to begin my scootering adventure.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:02 pm

This is an example of the type of dog scooter that I saw on the tv show. I like that the dog is positioned to the back, so the rider directs where the dog goes. I question steering this scooter, (bicycles and such two wheeled vehicles are normally steered more by leaning than by actual turning of the handlebars.) I question how this leaning action would be transferred to the dogs or whether it is even possible. I question the width of this set up and its ability to be used on such pathways as the W&OD. (I tried the dogs on the W&OD with the walkey dog bike hook up and found that we took up a full lane plus a little of the lane from the other side.) I question the dog's comfort level with being contained this close to a rolling vehicle. (My dogs were more comfortable running beside the bicycle after I added a leash coupler to the set up enabeling them to put a little more space between themselves and the bicycle.) These questions and the price for this set up, ruled this out for me.

http://www.dogpoweredscooter.com/

I ended up with a more traditional dog sledding/skjoring type scooter hook up. Yes, I will have to teach the dogs (and myself) Gee (Right) Haw (Left) Woah (Stop) and On by (pass/leave it) (I was going to use the terms in parentheses, but Sky is a Dog Scout and to earn the badge for this activity, she has to demonstrate an understanding of the normal commands.) I will also be somewhat at the mercy of the dogs should a squirrel or cat cross our path, but I know from the walkey dog that brakes will stop a running dog, and with my feet so close to the ground, I could always jump off, tuck and roll :lol: Okay I don't really see myself tucking and rolling, I'm counting on the brakes. I purchased the Dirt Dawg. I like that the harness is custom made for each dog. (Sky tends to be hard to get harnesses for as she runs medium in the neck and large in the girth) I am perfectly fine with the fact that it takes longer to arrive than the scooter. That gives me time to practice riding the scooter, and getting the dog used to it. I figure if nothing else, the scooter may speed me up enough that I can use it in a normal on leash walking scenario and still give Sky a chance to move at a pace better suited to her needs.

http://site.digglerstore.com/scooters_dog_home.html
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:16 pm

The scooter has been assembled and is back at home. Initial impressions are that scooter riding has potential, but will take some practice.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Feb 20, 2011 12:46 pm

I took the scooter out for a practice run today. The weather was much better for that today as we had high winds with 50 mph gusts yesterday. I took it to a little used parking lot that has a nice slope to it. Not too steep, but sufficiently steep and sufficiently long enough to build up a fair amount of speed. (Although I did find myself wishing it were longer. :D )

Stability and turning improve greatly with speed, although I am sure there is an upper limit to that. The scooter does downhill very well, and as long as the dog pulling doesn't greatly destabilize the ride, this is looking likely to be fun.

One thing the scooter fails miserably at though is uphill. :lol: :lol: :lol: I greatly missed having pedals and low gears when going back up the hill. I determined the best way to go uphill at the moment is by walking. Hopefully with the addition of dog power, I can assist the dog on the uphills without exerting the same amount of effort that was being required to get myself up the hill on the scooter by myself. :lol: :lol: :lol:
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:58 pm

Just in case anybody is wondering how this is going, I am still waiting on the pulling harness and starting to think I could make one more quickly. In the meantime I am making walking harnesses for the dogs. I have made the padding out of two strands of cotton yarn and after getting about 2/3 of the way through assembling one walking harness, I have it stuck on my sewing machine and can't get the needle to come out of the fabric......hmmm none of my projects seem to be progressing very well :(
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:06 am

I'm still waiting on the harness. I have contacted them to get an updated estimate on when that might show up at my door.

In the mean time, I have been working on teaching the dogs the commands Gee and Haw (and myself as well). Surprisingly, Sky doesn't seem to be getting it, but Sirius does. Sky has also been rather back to her old out of control self again though, so that could be her main malfunction. We are back to refreshing her memory that walks are for waking with me, not for racing past barkey yard dogs, hunkering down and pulling when the dead weight at the end of the leash isn't getting close enough to that really tempting smell up ahead quickly enough, nor for dashing madly across the street in what ever direction she chooses once given the command to continue walking. :oops: :x
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

Fundog
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by Fundog » Sun Apr 03, 2011 11:15 am

Just got around to clicking the link you posted-- that looks like something I could really enjoy! The only question I have is, would my dogs be of sufficient size and build to participate without injury? They are not traditionally bred as drafting/mushing dogs, but hunting dogs. However, I do know that a very common (and in my opinion horribly dangerous!) method of conditioning gun dogs during the off season here in the states is to chain it up to an ATV on neutral, and let the dog pull the ATV! :shock: :evil: Perhaps a scooter would not be nearly so heavy? It definitely looks much safer than a bicycle or roller blades. 8)
If an opportunity comes to you in life, say yes first, even if you don't know how to do it.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:32 pm

I am still learning about this activity. I have joined a yahoo group as well as an organization on Facebook.

The group on Facebook holds clinics fairly regularly for helping new people get started, but unfortunately they are on the opposite coast from me. :cry:

There are often video links posted on the yahoo group and they recently showed some skjoring competition in Sweeden I think. Most of the dogs were Germain Shorthaired Pointers which I was kind of surprised to see, since I only really know about things like the Iditarod.

I have also been watching a bunch of dog scootering videos on u-tube. Some of the people go way faster through way more narrow spaces than I would ever do (mostly men, go figure :lol: ) Others I have seen traveling with the dogs at a trot along nice wide logging roads or fields (usually women, go figure :lol: )

They do recommend wearing a helmet and safety pads (knee, elbow, and wrist) when starting out. Many recommend always riding with helmet and leather gloves.

They say that a dog can easily pull the equivalent of it's own weight plus 100 pounds. Keeping that figure in mind, even small dogs can pull a scooter as long as there are enough of them to keep the weight portion down on each dog.

I'm hoping it will be as much fun as it looks. Come on harness!

Edit: Here is another web site with information on dog scootering. They even have a video on how to scooter with your dog as well as lots of useful training tips.

http://dogscooter.com/company-info
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:16 pm

Sky's pulling harness has arrived!

They say to start by basically walking the dog using the scooter and tug line as a leash. This is probably a good idea as I go to the beach soon and don't want to risk injury between now and then. While I'm hoping all will go well, I've read enough about wearing pads and a helmet and dogs taking off at high speed to chase a squirrel (one of Sky's favorite things to chase) to decide to wait a little longer to try actually riding the scooter while the dog pulls it.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:02 pm

It is a woman's perogative to change her mind. :D :D :D

Sky was walking so well in front of the scooter, that I put on my helmet, and cycling gloves, and gave the hook up a test spin. So far, it seems to be a very enjoyable way to walk her. She can go at her pace, without me feeling drug around or like I am holding her back. She doesn't yet have the concept of Gee and Haw, but she also doesn't really seem to have the concept that she can really pull the scooter. Downhill went pretty well, uphill I had to help her out or get off and walk, and on the level she needed help or I had to get off and walk or risk just plain falling over for lack of sufficient speed to stay upright.

The scooter hooked up this way handles way way way better than the bicycle did with the walkey dog. :D The brakes came in handy when we spotted some dogs along our route and while Sky was stopping and sniffing and marking every light post or other pole that we passed. :oops: I did accidently run over the tow line once and it promptly wrapped around the front wheel. This wasn't too much of a disaster as we were basically going at slow walk speed at the time. It just took a bit of effort to get it untangled.

All in all, so far, this experiment seems to be working nicely.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Noobs
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by Noobs » Sun Apr 24, 2011 11:27 am

It would be really cool if you could somehow get a video of yourself doing this! Congrats on getting all the equipment FINALLY and getting started. :D

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:59 pm

Just in case anybody is wondering, we have confirmation that squirrels are a bit of a problem while scootering.

I must say that I am extreemly proud of Sky's self control. She actually sat at an intersection to the command wait (repeated every few seconds just in case she got the idea that her wait time was over) while a squirrel ran across the street opposite to the one we were at.

We came across two other squirrels one was hanging on the side of a tree. I stopped her a ways back thinking the squirrel might move, but it did not, so we then ventured forward with the leave it command which she followed pretty well. The third squirrel was running across the top of a fence and she took off towards it perpendicular to the direction we were traveling at the time. I hit the brakes, but as we were on a gravel surface the scooter skidded a little to the side. I think my feet were already on the ground by then, and the scooter itself doesn't have much weight to keep traction when no person is on it. I issued a leave it command, but it took her a little while to stop lunging and wanting to go after the squirrel. (After all it was running and elevated, and Sky loves to chase flying things.) Once the squirrel was out of sight, we were able to continue on our way.

Noobs, I don't know about a video. Technology isn't my strong point. I have posted video from my old phone to facebook, but recently tried getting a youtube account and taking video with my new phone, and that seemed to be a total failure on both counts. One of my children might be able to help out with that sometime in the future.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:01 pm

Third time out with the scooter. Sky keeps getting better at pulling. She seems to get tired about half way on our little route we have been following, but she is also on antiobiotics for a tick born illness, so that could make her tire more easily.

I think I'm going to have a bruise. For some reason, Sky has always had a tendancy to want to take off at a run when crossing streets after waiting, or sitting and waiting nicely for traffic to clear. She had been doing better the last couple of times out with the scooter, but today she took off at full speed when I told her to go. I was standing beside the scooter and hit the brakes to stop it from flying out of my hands or jerking my shoulders, which resulted in the back wheel of the scooter becoming slightly airborn, and it spun around and whacked me in the shin with the footboard. Owwww

We will have to find a new place to ride as baseball season has started at the park and rec center located close behind my house that we have been making a circuit around. Squirrels are a bad enough temptation for her to chase, but baseballs...... :roll: It took about 2 minutes to get past a mother and child playing toss even though the child hid the ball in his glove for me. Sky even tried to back out of her harness she was so desparate to go play with the ball.

Fortunately, I went earlier this week and checked out my favorite nice quiet park across town that had the black bear issue earlier, and the fencing that had been put up to block the trail through the woods has been removed. This likewise isn't perfect in the spring time because there are soccer fields at that park. There is at least one trail that is away from the soccer fields though, so we will likely try that one if soccer practice/games are going on.

Sky saw children up ahead on the trail at one point today fairly early in our outing, and I got a glimpse of the speed that one dog can muster just at a trot. Instead of stopping to sniff and mark every light post we passed, she continued along at a trot. I had to brake to make certain I could manage the twists and turns in the trail as I haven't had much chance to gain confidence in riding/handeling the scooter at higher speeds. And by higher speeds, I mean probably only around 4 or 5 mph. I'm having second thoughts about putting two dogs together as I already know that will likely result in running rather than trotting.

I'm still debating on trying Sirius by herself with the scooter. She might surprise me and decide it is fun to run with the scooter, but being a smaller and lighter weight dog, my weight plus the scooter comes close to what would be her maximum weight to pull, and she is much more likely to walk naturally at heel. She may also panic and decide she needs to desparately get away from that odd contraption that is following her. Plus, with her reactivity issues, we will need to try it during a time that the park is otherwise unoccupied. In any event, I won't be doing anything with her and the scooter until after the beach trip. Then I might see about making an x-back style harness for her using webbing left over from my walking harness project.
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by Noobs » Sat Apr 30, 2011 7:33 am

MPbandmom wrote:For some reason, Sky has always had a tendancy to want to take off at a run when crossing streets after waiting, or sitting and waiting nicely for traffic to clear. She had been doing better the last couple of times out with the scooter, but today she took off at full speed when I told her to go. I was standing beside the scooter and hit the brakes to stop it from flying out of my hands or jerking my shoulders, which resulted in the back wheel of the scooter becoming slightly airborn, and it spun around and whacked me in the shin with the footboard. Owwww
Ouch! Murphy has a tendency to do this when we're walking. If you want to do a little training, do this on foot - Wait nicely at the curb, step off. If Sky goes faster than you'd like, turn around and go back to the curb. Only cross all the way when Sky is walking nicely next to you. I have done this with Murphy and have had to go back to the curb no more than 3 times for him to get it. If you do this at every curb in a single walk he'll get it by the end. And just make a habit of doing it at every curb every time you walk, even if it's just out for a quick potty. I make sure I do a vocal cue such as "oops" or "this way" so that even though he's on a harness, he doesn't hit the end of the leash. I once had to do this at an intersection with a car waiting for his light to turn green so I'm sure he was watching me with curiosity or amusement. :lol:

MPbandmom
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Re: Dog Scootering a journey

Post by MPbandmom » Sat Apr 30, 2011 12:33 pm

Thanks for the training tip Noobs. I'll have to give that a try. One day I did something similar to that with her because for some odd reason, she kept dashing off to the left instead of straight ahead. (We NEVER go to the left at this particular intersection, the park is straight ahead.)

It certaintly sounds more proactive than my current, "at MY speed, WALK." :lol: She takes off like a sprinter, often reaching the end of her leash before I have even gotten one foot off of the sidewalk. :roll:
Grammy to Sky and Sirius, who came to live with me, stole my heart, and changed my life forever as I took over their care and learned how to be a dog owner.

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