Before we go any further this seems like a good time to address some common concerns.
If you still have questions at this point, it makes sense to answer them now.
My dog isn't a Husky or Malamute, will they be able to do it?
While it may be easier to teach a dog that has inherited a desire to pull, it isn't necessary. In fact, in 1989 John Suter ran poodles in the Iditarod (for the first time). At local mushing days we've seen all breeds and sizes: Pit bulls, Greyhounds, Retrievers, Doberman, and even Dachshunds. Any breed can participate. Of course, smaller dogs might not provide as much pulling power, but that doesn't mean you both can't enjoy the sport.
My dog can be reactive to other dogs, can we still participate?
Dog sledding races might be difficult for a reactive or fearful dog to participate in, but there's no reason they can't participate in our Challenge program. Since trail selection is up to you, you'll just need to choose your trail wisely. But, that's one reason this is a great choice for a reactive dog. Pick a quieter trail, where other dogs are on leash. Allow for plenty of passing room, and work on a solid "on-by" command. The more your dog is "into" their work pulling, the less they will focus on other trail users.
My dog isn't young, are they too old to try it?
A dog of any age can learn to mush (take it slow with young dogs). But our older companions will get a lot of benefit from learning something new with you. They'll love the one-on-one time they get. Like any sport, you might have to work on their conditioning with them. Just take it slow, building on their current fitness level.
My dog has arthritis / hip issues can they play?
You might be surprised but pulling sports can be very beneficial for dogs with hip problems. Sledding (especially when done slowly) can really help strengthen their muscles that support the joints. Certainly watch for signs of discomfort, and build their strength carefully and slowly. But they certainly can benefit.
For dogs dealing with arthritis, if they are currently in pain from the arthritis, it wouldn't be a good choice. Focus on working with your veterinarian to make them more comfortable in their everyday life first. Once you get their medication under control, they too can play. Again, watch for signs of discomfort (slowing down, limping, etc), and stop for the day. Once they recover, back off on the difficultly level, but don't be afraid to start up again. Your sledding journey with them, might consist of a 20 minute Canicross walk. But, that's no reason not to include them.
It doesn't snow where I live, can I still participate?
Of course! Most of the dog sledding sports don't require snow. Your real concern will be temperature.
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn't heavily exercise your dog if it's warmer than 50F (10C). Each dog is different so rely on your own judgement, not this rule of thumb. But, it should give you a base line to evaluate your own dog. A dog with a heavy coat, or who's prone to over heating shouldn't head out unless it's much cooler. If your dog is happy as can be in -40 degree temperatures, rolling around outside in the snow naked for hours...maybe don't go out in warmer temperatures.
If you both still want to be active in warmer weather, you can try going out for a Canicross walk instead. If right now you'd walk your dog for 20 minutes outside in high temperatures, try a Canicross walk for the same time (or less) instead. Keep the weight and speed that you're asking for down.
It is very cold where I live and my dog gets cold easily, do I have to wait till the summer to start?
No, you don't have to wait. You just need a plan. Even thin skinned or light-haired breeds don't usually need anything to keep them warm when they are working. Once they get running (and cold weather seems to make them happy to do that!), their body will naturally warm up. The big danger to them is when you stop running. Be sure to bring a coat to throw on before and after to keep them warm.
If you still feel your dog needs it, there are specialty coats you can purchase and leave on while they are running.
You might also want to check out lightweight nylon dog sledding booties to keep the snow from balling up in their feet...and protect from pad damage on icy trails.
Ok, I understand that lots of dogs and people can learn how to sled, but what if I don't have the skills to teach my dog to do it?
A totally rational concern! Most of us recreational mushers don't have family or friends we've seen sledding for ages. We haven't inherited or witnessed training to give us the skills we need. So, what are you to do?
It can be hard to find a local dog sledding class, so we've created online training lessons to help you get started.
They are geared towards new drivers. Drivers with unconventional dog sledding breeds. And of course, towards people brand new to the sport!
Be sure to check out our Learn to Mush page and sign up for one of out Drivers Ed classes. These classes have helped many new mushers get a solid start in the sport...and most importantly have fun while doing it.
What if my dog is in better shape than I am?
This is true for most of us I think! Our dogs will happily dash around a field in knee deep snow for hours. Us on the other hand...
Actually, dog sledding is an ideal way for you to keep up with them. Bikejoring can be a great sport if that sounds like your situation. The bike is easy for your dog to pull - allowing them to be as active as they want to be. It has great braking power compared to the other sledding sports. Bikes are easy on your knees, and allow you to pedal as much as your able.