Bikejoring is a canine pulling sport in which the dog helps his handler to pull his bike. It involves speed and requires great control of the dog. We will tell you about the origins of this type of mushing, how it is practiced and trained, and what types of dogs are suitable for this sport.
What is bikejoring?
Bikejoring is an increasingly popular form of mushing (a sport practiced with dogs) in the USA. It consists of riding a bicycle with the help of one or more dogs, which are tied to it and pull it. As we have said, it is considered a type of mushing on land, like other sports such as canicross, which consists of running with the dog tied to the waist.
Bikejoring has become popular in countries like the USA, where weather conditions allow it to be practiced almost all year round (except for the hottest months), but its origin is found in Scandinavian countries. Bikejoring is the sum of the English word "bike" (bicycle) and the Norwegian word (Kyor), which means "bicycle riding." It originally emerged as a form of training for draft dogs on dirt terrain in times when there is no snow. In USA, it can be practiced without limitations, since here it is usually done on non-snowy terrain. In any case, this sports discipline depends on the Winter Sports Federation. In our country, there are several official competitions during the season from October-November to April-March, always avoiding the months when temperatures are high because the heat could put the dogs' health at risk. Federated competitions are organized in sprint distances (races up to 5 miles) that give access to international competitions: European and World Championships organized by the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS). In addition to the sprint distance, there is the option of the State Middle Distance Circuit. These races are longer and can exceed 18 miles. In these cases, it is usually two dogs pulling the bike and not just one.
How is a dog trained to practice bikejoring?
Any dog that practices this canine sport must receive adequate training and, above all, be able to enjoy it as much as his guide and without risk. It is essential that the dog learn some basic commands and have well-trained obedience to avoid accidents. The basis for good training could be summarized as follows:
- Training should be gradual and guided by professionals, at least in the early stages. To do so, you can go to a Canicross or Bikejoring club and get advice.
- The dog practicing this sport should be treated as an athlete. Therefore, he should be provided with a diet adequate to the level of exercise he practices and should ensure his good physical condition through progressive and well-sequenced training. It is necessary to pay special attention to the dog's musculoskeletal condition, its pads, and nails (nails that are too long alter the dog's stride and can lead to problems in the medium and long term).
- The dog's power should not be overestimated.
- It is essential to warm up properly before starting the training session.
- In pre-season, strength work is usually done to avoid injuries (just like an athlete in his pre-season) and long walks or short runs (no more than 20 minutes) can be used where the dog runs loose and the musher does not encourage the dog to accelerate the pace.
- Once a good aerobic and strength base has been acquired, the distances can be extended to 1000 meters and progressively increased (from 500m to 500m, for example) until competition distances are reached.
- To maintain the dog's motivation, it is necessary to not overload him and to finish the bikejoring training always with a positive feeling. In addition, you can choose terrains that present motivating factors for the dog, such as streams if he likes to bathe.
- It is necessary to always find the balance between the demand for effort from the guide to the dog and the dog's enjoyment in order not to generate frustration in the dog (and its consequent demotivation).
- The speed of the run should be adapted to the dog's level of training.
- The rope that connects the dog to the bicycle and the handler must always be taut.
- Abrupt braking on downhill slopes should be avoided in order to prevent jerks that could cause injuries to the dog.
- It is necessary to always look for suitable tracks and paths.
- Always anticipate the commands given to the dog, to give him time to react and to avoid falls and injuries.
What never to do?
- The dog must not run in temperatures above 68 °F.
- You must use adapted and specific equipment for bikejoring (harness and lead line) and never a simple harness.
- It is not recommended that the dog run on asphalt but on natural surfaces.
- Training should always be based on positive reinforcement and not on punishment.
- Never run without making sure that the dog is free of injuries and has done a good warm up before.
Necessary equipment to practice bikejoring
To practice bikejoring, it is essential to have a dog motivated by the sport of speed, a bike, a human guide willing to enjoy with his canine companion, and the following materials:
- Gloves, sunglasses, and a helmet for the musher.
- A shooting line with a shock absorber to avoid injuries to the dog.
- A specific harness for mushing.
- A bikejoring antenna to prevent the shot from getting caught in the bicycle wheel.
- A neckline to join the harnesses of two dogs in case of running with more than one dog at a time.
What a bikejoring harness has to be like
As explained by the experts of Arctic Dream, an optimal harness for the practice of this canine sport should meet the following conditions:
- Made of a highly resistant material.
- It should protect the dog from chafing during the pull. Therefore, the areas in contact with the skin should be made of non-abrasive material and should be padded.
- The impact areas (sternum and around the neck) must be specially protected.
- It should allow normal extension of the dog's legs without hindrance.
- Harnesses crossed over the back up to the tail are recommended as they distribute the pulling force better over the whole of the dog's back.
- They shall not have any ring or similar of any material (unless properly protected) to avoid chafing or injury to the dog.
- Harnesses that cross horizontally in front of the front legs are forbidden, since they can cause deformities and prevent the normal extension of the front legs.
Can any dog do bikejoring?
As in any dog sport, bikejoring should always be practiced with dogs that are motivated by the sport, have optimal physical condition, and enjoy this type of activity.