In this on-going series where various urban mushing activities are explored, dog scootering is next to be considered. Scootering is relatively new, even among urban mushing endeavors, and involves harnessing one or two dogs to a specially designed kick scooter. This pastime ranks between bikejoring and running in terms of the musher’s physical requirements, as well as safety.
The scooter used for urban mushing is not to be confused (or attempted) with a Razor-type scooter, one which has low-diameter wheels and a narrow foot stand. Instead, a dog scooter has mountain bike-style wheels, which typically range from 16’’ to 24’’ in diameter. Durable brakes on the scooter are a necessity, as is a large and comfortable foot hold. The dog and scooter are connected through a gangline that attaches to the dog’s harness. An elastic or bungee-type cord should be incorporated with the gangline, to ease the transition when the dog(s) take off from a standstill. Although still not as common-place as bikejoring, a number of retailers are beginning to stock scooters and equipment specially designed for urban mushers. For instance, scooters can be purchased from Dog Powered Scooter, Alpine Outfitters, and Pawtrek.
Dogs require little training when learning to pull a scooter. The most important skills to teach are reliable “slow down” and “stop” commands, as well as “right” and “left.” Good listening skills are important, especially if pursuing scootering on trails, as the dog(s) could easily maneuver themselves over a fallen tree or other obstacle, forgetting that the scooter is not as agile.
For mushers first beginning to scooter, wide dirt roads and well-maintained paths are recommended. Mushers should be aware that the difficulty of the path also directly impacts how much effort the musher must put forth. On hilly or rough terrain, the musher will have to do more kicking to help propel the team along. However, if the terrain is mostly flat, the dog(s) are liable to traverse at much faster speeds, which can be dangerous for a beginner.
There are more hazards for dog and rider in scootering than in other activities, such as canicross, but still fewer than in other pursuits, such as bikejoring. For the dogs, scootering can be dangerous if the rider is unsure of him or herself and often dismounts, leaving the dogs to pull a riderless scooter, which could become entangled in trees or run into the dog(s) if they make a sudden stop. For the rider, an emergency dismount is much easier than in other mushing activities, and rarely leads to serious injury. However, a helmet is always recommended. Many hazards can be avoided, such as being pulled into a downed tree or into a ravine, by thoroughly training the dogs, as well as by having good knowledge of the trails.
Although dog scootering is still a new phenomenon, there are a number of clubs and associations across the United States. Occasionally, a virtual relay will be held where participants are asked to scooter their dogs on a local trail and log their mileage, thus helping complete a scootering relay across the country. Local meet ups are also encouraged, where a small group of scootering enthusiasts meet to traverse a local path or trail together. Overall, scootering is a great activity to keep dogs happy and healthy, while also providing a moderate amount of physical activity for the musher.