How To Teach Malamutes To Pull A Scooter
Scootering With Your Dog - Make Mine Malamute
As if the rollerblading experience had not been enough (see my link to that episode), I still looked forward with glee and I mean real glee to training the malamutes to pull me on the Diggler scooter that I ordered. However, I did have a somewhat better idea of the vulnerability of being towed behind sheer brawn and never did take that for granted again. Who says you can't teach any old dog (or old lady) new tricks?
The scooter experience with malamutes or any high energy dog is a great one. I did do that long enough to experience the pure joy of being pulled along faster than the speed of light (again) and having the dogs completely get "into" it. I trained them for weeks a bit at a time in this instance. The trick is making sure that they understand the commands and they do not become distracted by a squirrel or a cat! We had many episodes where we literally were being pulled through someone's front yard or up into a driveway we had no intention of visiting simply because they became distracted by said small animals and were in hot pursuit! Having specific commands for them really helps in any situation and pretty much to a fault, they were marvelous - though again - with malamutes - distraction is always a problem!
Scooter Training - From First Day To NowClick thumbnail to view full-size
The scooter itself is a better deal than whirring down the road on rollerblades I do have to say. However, there is a great deal of vulnerability to it as well since an urban scooter used for what they refer to now as "urban mushing" is usually just a giant skateboard with a very large wheel in front, another large wheel in back, and some handlebars with brakes. At least in this instance, I DID have brakes! That was a plus. There are other variations as well.
However, true to my form and in keeping with holding the title as the Queen of Klutz, I did in fact "go down with the scooter" and that was very frightening if not life changing. I had just hooked them up and was whipping out of the driveway with Bob in the lead on a bike (we did finally partner up on this and I got the message that it would be a good idea for support staff). The dogs cranked it up to their usual, about 20-25 mph and I somehow lost my balance. Why? Because I was fooling around with the water bottle at my waist that was slipping and rather than just "let it go", I took a hand off the handlebars. That was enough to apparently upset the delicate balance of woman being towed by beasts; I felt the scooter start to tilt, tried to right it, to no avail, and then decided I'd just jump off and start over. Well, too bad for that theory as when I jumped off, the handlebars hit me in the back and somehow knocked me prone onto the street - where I sustained a nice case of whiplash and road-rash all in about 3 seconds! Along with a very big dose of humble pie! So much for my athletic abilities (again). How did THIS happen I remember thinking?
I learned the hard way that the scootering requires a certain amount of athleticism - at least this style scooter does! There was also the small problem that you have to remain ON the scooter at all times (falling into the street like a beached whale obviously proved this point). You actually cannot step OFF the scooter at any time with the aforementioned dogs attached out in front of you because there is sufficient torque to equal at least 200 pounds. If you DO step off the scooter, it pitches the scooter forward and the whole skateboard apparatus basically comes up and slaps your entire leg in the back. I spent many weeks learning never to step off the scooter with the dogs attached - and many weeks sporting quite a few interesting bruises up the backs of one or both legs!
You basically harness your dogs up and connect them to a towline, which you in turn connect to the neck of the scooter (never the handlebars). You are then being pulled along much like sledding with how many dogs you have hooked on to the towline by their own line. I also ran them with a chin strap on (not on me but on them) to keep them "connected" at about collar level. Our female did not quite want to run as steadily as our male and without hooking their collars together with the chin strap, Kodi ended up forcibly pulling Denaya along, which can be dangerous as well. It was a technique that kept her honest and "encouraged" her to keep the pace.
The important thing to note here is that if the dogs decide to "giddy up", you are going to be motoring again at mach 1! It is a totally great feeling though. Swinging out the first time when we went around a corner made me remember water skiing and miss it. One drawback though is if you need to turn around and there is only 1 way in as in a cul-de-sac or a narrow dead end street, much like a sled, unless you have taught them to back up (I did not of course until faced with the problem), you have to physically turn the whole mess around to include you, the dogs, the scooter and lines, get them straightened out and start again. Hopefully you can do it all before any distraction happens by!
Another important point as I demonstrated personally just to see if it worked - there is no way to reach out and "disconnect" from the dogs so if something goes wrong or if the scooter goes down, you are probably going with it. For the most part, it was pretty smooth sailing but one problem I encountered repeatedly was having dogs run at us or after us. If we just walk our dogs, we don't get too much aggression or dogs following us so much. However, when we fly by on the scooter this somehow makes other dogs really mad - or jealous! At one time, I have had 4 dogs chasing me or coming at us from both sides. I have had dogs run in while my dogs passed and get between my dogs, causing us to have to stop on a dime. These are usually little tiny dogs that should have some sense about what they are doing but don't. They have almost caused a serious accident in the process as all of us could have wound up in a collision. Not to mention annoying my dogs to no end as all they wanted to do was keep running. Having people's loose nipping dogs charge into you on the street is not a good ride and in all instances, every bit of trouble we have had involved other people's dogs. Thankfully the only mishap for us humans we encountered there was slamming on the brakes so hard that the front tire literally popped right off and the ride was definitely "over" for that session.
The ideal is to be able to run your dogs where there are few such distractions! Luckily, my dogs know the command "leave it" and they never disengaged from their purpose which was just the running. They never disengaged physically from their harnesses, which they could easily have done with the sledding type we use. They are always more concerned about hiking back up to speed than dallying with loose dogs (thankfully), no matter how "tasty" they might appear as little morsels!
Having the proper safety gear again is paramount to a good experience, and in the above-mentioned instance where I fell off, on the way through the whiplash, I actually banged my forehead on the ground. The helmet I was wearing definitely saved my brain if not my life! I had a dent where I hit the ground so I know that the impact was as bad as I thought it was! The pads saved me some wear and tear on my elbows and knees but unfortunately my legs and my hands were a nasty mess. The whiplash was also not pleasant to recover from and the damage to the scooter was terrible! Even knowing the commands, they did not stop although I'm not sure if the word I used when I fell was WHOA. It could have been something quite foreign to them! At any rate, they kept running for perhaps 1/4 mile and the scooter was in tow behind them (much to my dismay) bouncing and banging the entire way.
We did decide after that little bounce on the pavement of life to always stay together so that whoever was riding the scooter had the "spotter" closer by in case something went wrong. That person rides a bike while the other rides the dogs on the scooter. At least that way, one of us is always looking out for dogs that could potentially be a problem and the rider then has a modicum of protection or someone who can at least render back-up if there was a crash or trouble of any kind. It also helps assure that someone is able to get help if the rider happens to be lying on the side of the road! The bike rider always gets the phone!
Always carry a cell phone and always wear total body clothing as the skin you save may be your own! I have ridden with my glasses on in the rain and would not recommend that particular ensemble - unless your glasses have windshield wipers! As well, riding the few times that I did in slick conditions was a little unnerving as the scooter tended to really have some "sway" to it - as in sideways as well as forward motion. In retrospect, I'm surprised I made it safely back in those particular conditions. In the rainy conditions, the dogs were soaked to the skin and while they did not seem to mind it, it was a little encumbering to be scootering with what felt like 800 pounds of wet clothes on - and blind as a bat.
All in all though, I would rate the experience as a 10! Except for the falling part! We are currently training little Griffin to pull but he will not be able to add any appreciable weight to his pull until at least 8 months or so. For now, it is just the exercise of pulling and getting used to the chin strap holding him to Denaya, now boss dog, the towline and the commands. And for right now, no one (including me) can get into an accident (probably) just walking them through the commands! The training beforehand though is definitely worth it for it to be a positive for all concerned!
Checklist For Dog Scootering
- Do invest in a good, solid scooter made for scootering with dogs
- Do invest in good protective equipment, primarily the best helmet you can afford
- Do invest in elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards - it is worth it if you fall
- Do check to make sure your health insurance is up to date
- Do know where the local ER or clinic is just in case
- Do be aware that scootering with any dog(s) can be an extreme sport
- Do enjoy it if you have the courage to try it because it is a wonderful sport!
- Do train your dog(s) before you attempt to take off with them by spending lots of time drilling on commands just walking behind them and make sure that they commands
- Do try to have a spotter with you or at the very least scooter where there are other people available in case of a mishap/crash
- Do carry a cell phone if you are alone; if you have a spotter, give them the phone
- Do stay on the scooter firmly at all times when dogs are attached - stepping off may be hazardous to the backs of your legs
- Do try and be aware of your surroundings, watching out for cars, obstacles, the occasional squirrels, cats, or dogs
- Do try and avoid scootering in the rain and if you must, dress appropriately
- Do research this sport as any other sport to optimize your enjoyment
- Do listen to the peacefulness of the moment - it is priceless
The Real Deal - This is Us!
This Scooter Looks Less Dangerous For People Like Me
The New Rave
Let's See If We Can Hit Mach 1
Diggler Scooters and Supplies
- Diggler - Dog Scooters & Scootering Accessories
Diggler is The ORIGINAL Mountain Scooter. From the top of America's premier ski resorts to your neighborhood trails, paths, and playgrounds, Diggler has the scooter for you! Since 1996, Diggler has been developing and pioneering this new adventure ca
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