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1-dog sled dog teamsSledding with your Dog

How to get started...

You don’t have to participate in an organised event or even have an arctic breed for your dog to enjoy a bit of sledding, anyone can hook their dog up to a bike or scooter and just go for a trot around the local trails. Not only does this mean that you can keep up with your dog while he or she is running to their hearts content, but it's also a great way to give them the exercise they need while keeping them under your control.

Most people think of dog-sledding as an activity that requires snow – not so. As access to alpine areas is very restricted for dogs, we have got around the problem in Australia by doing our "sledding" activities on dirt tracks with our dogs pulling scooters or 3-wheeled rigs for larger teams. In fact the sport of sled dog racing has become so popular that, during the winter months, there is a sledding event or two being held on most weekends somewhere around the country - details of dog sledding clubs in Australia can be found on the Clubs & Organisations page.

1-dog sled dog teamBefore you set off however, there are a few things you need to think about regarding the safety and well-being of your dog.


To do sledding activities with your dog you must have the correct equipment. Do not be tempted to use a car harness or hook a line up to your dog’s collar or, even worse, a "Halti". If you dog suddenly lunges forward, or your bike/scooter stops suddenly while your dog is at full speed you risk doing some serious damage to your dog (and maybe also yourself).

The two pieces of equipment you will need to get are a sledding harness and a gangline which attaches the harness to whatever the dog is pulling.


3-dog sled dog teamThe gangline, sometimes called a "bungee line", is usually made of poly-rope and incorporates and elastic section which acts as a shock absorber. For a 1-dog team the line is around 2 metres in length – long enough to prevent you running into your dog but not so long that your dog is too far away for you to gain control of if necessary. Never attempt any harness work at speed (ie with your dog running) unless you have a shock absorber build into your lines.

Ganglines are available for sled dog teams of all sizes from 1-dog lines, to ganglines for larger teams of over 6 dogs.  For starting out we recommend you get either the 1-dog line or 2-dog line, bearing in mind that a 2-dog line can be used for a 1-dog team.

2-dog team joined by a necklineFor 3 or more dogs you would require the 4-dog line which comes standard in the format of 2 lead dogs and 2 wheel dogs. The 4-dog line can be used for 3 dog teams which have either 1 dog in lead and 2 in wheel or 2 in lead and 1 in wheel.  The 2-dog add on modules can be attached to the 4-dog line to make lines for 6-dog, 8 dog, 10 dog etc. teams, although for very large teams we recommend use of cable lines.

Dogs in dual lead must always be joined by a neckline which attaches to the collars of the 2 dogs - this is to prevent the dogs from running wide apart which will block the trail for other teams and risk the dogs running either side of an obstacle.

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Sledding on snowSledding Harness

The sledding harness is quite different in structure from the car/walking-type harnesses you can buy in pet shops.

The sledding harness is specifically designed for pulling at speed, and will give your dog maximum comfort and pulling power, whilst reducing the risk of injury to the dog should unexpected incidents occur.

The harnesses are made from synthetic webbing which is pliable, strong, easy to clean and hard-wearing, and are padded around the neck and chest areas to increase the degree of comfort for the dog when pulling. The sledding harness is specifically designed to transfer the energy and load of the pull through the webbing to the neck and chest areas of the dog.

The two most commonly seen designs are the X-back harness and the H-back harness, however there are other harness types such as the half or short harness. The X-back is by far the most popular and best suited to most breeds and is a great all-round recreational harness, and is recommended for those starting out in dog sledding.

The harness needs to fit like a glove to provide maximum comfort and minimise risk of rubbing or injury, so a harness must be fitted for each individual dog. Avoid the temptation to buy a harness "off the shelf", use a second-hand harness or borrow one from someone else, as the chances are that the harness will not be an ideal fit and in most cases will in fact be a pretty poor fit.

Sled dog race: 2-dog team startYou will find that it costs around the same price for a made-to-measure harness, so do your dog a favour and make the effort of measuring him/her for a harness.

If you have measured your dog and are not sure if you got it right, you are welcome to email us with your measurements, the age, weight and breed of your dog and we will have a rough idea whether or not your measurements are what we would be expecting, or if you need to re-measure.

Note: Windchill Dog Gear has an exchange/refund policy so you don’t risk getting stuck with a harness you cannot use if you find it doesn't fit.

Although you might be able to do harness work with a bike, we recommend that you invest in a sledding scooter. On a scooter you can easily jump off or steady yourself if your dog decides to do something unexpected, like suddenly take off into the bush after a cat or wildlife.

Sled dog race: 1 dog class finishingRoller-blading with a Malamute or Husky in harness can be dangerous and is not to be recommended, however with a well-trained and very obedient dog it might be a bit of fun if you are adventurous!

For these activities as well as bikejoring or canicross, we recommend a sledding half or short harness which attaches just behind the shoulders.  We don't make these but they are available from other suppliers such as ManMat Australia.

These are also a good harness for dogs that are more difficult to get a good fit.

Anyone with a dog who would like to try, or have a look at, sled dog racing can find details of events and clubs who conduct working activities listed on our Events & Organisations page.

Happy Sledding!

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