Beginner's Resources

What is sled dog sport?

Otherwise know as “Dryland Mushing” in Australia, Sled Dog Sports encompass several disciplines or classes including Scooterjor, Bikejor, Canicross and Rig or Cart. We also have Snow races using traditional Sleds and XC Skis in the Victorian Alpine Region.

Is sled dog sports for you?

Although this dog sport is often associated with arctic breeds such as Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, sled dog sports are open to any breeds or mix breed, particularly mid to large sized dogs that love to run or pull, but there are classes to suit smaller dogs too. It can be done with just one dog or a whole team, it’s really up to you!
This family friendly dog sport is open to people of all ages offering Mini Pee Wee (up to 8 accompanied by an adult), Pee Wee (8-10), Junior (10-16), Novice and Open Classes (over 16 yrs). Within these human age groups there is a variety of available classes for you to explore.
Your sled dog/s must have a minimum, current C3 Vaccination (or titre test proving immunity) and must be at least 12 months to compete (larger breeds may be encouraged to wait a bit longer again).
However, there are many things you and your dog can learn and train with your local club prior to hitting the racetrack for competition, that won’t harm the growth and development of your puppy if they are still young.

Where do races take place and how does a typical event work?

Races take place in all States and Territories of Australia excluding the Northern Territory. 

The first rule of Sled Dog Sports is: Never let go! The second rule of Sled Dog Sports is all about temperatures and dog safety.

Unfortunately, it is far too hot and humid and hot for sled dog sports events to be regularly held in many coastal or tropical areas.  To run our dogs in the coolest parts of the day, racing and training typically has 2 “heats” – usually around 7am Saturday and Sunday mornings but occasionally some clubs will have a night heat, starting around 4-5pm Saturday afternoon. Race goers that have travelled to the race site will often camp or stay close by, there are usually several accommodation options for race sites from free or paid camping, or cabin and hotel options depending on personal preferences.
At the specified time (found in the event information), clubs will hold a mandatory ‘Drivers Meeting” where everyone is briefed on the running order, track conditions and general safety information. You must attend this brief or talk to the “trail boss” if you arrive late to be caught up on the details before you can head out on the track.
If you are attending for the first time, most clubs are happy to lend any specific sled dog gear you require until you can purchase your own, should you decide to continue.
Things you must generally supply for yourself/your dog/s are:
  • Warm clothes, enclosed shoes and gloves
  • Head light and bike light
  • Helmet
  • 2L (at least) of water per dog
  • Dog Food
  • Food and drink for yourself
  • A chew proof means of securing your dog/s (cable stake out or crate)
  • Any camping requirements you have
  • Flat collar or limited slip collar, (no check chains, prong or e-collars for running)
  • Tick protection strongly recommended in some areas of Australia
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Sled dog training tips to get you started

As in any dog sport regular training is the key to success, it also means that you and your dog will be well prepared to have loads of fun together!

To get started on your dryland mushing journey you don’t need to wait for winter or club events to start and you don’t need any fancy equipment. Perhaps two of the most important things you can to get started in sled dog sports are building up the fitness of your sled dog and command training, both of which can be done during warmer weather and in everyday situations.

Every dog is different when it comes to how much physical exercise they need to do to keep fit, the same as people. But free running, drag work and swimming are all excellent forms of exercise to keep your dog fit during the offseason as well as between sled training runs. It is safest to keep sled training sessions to one track run per day, per dog (but not every day of the week, rest days are important). Start with small distances (500m – 1km) and work your way up over time, but the general rule in races is 2km of distance per dog. Make sure between each session of exercise, you give your dog rest days so that their bodies have time to recover and always be sure to warm up and warm down you dog to help avoid injury. The more you exercise your dog, the more you will learn what distances they are comfortable with without overdoing It.
We recommend bringing in commands to everyday walks and activities, dogs learn well by repetition and this is the easiest way to do this. If your dog can understand sled dog commands before you hit the trail you will find it much easier to navigate the track. Pick routes that have quite a few turns and say the commands when you change direction. It’s also a good idea to change the route regularly to keep your dog thinking and listening to you, not just following a remembered route. As you approach distractions or other people/animals you can signal the dog to “On-By”, which means leave the distraction alone and keep going. If you are on a walk with more than one person , you can also use it as an opportunity to practice passing, which is very important. Call out the “Trail” command, and as you overtake the other walker.
Dogs also need to be safely kept at events this could be in crates trailers, cars, or a stake out line. Stake out lines should be made of a material that your dog cannot chew; chain or steel cable is ideal and should also be short so that your dog doesn’t get tangled, injured or interfere with passing dogs, people or traffic. If your dog isn’t used to being confined by any of these methods, you can also practice this at home. You can set up your stake outline in your own backyard and sit out with your dog, giving them treats to make it more fun for them. It’s also a good Idea to get them used to eating their meals while on the stake out, if your dog hasn’t been camping before it’s common for them to not want to eat when not at home. This will make the experience much easier for your dog at their first sled event because they will these actions more familiar.

Choose your sled dog commands!

Command for right turn.
Command for left turn.
Command to start the team running.
To ignore a distraction and keep running.
Command to halt the team. Accompanied by brake pressure.
Command to pick up speed.
180 degree turn to the right.
180 degree turn to the left.
Command for the lead dogs to pull the team out straight from the sled. Mostly used when hooking up or un-hooking a team.