Photo submitted by Ed Boon (United States). CONGRATULATIONS!
Ed and his dog Aska surely love competition. They have done it again! They rallied all their fans and pulled off another impressive win. Ed and Aska are avid hikers and veterans of our Photo Contest. This winning photo received a record number of 214 votes! This beat their record high from last year. Well done!
Photo submitted by Meg Johnson (United States).
Meg and her pack love the outdoors. Whether it comes to hiking, bikejoring or sledding, they are active 12 months a year. In this picture, all of Meg’s girls double for real sled dogs. It shows that any breed can do it! Meg’s photo received 133 votes, which resulted in second place two years in a row. Congratulations!
Photo submitted by Marta Sulima (United States).
We love this cute husky giving a high five. Marta captured the moment perfectly. The picture ended up in a well-deserved third place by receiving 79 votes. High five!
Photo submitted by Tracey DImperio Lasslett (United States).
Tracey’s camping-themed photo received respectable 69 votes.
If you are just getting started in the sport of canicross, skijoring, or hiking, you might be having a difficult time deciding which one of our belts will best suit your needs. Below we summarized the differences between our Trekking Belt and our CaniSki belt. We highlighted why one might be better for you than the other. We hope you will find this side-by-side comparison helpful.
A simple, yet very sturdy “wrap around” belt.
There are no leg straps.
The belt is very easy to put on and to take off.
A single closure (a plastic clip) is utilized.
The belt is made out of heavy-duty foam.
The belt features substantial back support.
The preferred way of wearing the belt is around the waist. However, it can be worn comfortably around the hips too.
Attached to the belt are a bottle holder and a small zip-up pocket.
It is a fully adjustable, one-size-fits-all belt.
This belt has been designed for walking dogs hands-free.
It may be used as a starter belt for skijorers and canicrossers, and also as a belt for hiking (when not using a backpack).
This belt is strong enough to safely hold 2+ dogs.
In this article we are bringing you a helpful piece of information regarding the use of a short harness versus a full-length x-back harness for canicross.
Howling Dog Alaska, the industry leader, started recommending short harnesses for canicross in early 2000. A short harness is a great harness for this sport due to the angle of the line attachment. Canicrossers prefer a shorter pulling line than skijorers, therefore the pull angle between the dog and the person can be quite steep. This is where a short harness comes into play, as it will stay in place nicely. A long harness in an x-back style (or any other full-length harness) will often lift off the end of the dog’s body. The end of an x-back harness will also lift upwards if the dog decides to run next to the person (rather than up front).
The one exception for the use of an x-back harness for canicross is if you have an experienced, hard pulling dog. A dog that will constantly stay up front. A dog that is a strong puller. You might also be using a slightly longer line. In such a case, an x-back harness design is superior and more comfortable for the dog. A short harness (for example the Distance Harness) – especially if not fitted correctly – will ride up the dog’s throat, making them rasp while running. The Second Skin/Tough Skin Harnesses is preferred to the Distance Harness for hard pulling dogs when choosing a short harness style.
Keep in mind that during canicross quite often you do not go fast enough to your dog’s full potential. In other words, unlike skijoring or bikejoring, canicross is a “slow” sport. And the slower you go, the harder a motivated dog will pull. You can use a short harness for pretty much any other canine “mono sport” due to a higher speed and lower resistance. This is not the case with canicross. Even though 90% of dogs will be comfortable in a good quality short harness, a small percentage will require an x-back harness.
This article explains the use and the pull-force distribution for Howling Dog Alaska harnesses. It will help you choose the correct harness style.
This article discusses canicross in a bigger detail. It is a great article for beginners.
We hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to CONTACT US should you need help with harness sizing, or advising you further about what harness style will be best for your needs.
Aliy and her husband Allen have been members of Team Howling Dog for many, many years. We have been honored to have them on board, as we could not have asked for better representatives. As difficult and unimaginable it must be for Aliy and Allen at the moment, there is life after competitive mushing. I, Ivana (the owner of Howling Dog Alaska), know this well from my own experience. We wish you all the best on your new journey, Alliy & Allen! You will always be part of our team. This is a letter Aliy recently sent to us:
This spring, after I finish my 21st Iditarod, I will retire from competitive sled dog racing. Yup. It’s big news for me and I thought you should know.
It might sound strange but, when I’m out there on the Iditarod standing on my sled runners all by myself, in the unpaved Alaska wilderness where wolves howl, ice cracks under my boots and the Arctic wind pierces even my thickest parka, I have never truly been alone. Yes, of course, I’ve had my amazing dogs, but I’ve also had you. You have meant a lot to me. You and many others like you. I’m not sure you can imagine the strength that I have gained from over 20 years of interaction with enthusiastic fans and friends like yourself. Do you know how much you have inspired and empowered me? So, obviously, I needed to thank you.
I don’t want you to think that I’m just up and quitting. My retirement has not been a quick decision. In truth, I know what it takes to be ultra-competitive. I have always raced the Iditarod to win. While the Last Great Race has been a spectacular adventure for me, it has also been physically and mentally demanding: every year, every winter, every day, every mile. And if I’m being honest, at times, I have been challenged to my very core. I know that in the not-so-distant future, I will not be able to give it my 100%. So, I am retiring before I have to retire.
What will I do with my Iditarod team of huskies? You needn’t worry. As you know, I began dog mushing because of my love for my dogs and my desire to spend endless days with them. I have done just that. Together, my dogs and I have raced over 30,000 miles. We have explored the winter wilderness of Alaska for decades together. Throughout my competitive life, I never gave up my values of deep love and respect for my dogs. These will be with me until my dying day. Dogs have been, and will always be, my life.
My post-Iditarod future is somewhat undecided. I love Alaska and will continue to explore our great state. Of course, my husband, Allen, and I will together decide what our next life adventure will be.
Will I miss it? I don’t know yet. But I do know that I will miss seeing you and the many individuals who have become part of my Iditarod life. The Last Great Race has brought me face-to-face with amazing and unique people across the state and from around the world.
Like you, wonderful people have reached out to me over the years. They have given me immense energy, passion, and spirit that has driven me to always, always do my best. There are so many people to thank. I’ll never forget the woman who approached me, several years ago, as I was signing autographs in the middle of a big crowd gathered in downtown Anchorage for the start of the Iditarod. With all the dogs and people crowded into the middle of 4th Avenue, I could barely hear her over the barking and cheering. People kept asking me for selfies and autographs. But she didn’t ask me for either. She gripped my arm and said, “Aliy, I need you to win.” I laughed and answered, “Yeah, I’m going to try to do exactly that.” She held my arm even tighter and said, “No, I need you to win. My boyfriend is always putting me down, and he says women can’t do things men can. I need you to prove we can.” I’ve never forgotten these words. In fact, they travel with me, glowing brightly, everywhere I go.
I want you to know I will never forget you. But now, I need you to understand that while I hope I have proven to you that I can stand strong and tall and proud alongside any person, man or woman, you need to believe that you have the same power. I truly believe you have, inside yourself, everything you need to ride over the roughest trails in life, stand up in the worst storm, stare down any challenge and make it to your own finish line – wherever you decide to put that line.
Thank you for giving me so much support and riding along with me on my Iditarod adventures for the last 20 years. My Last Great Race starts in less than a month. I know you’ll be with me!
In this article, we bring you useful information that will help everyone, especially the ones starting out in the sport of mushing – whether your goal is to race or recreate on snow or dryland. First, we need to define conditioning versus training. Training teaches behavior such as taking turns, slowing down, speeding up, or stopping. Here we will be addressing basic early-season conditioning for dogs to reach their optimum fitness level through exercise and nutrition. Proper exercise (conditioning) and nutrition go hand in hand. Either one on its own is not enough. You must address both areas. Keep in mind that the frame of reference in this article is feeding and conditioning a team of sprint racing sled dogs that run three to four times a week.
GETTING IN SHAPE
The best way to start getting your dogs in shape is by playing, walking, and loose running them in the summer. They will learn how to use their bodies and feel comfortable with speed. Being agile comes in handy later when dodging obstacles on the trail. Loose running and zooming around will make them comfortable with a top speed. Another important thing is strengthening your dog’s ligaments and tendons, and increasing their aerobic capacity in the offseason before hooking them up to work in a harness. Professional mushers do this by having their dogs trot long, slow miles on an exercise wheel. People with one or two dogs can do the same by simply going on hikes with your dogs. You will have the benefit of getting in shape, too.
Keep the first fall run in harness with the four-wheeler (or a cart) short. The distance for the first few runs will vary anywhere from one to three miles depending on the capability of your dogs, on the breed of your dogs, and on your goals later on in the season. However, do not go further than three miles. Run at a relatively slow speed with some rest stops included. Subsequent runs lessen the amount of rest and add a little more speed. In about ten runs, you will build up to completing the run with no rest and dogs looking like they still had some “gas in the tank”. After that bump up in miles and the speed with the same progression, let’s say up to five miles for ten training runs, and so on. Only you can be the judge of the capability of your team.
IMPORTANT: Overtraining can lead to a downward spiral in performance, rest is as important as the run itself (exercise tears down muscles and rest builds them up even better). Variety is the spice of life. Once your dogs get in decent shape, you will want to vary their conditioning routine to keep their little minds excited about new things. Take new trails, have an extra day off, run two days in a row, do free runs in-between working in harness – anything to keep the dogs happy and engaged in their favorite activity.
Now let’s look at nutrition. The base diet fed to your canine athletes should be a high-quality kibble that is 30% protein and 20% fat. High-quality kibble will always be well balanced with a vitamin/mineral pack that is especially important and hard to duplicate on one’s own. Make sure you soak the kibble in water before feeding to keep the dogs hydrated. Going further into the fall conditioning season, your dogs will be burning increasing amounts of calories. If you are not already doing so, you will need to start mixing meat with the kibble then. How do you know when to start doing this? The indicator will be either, 1) Your dogs will start losing weight, or 2) Your dogs will start having runny stool after the run. Some of you might be able to get a commercially prepared mix of beef or chicken, liver, egg, oils, and bone meal put together especially for the use in working dogs. If you can’t get your hands on such a mix, simply add ground beef. We do not recommend feeding a raw diet, however, if you believe in feeding raw, there are some commercial vitamin/mineral additives available for purchase to supplement the raw diet. Also adding bone meal is necessary when feeding a raw diet. As you get into the race season, the percentage of meat in your diet will increase. However, feeding more than 50% of meat in the diet is not necessary (50% kibble, 50% meat).
Each dog should consume about two liters of water a day including what’s added to their meal and including their free access water. You can monitor this by assessing the color of the dog’s urine. The goal is to be as clear as gin. It is important to go into a training run with a well-hydrated team. “Water” your dogs with about 0.75 liters of baited water about two hours before the run. If desired you can also give your dogs an additional two cups of lightly baited water about 30 minutes prior to the run. Make sure your dogs have free access to water after the run or give them baited water (at least two cups).
Adding psyllium husk to the diet will be beneficial for GI tract health (it will firm up the stool). Adding Nutrazinc will promote tough feet, and adding Astaxanthin, a super antioxidant, will prevent the buildup of lactic acid in muscles. Keep in mind that during early warm-weather training (or during races held in warmer weather), replenishing electrolytes after the run is a must (use Electrocharge). If you can, use maltodextrin (or Glycocharge) after the heats of multi-day races to aid muscle glycogen replacement. For increased stamina, use Staminex, an L-Carnitine supplement. Supplementing is highly effective when combined with a good feeding and conditioning regimen and will give you an edge against your competition. Without the whole package, though, it is like trying to “pixie dust” your dogs into performing well and you won’t realize the true benefits of the additives.
Remember that all dogs are individuals, and you can’t “make” your dog into something it’s incapable of. You can, however, help your dog reach his/her full potential through proper nutrition, training, and conditioning.
Don’t hesitate to contact us should you have any questions regarding this topic. We will be happy to give you professional advice.
ALIY ZIRKLE & ALLEN MOORE (Alaska, USA): Long-distance mushing
Here they are! The famous wife & husband duo. They are on board for yet another season.
Aliy and Allen own and operate SP Kennel – a premier sled dog kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska. They strive to be the best they can through complete dedication to their canine teammates and the sport. The care they give to their dogs is second to none. Aliy and Allen will be putting 100% effort into the forthcoming season training a relatively small kennel of 24 dogs. Thye will be also spoiling three couch potatoes – three retired sled dogs.
Aliy will be taking her Red Team down the Iditarod trail again. Unfortunately, Allen’s “baby” – the Yukon Quest – was canceled due to Covid. However, there will be shorter races Allen’s Black Team will be attending. We might even see him and his team taking part in the Iditarod again. Stay tuned!
Follow Aliy, Allen and their canine athletes on the SP Kennel’s website.
Aliy’s and Allen’s have been using our Distance Harness with great success for many years.
JEFF KING (Alaska, USA): Long-distance mushing
After an unfortunate break from running the Iditarod last winter due to medical issues, the four-time Iditarod Champion plans on being back on the runners. Jeff has signed up for Iditarod 2021 (his 30th signup!), and he also intends to run the Kuskokwim 300 in Bethel, AK. Despite his rotator cuff surgery last summer and a health scare this spring with a perforated intestine, Jeff’s doctors assure him that he is in great health. Jeff’s spirits remain high with fall training in full swing.
We are all looking forward to seeing Jeff race again this season!
BLAKE & JENNIFER FREKING (Minnesota, USA): Long-distance mushing
Blake and Jennifer own Manitou Crossing Kennels in Northern Minnesota, where their primary focus is the preservation of the working Siberian Husky. Their goal is to raise their dogs in the best environment possible with great socialization, the best nutrition available, and optimal training to allow them to perform to their potential on the trail.
This season they will have four teams entered in the Beargrease Sled Dog Race! Jennifer calls it a “mushing mania”. Blake and Jen will run the Marathon. Plus they will have two teams entered in the Beargrease Mid-distance race.
Visit Blake & Jennifer’s website. Watch a video about their kennel.
KATI & MARTIN DAGENAIS (Quebec, Canada): Sprint mushing
Kati & Matin own a premier limited class sprint racing kennel located in Quebec, Canada. They specialize in 6-dog racing. The plan for this season for Kennel Dagenais is to participate in the Québec CACQ circuit. If everything goes as planned and there are no border restrictions due to Covid, Kathy and Martin are thinking about traveling to Alaska to race in the Limited North American Championship. Their goal will be to break the LNAC track record in the 6-dog class.
We are wishing Kati & Martin succesfull race season. We are hoping that they can pursue their plans. We want to see you and your canine athletes break the track record, Kati! 🙂
We have known this duo of ladies for several years now, as they are racing & raising dogs with our Howling Dog Alaska Kennel lineage. Their small kennel is located in the “uplands” of Montrose, CO. They are both great promoters of the sport in the state of Colorado. Lynn currently specializes in 4-dog sprint and has been racing 4 and 6-dog class for the past 35 years. Laurie races bikejoring and skijoring. Let’s not forget to mention that Laurie is an avid mountain bike racer. She is a National Champion! Ladies, we are happy to have you aboard as members of Team Howling Dog! 🙂
Here are our representatives from Moscow, Russia! Andrey and Alla own a kennel of Eurohunds named Crazy Dog Kennel, and they specialize in 4-dog sprint racing. This racing season Alla will be the main musher, as Andrey will take a step back. Their racing plans include participating in races in Russia (including the Russian Championship), and they would also like to travel to Italy to take part in the European Championship, and to Sweden to race in the IFSS World Championship. We have our fingers crossed, hoping that the borders between European countries are open and that travel is allowed. As everywhere else in the world, things are very uncertain due to Covid.
Rich and his pack of Greysters are well known in the North American dryland & snow racing circuit. In the past, he has also traveled to Europe to race. Sadly, this year’s racing season is uncertain for Rich and his team, as many sprint events have been and are being canceled due to Covid. Rich also might have to move due to job relocation. Let’s see what the future brings for him. We are wishing you all the best, Rich!
Rich is the founder of Windy City Mushers Club – a group of mushing enthusiasts in the Chicago area. Visit Windy City Mushers Facebook page.
Carlos is a top Mexican canicrosser. He competes with his two German Shephard girls Hasen and Nima. Canicross is a young, yet growing sport in Mexico. Carlos is doing a wonderful job representing Howling Dog and promoting our gear. He was part of the first Mexican national team ever to compete in the 2019 IFSS Dryland World Championship in Sweden. With several teams throughout the country, canicross is getting more and more popular, as human athletes are promoting this incredible activity with their dogs.
Interested to find out more about mushing in Mexico? Visit Mushing Mexico Facebook page.
Photo submitted by Ed Boon (United States). CONGRATULATIONS!!!
Ed and his dog Aska are avid hikers and veterans of our Photo Contest. Aska steadily rose to the top as the fans rallied. This winning photo received a record number of 209 votes!
Photo submitted by Meg Johnson (United States).
Rolf, and her mom Meg love the outdoors. Whether it comes to hiking or sledding they are active 12 months a year. Rolf is a stunning girl, always ready to pose for a picture. This photo received a respectable 176 votes.
Photo submitted by Michelle Brigman (United States).
This Americana themed photo was right at the top for a long time, until Aska and Rolf moved up from behind. Unfortunately, we don’t know the name of this handsome malamute. In any case, he/she will be receiving more Howling Dog Alaska gear. This photo received 154 votes.
Photo submitted by Brianna Byrnes (United States).
Brianna’s awesome canicross photo received 130 votes.
Howling Dog Alaska is the original company that introduced the “short harness” design to the sled dog market. Many other companies since followed. It was during the 2001 IFSS World Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska when Howling Dog Alaska sponsored skijorers used the first Distance Harness models in the competition.
The reasons for us moving away from the traditional x-back design for skijoring (and now also canicross, scootering, and bikejoring) were simple physics and geometry. The line angle between the dog and the skijorer (or biker, runner) is steeper than the line angle between a dog team and a sled. When a skijoring line is connected to a typical X-back harness, the steeper angle will cause a lifting force on the harness. The design of the Distance Harness creates a flatter line angle and the dog’s pull force is more evenly distributed.
Why is our Distance Harness superior to other harnesses of similar design currently on the market?
The harness has been used by top mushers worldwide with great success for almost twenty years. These are not only single dog owners but also accomplished distance mushers such as Aliy Zirkle, Allen Moore, and Jeff King, with large dog teams.
The neck opening, the breastplate, and the top of the harness are fully padded with closed-cell padding.
Unlike other similar harnesses out there, our Distance Harness features a “floating” connection. This means that the point of attachment on the top of the back can slide from side to side as the dog changes direction, enabling the breastplate to stay centered. Similar harnesses by other manufacturers have the top connection sewn in-place and the harness is unable to rotate around the dog’s torso, resulting in the breastplate sliding into the armpit as the dog changes directions (often causing rubbing).
There are two pivoting points on the harness. One is positioned on the chest and the other one is positioned behind the neck. These are simple D-rings. These pivoting points are also very important for the overall harness design. They enable the chest strap and the top of the back strap to move independently without affecting the fit of the neck opening.
The Distance Harness is a simple, yet fully functioning harness. We prefer simplicity over a complicated design, which our customers appreciate.
The fit of the Distance Harness is very forgiving. The harness will fit 99% of dogs out there.
Let’s not forget the events that occurred during the 2003 Iditarod that resulted in a rethinking of what constitutes a well-designed sled dog harness for long-distance racing. During the race, Iditarod champion Jeff King and his daughter Cali created quite a stir by using an innovative new harness design, different from the standard x-back or h-back harness for their dogs. What they both were testing was our, then, brand new short harnesses – our Distance Harness prototypes.
In the 2003 Iditarod Jeff King astonishingly arrived in White Mountain with 12 dogs, his highest number ever. Further up the trail, his daughter Cali still had 14 healthy dogs in harness, the largest team left in the entire race. Jeff credits the low attrition to a lack of injuries to his dogs. He is certain the reduced rate of injury was due to the use of the Distance Harness which pulls from further up by the shoulders, rather than from the rear. Since the harness only reaches halfway down the dog’s back, it eliminates the pressure a standard harness puts on the dog’s hips (a common “sore spot” for distance dogs). Because the harness puts less downward pressure on the dog’s hindquarters, it helps to eliminate ankle problems in the rear legs. Also, the harness design reduces the occurrence of shoulder and wrist injuries.
The Long Distance Harness’s point of attachment can rotate freely around the animal’s torso. Thus, once the team starts pulling, the harnesses of dogs on the right side of the gangline roll to the left, closer to the gangline, making dogs run straighter. The opposite occurs with dogs on the left side of the gangline. The harness with its floating tugline connection allows the dog to run without crabbing outward. Crabbing is often a cause for a front leg, wrist, or shoulder injury. A wrist injury is the most common injury that takes dogs out of a long-distance race. Dogs also tend to trot more with these harnesses on.
The use of the Distance Harness during the 2003 Iditarod was a spectacular success. Since then the harness has attracted a lot of attention from the long-distance community. The Distance Harness has been a consistent harness of choice for Yukon Quest Champion Allen Moore, and for his wife, a top Iditarod competitor Aliy Zirkle for many years now.
Whether you run dogs for fitness and fun, or you are focused on the competition, there are many things you can do to have a safe, clean run. These are some of the equipment checks Howling Dog Alaska’s Customer Advisor and a former champion sprint musher Ami Gjestson would do at the start of the season and throughout the year. Even though most of it relates to driving a team on a sprint sled, you can incorporate it to fit whatever discipline you participate in:
I always start with clean harnesses and coats that had been washed before storing for the summer. Dirt contributes to harness rub, so I washed my gear quite often. Check for harness fit at the start of training, then eyeball the dogs while running throughout the season. Young dogs may still grow over the summer, and all the dogs may muscle up a bit as they get in shape.
Spend some time pre-season going over the working parts of your equipment. I would check for loosened nuts and bolts on my sled, replace any frayed poly rope in my gangline, make sure the gates of snaps, quick releases, and carabiners are working smoothly on all equipment – drop chains, gangline, snubline, picket lines, dog yard tie-outs. Pay special attention to your snubline and snowhook line. They need to withstand a lot of force holding back an amped-up team. I used Kevlar rope for those lines. For skijoring lines, make sure the knots are tight that hold the bungee in place. Also, check that the tug loop knots are tight on your harnesses.
If you want to get really particular when running different sized dogs on a team, it’s helpful to adjust your tug loop size in order to make all your harnesses the same length so they will fit the standard distance between tug line and neckline. On a large size harness, the loop will be smaller, and on a small harness, the loop will be bigger. If you choose so, you can use the single fisherman’s knot, which is self-tightening.
Many recreational skiers don’t think they need to wax their “waxless” touring skis, or only need to wax their skate skis for glide. Skis (and runners) need to be waxed for protection from abrasive snow conditions as well. If you see some white coloring on your black p-tex, that’s a sign of base burn and you need a wax job. Base burn can seal the micro-pores in p-tex and limits the ability to hold wax. At the end of the season, I always iron on a protective layer of yellow or black graphite wax and scrape it off after storing my skis for the summer.
Lastly, check around the truck to make sure everything is secure when traveling. I’ve never lost my sled, but I have backed over my poop bucket. Taking that extra minute can save time in the long run.
Have fun out there!
Should you have any questions for Ami, you can contact her here.
Many of our customers are confused about what the meaning of the rope attached to the top of any of our short style harnesses is for. Many of our customers mistakenly remove this rope. The name of this rope is a “tug”. All Howling Dog Alaska harnesses feature tugs, as it is a common feature for all sled dog harnesses. Below are the three main reasons for having a tug attached to a short harness:
1. Attaching the line/leash to the tug, rather than the D-ring itself, brings the snap (the hardware) further away from the dog’s body. If the snap is attached directly to the D-ring, it will hit the dog’s back repetitively as the dog runs. This can create quite a bit of discomfort (and a sore spot) for the dog.
2. Attaching the line/leash to the tug prevents an accidental release of the dog. This comes in play when the dog twists or tries to get out of the harness. Clipping the snap directly on the D-ring when a dog is acting up can result in the snap catching on the D-ring, twisting and possibly opening. The snap will never accidentally release if it is attached to the tug.
3. Lastly, all of our tugs are color-coded. Each size harness features a different color tug. For example, a small harness has a red tug, a medium harness has a blue tug, a large harness has a green one and so on. This is very important especially for larger kennels who handle and harness many dogs a day. Simply taking a quick look at the tug tells them what size the harness is.