using black lab to pull sled?
I'm wanting to use my 6 yr old lab to pull a sled when I go hunting on skis or snowshoes.
I was going to use a mushers harness, and use poles to the sled so it doesn't bite his heals. I have neoprene boots for him, but he loses them in short time. does he NEED them, or is there something better? do you guys have your boys sleep in your bag with you?
I keep him good shape. hes not over weight, and has a decent thick coat for most labs I've seen. last winter i'd take him with me on snowmobile trips and he would stay in his kennel with a blanket in, and over, he would be fine at -25ish overnight. but thats too much to haul on a hunt.
any helping words welcomed
The best booties are the simple cordora fabric ones with a stretch velcro strap around the top. They are cheap as heck, too.
I've had really good service from this company... http://www.dogbooties.com/index.html
Not sure about the solo sled tow as that's not my field. But don't dogsled harnesses only have a single connecting point on the back? That would make it hard to use a pole connection. Seems you'd want a harness with a connection on each side. As for poles, just running a tow line through a light PVC conduit should be more than enough for the application you're talking about.
Pulks and Skijoring
Google both of those and you should find something that helps. Skijor systems are normally flexible rope w/ bungees so the dogs have a shock absorber between them and the skier. Pulks are typically solid systems as you describe, but normally connect to the skier.
The Fairbanks Skijor Assoc might have some info. Coldpsot Feeds and Alaska Feed in Fairbanks likely will have some info also.
The sled you describe can be made out of a plastic kids toboggan and conduit. A friend skied both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod with a sled system he built. You can do it cheaply and the end result will be a lightweight sled as contrasted with a heavy fiberglass sled that is commercially made.
I'd spend a lot of time playing with him and the sled before the hunt. Get it figured out, or your hunt may be ruined. and the dog won't be a happy camper. Even spend a night out in the yard camping to see what works.
Another friend has an insulated nylon covered dog blanket that his Chessies wear overnight. It works pretty well, but in winter conditions I would go with a dog bed too.
Your dog will be working harder than normal unless you do spend a lot of time training. That means between the physical exertion and cold his body will get stressed. You'll need to adjust his food, and when/if he gets diarrhea you'll have to make sure he is well hydrated. Any change in diet should be made gradually and 60 to 90 days before the hunt so he is completely used to it and can fully metabolize the new diet.
I can't tell where you are but if you go to www.alaskadognews.com and click on the club listing clubs from Fairbanks to Anchorage are listed. See the skijor and weight pulling group. I take it the dog is pulling a sled with supplies not you? I've only dabbled (tortured) my dogs at these activities to be able to write about it but I believe you'd be better off with a weight pulling harness. They do have a spreader bar on them in the back. A lot goes into training these dogs and they all have someone controlling the weight sled behind them. It doesn't take much to spook a dog with something coming up and hitting him from behind. Morgan's still getting over the buzz I gave him with my bike tire when he stopped in front of me. :-( I think you'd just have to watch the terrain so the sled does not come roaring up on him down a hill.
I'm in fairbanks. he would be pulling his own sled. with a little extra. duece doesn't mind getting hit in the back. he stops in front of me all the time, while doing whatever. I've sense quit stopping for him cause it was taking too much energy to stop, and get momentum up again. doesn't phase him a bit, or maybe he likes it. I think the hardest part is going to train him to stay in my tracks and not roam.