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Cadien Posted - 05/10/2015 : 12:16:56 PM

What would be a safe load amount per dog at 45-50lbs and 65-70lbs (dog weight)? Also, how could I calculate safe load amount for both sleds and dryland rigs (much less drag)?

Much of my mushing will be up in the mountains. Elevation gains of up to 3000 feet will not be unheard of.

Thank you!
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kissAnew Posted - 01/04/2016 : 4:01:47 PM
I will add this today though, it never ceases to amaze me the "new inventions" I see posted not only on SDC but all over the internet. For instance, "Seavy harnesses", "spreader sticks between tugs", "bungee neck-lines", "bungee tugs", "shock cords".
I've been mushing since I was 7(OMG! that's 50 years now), and I've used all those methods and more.
So I'll add atleast 1 here as it may be relevant to Cadien's initial start.
I purchased X-back weight-pull harnesses(the kind with spreader sticks) 2 sizs larger than I required for some of my dogs.
I cut off the chest and neck straps.
I replaced the single chest strap with dbl chest straps padded with dbl layer of fleece.
I replaced the neck straps with a collar. This is a 2" diam. tube(hand sewn closed with the seam away from skin/fur contact) made from heavy nylon covered in a layer of fleece, This tube has a core. The core is 3 strands of 10 gauge white metal wire which I braided. I used hydro electricity conduit. The back and chest straps are attached (looped around and sewn)to the wire core then through and sewn to the tube at 1/2' from the core. This causes a dimple keeping the "attachment" area away from skin and fur. Hair(animal)is stuffed hard, especially where the chest straps came into it(the tube)suspending the wire core in the middle, surrounded by said hair.
The chest straps have 2 cross pieces, 1 at the front just behind the breast bone(that little bump at the base of the throat) and 1 just ahead of where the ribs end and the diaphragm/abs start.
This works awesome for tandem teams, with "bungee necklines" and "spreader sticks" on "bungee tugs". This shortens the length of the mainline and increases payload. I now put 14 dogs where I used to put 10 and they are still spaced at 2'4" or so. It somewhat diminishes speed because of the fact the harness's spreader sticks bothered some of the dogs. Or more rather did till they got used to it and learned to keep the stick away from themselves by not being lazy. And I would think the extra weight (they can easily handle now for comfort reasons) would also be a determining factor for loss of speed. But I aint a racer so..... ...and my sleds are pretty heavy duty...
For single file teams I cut away the stick, loop the webbing and sew in tug loops. The main lines for the single file team have short "bungee tugs" of 1 foot with loops for 5/8" bronze snaps. The dogs end-up being 2' for nose to tail. This method makes for 4-6 dogs able to pull about 600-1200lbs of firewood at a fast walk or slow trot or a Qimmiq type pace(tolte?) for 8-10 miles no problem. problem after they're conditioned.
The above is a culmination of listening to my grandfather tellin me how he made his harnesses, the harnesses I first made, trial and error over the years and taking into consideration the fact it's sometimes easier to buy than make.

Note, Nylon and animal hair is airier and dries quicker and less likely to mould, mildew and rot as opposed to foam, fleece or felt.
My grandfather used canvas, leather, real sinew, moose and caribou hair.
Note, all the sewing I did by hand with artificial sinew and glovers needles as I do not have a sewing machine to handle the work.

kissAnew Posted - 01/04/2016 : 3:00:17 PM
I will consider the invite to post more about my grandfather. A lot of his "story" is of a somewhat "politically incorrect" nature, albeit very human and occasionally rather humorous, in that a great deal of the stories revolving around his mushing sound very much like sci-fi and/or The X-Files.
I recognize most humans are mentally ill-equipped to deal with what I grew-up with. I'm making reference of course to our human quality of judgmentalism in regards to not being able to relate.
I will also need to find ways to correctly and accurately translate.
I will also like to remain "on subject".
In the event that I feel safe in my ability to honour all 'points' I will share.
Again, thank you for the invite and the compliment.
smithy Posted - 12/01/2015 : 5:47:58 PM
Great post William thanks for the contribution .
sallydawson Posted - 11/30/2015 : 8:19:08 PM
William, Thanks for a great post! Hope you will share more (detailed?) memories of your grandfather's "traditional" mushing here.
kissAnew Posted - 11/30/2015 : 02:24:04 AM
My grandfather freighted for Hudson Bay Company and Indian Affairs in the early 1900's. He left Selkirk Manitoba with a little over 1600 lbs. Stopping here and there all the way to Churchill Manitoba with enroute excursions to many northern communities (where-ever there was an HBC store) he still had over a 1200lbs of mail, supplies and freight. On his return trip it was much the same. He left in early October from Selkirk and returned home (just north of Selkirk) in late April before breakup. His sled was a 16 foot long 18 inch wide ootahpun( old style toboggan) and the harnesses were very like work-horse collar-harnesses. His 9 dogs pulled single file. They were (the now exterminated(government plan)) Indian-dogs. His dogs were about the size of a wolf and looked awfully like such. My gran told me the dogs weighed 85-125 lbs each. (I came across an old faded and cracked B+W photo about 15 years ago but I have no idea where it is now.)

... yes, dogs are very powerful creatures.

I'm thinking it depends how far you want to go and how fast you want to get there..... and of course the condition your dogs are in and the conditioning they've got. I figure also that diet also plays a big role.
My grandfather's dogs ate fish and a little wild meat all winter and wild meat and a little fish in the warmer months. From my experience that's probably the best. At least for what I use my dogs for.
Now if you're on wheels on dead flat dry terrain you can probably load-up 1000 lbs and have 4 dogs just trotting along like nothing. Better have very good brakes though.
Log Dog Posted - 05/18/2015 : 02:22:12 AM
Sled dogs are stronger than most of us realize. I've hauled all sorts of things with 6 dogs. It's not a "per dog" calculation.

Assuming you are using a smaller team start by putting them in Seavey Harnesses. The Seavey's use them to help their dogs pull efficiently over 1,000 miles, but the harnesses also help dogs pull efficiently over 10 miles with heavier loads. Getting the pressure off the dogs' spines gives them a lower gear. It's hard to explain, but easy to see when you're on the runners. In an x-back harness the dogs have a minimum speed they need to keep the sled in motion or they just stop. In the Seavey rigs they can slow down and grind it out.

I had an 8 dog team in front of an 800 pound load of wood once. The sled got off the trail and I couldn't move it back on the track. I let the dogs break through a couple feet of snow mowing down trees and brush until we finally broke out of the trees and back on the tundra trail. They were pretty proud of themselves.

The final consideration when determining how much a team can pull is whether or not they must haul you as well. With 6 dog teams I got to ride the runners out to the woods or until we shot some caribou. Once the sled was full I had to run most of the way home. I caught a ride across icy lakes and ponds, but for the most part I was running. In my mid-30's I switched to a 10 dog team and got to ride on the runners no matter how big the load was.

Like Mitch said, if you're on a broken trail it isn't much of a concern. If you decide to get off trail or break out a trapline, start with a modest load (chainsaw, axe, thermos, lunch, snowshoes). Go until they get tired and then take them home. Add weight and distance as the winter progresses. They'll muscle up an build in stamina and confidence. By mid-winter you'll be amazed at what they can do.

Cadien Posted - 05/17/2015 : 09:51:11 AM
Thank you!
MSeavey Posted - 05/13/2015 : 04:33:18 AM
I say don't make it more complicated than it is. You won't actually hurt them physical with weight in the sled, unless you run over them with it. However,they may be unable to pull it at the speed and distance you want, which will be obvious because they will probably stop. You will then throw something or someone off the sled. If you do let them grind to a stop though, they learn bad things.

Anyway, unless you're huge or pack to be gone a long time, 6 good dogs can do anything you need with a good sled and some sort of a broken trail.

Just mush.
RSmith Posted - 05/12/2015 : 08:34:55 AM
Keep in mind RESISTANCE is probably the most important factor over actual physical weight. Ie. Keeping nice clean/waxed runner plastic.
I like to keep my team on tours with no more than 40 to 45lbs " each". For instance, 2 passengers and myself ( maybe 500lbs total ) is 35lbs with a 14 dog string, 41 lbs with a 12 dog, etc.
THEN you have to factor in snow conditions. 8 inches fresh lake effect is tough on feet and this same 12 dog team ( a lot of 45lb dogs ) would struggle to get much past a walk with that same 500 lb load.
Legs and size of the dogs matter too.
So, tons of factors here. You can't just put a number on it although I did here just for example. I often give tours here with 16 dog strings with only 2 passengers weighing less than 180lbs each. A few times I may take 3 passengers ( maybe 2 woman and a child, etc. ) on a super firm nice trail and only run 8 dogs and they will move along at 14mph or whatever.
THEN, like you said, factor in hills and it gets even more challenging.
So good luck figuring out. LOL
Cadien Posted - 05/11/2015 : 7:24:32 PM
Thank you.

The inclines are more gradual than not--spread out over 15-20 miles or so. I have plenty of trails to run that are flat, so it's not like I'm set on going up in the mountains. I thought it would be fun to get into trapping and run a trap line. The mountains are really the only place for that kind of thing. It'll all come down to the safety of my dogs, though. I don't want to hurt my co-workers and friends.

I should have clarified that I would definitely not try those kinds of elevation gains on a rig.

This is all in the future. I don't have a team yet. I only have experience with rigs, so I'm trying to figure out the difference in terms of drag and safety.
CrazyDaisy Posted - 05/11/2015 : 09:24:45 AM
Distance, speed, fitness level and total number and type of dogs you have to work with are all huge factors here and you have to be more specific about those to get any useful advice.

With recreationally minded dogs you might bump up on a mental barrier before they've reached their physical limit.

Because of all those variables as well as the differing attributes of individual dogs, I don't think this is something you can calculate. It seems to be more a matter of using other people's experiences as data points and then experimenting from there.

Just be careful you don't take them over the limit, you may mentally ruin them before hurting them physically. I think I did that with my first dog hauling me on roller blades when it was too warm and she never gave me her all after that. If your dogs seem to get really tired, you either need more or different dogs, more breaks or less weight, speed, or distance.

For trotting dogs I read that they can pull their body weight all day. That means they can probably safely pull more than that over shorter distances. It also depends on how many breaks you want to take and if you are willing to get off the sled and help them on steep hills.

Most of my experience has been with high drive sprint dogs that are limited in distance and would rather lope intermittently with breaks than trot continuously.

I have gone up 1000 feet vertical over 2 miles with 3 dogs, always loping but with a break every few hundred yards. With 5 dogs I only needed one break in the middle. With me + sled they might have been pulling 150lbs and the total length of run would have been maybe 6-8 miles, including the fairly steep uphill and downhill and a slightly flatter but undulating section at the top.

I have camped out with 3 sprint dogs and one recreational dog, not sure what the sled + me weighed, but I'm guessing ~200 to 240 lbs. On the steepest hills I got off and went out front beside the dogs with a rope and helped them pull the load up. The distance was fairly short, but longer than our usual runs, ~10 miles, but lots of up and down.

Not sure if it is safe to do those kind of elevations or any kind of long distances on a rig. Even with low drag it is hard to pull a rig up a hill unless the ascent is spread over many miles. You'll probably burn up the brakes on the way down and I'm not sure it is safe for the dogs to work that hard in temperatures above freezing. They are usually not in the greatest shape yet in the fall and hills are dangerous to do when it is the least bit icy even if your rig has studded tires. People use quads to run in those kind of conditions. With a scooter and two dogs (~70 lbs per dog) I do only up to 4 miles with only very small hills, but running pretty fast.

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