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 Adding a second dog--what to look for

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LauraBat Posted - 02/16/2015 : 1:50:10 PM
Hello, long time lurker and new poster here. My husband and I have but one dog and we sort of fell into the world of mushing sports in an attempt to wear him out. Two years later, my husband has competed in one-dog bikejor and skijor for a couple of seasons and we're thinking it might be nice to add a second dog. My husband could compete in the two-dog classes, run a faster dog, and I could go on rec "mushes" without having to pedal or ski madly in a futile effort to keep up. And we could get a sled . . .

Anyway, I'm wondering if there is anything in particular we should look for, especially things beginners (though experienced dog owners) might not think of. We're looking at Alaskans, pointers, eurohound types, preferably young.

Two specific questions I have is does size matter? I've seen teams of dogs with some wide variation in height, but wonder if that would be a problem with skijor/bikejor. Our dog is not tall and doesn't have the longest legs.

How much aptitude for running solo and in a two-dog team should a dog demonstrate initially?

thanks, in advance, for any advice.

8   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Dougskijors Posted - 07/07/2015 : 4:45:51 PM
My two eurohounds from Roy Smith have brought me great joy.
They are about 30-32 kg, quite leggy.
But even with two near-sized brothers there is a difference in top speed and drive between them.
And at least skijoring, 2 dogs is ~3-4X the power of 1 dog. They spur each other on and even out the pull.
In good conditions, with a wide trail, and the first kilometer a gentle up hill, and someone to help me get started, 2 dogs are hoot.
But the rest of the time I usually do single dog these days.

With sprint dogs, the crazy lunging at the start can be irritating. I often wonder if a calmer dog would be better on average. But when we are flying along, there is nothing like it. If there is a next time, I might try for a pair longer distance dogs.
I have more or less trained mine to wait at the start when they are single.
But the two together are democratically minded; 2 outvote 1, LETS GO NOW!

In Massachusetts I think you want a thin coated dog. One of mine has a (short) double coat, and he is far more sensitive to heat than his brother with a single fine coat.
D0gsledboy01 Posted - 07/06/2015 : 4:22:01 PM
What is a euro hound exactly?
LauraBat Posted - 02/18/2015 : 11:55:33 AM
Yikes, that must have been so frightening. Glad that snowmobiler was able to help you out and that the poor guy is feeling better. I hope you can find him a better situation.
CrazyDaisy Posted - 02/18/2015 : 08:28:24 AM
Yes that was me at Auburn, I remember you guys! Your dog was so hardworking. I'm planning to race in New England (probably Tamworth and Westbrook 2 if it happens) so I may see you there.

I noticed you trying out one of the Carter dogs and that may have been a good bet.

Be picky. Don't worry, even if one good one got away there will be another, but not recessarily on you ideal timeline. From my own experience good dogs are easier to find than good human partners.

I only ever bought one dog I didn't see and test for compatibility with my other dogs. This was one of the two that I ran in the 2-dog scooter there. I now know that was a mistake, all three of my other male dogs ganged up on him and bit him badly and they did that twice now. The second time he was in harness leading my 4 dog team, and at that point everybody was neutered and even that didn't help. It was cold and far from the road and only the help of passing snowmobiler prevented this from becoming a survival situation (at least for the dog, who got so badly wrapped in the gangline that he could barely defend himself). My hands were very close to frostbite. I think all the provocation they needed to attack him was that he slowed up a bit in the front, we were going way faster than ever before, and just moments before it happened I thought "What a wicked race team, I will clean up at the races with these guys". The incident delayed my racing for a month.

The dog is recovered now, back in harness, but I am keeping him strictly separated from my other males and think I need to place him with someone else so that this never hapens to him again and he doesn't live his entire life in a crate. I doubt he'd be suitable for you. I haven't yet been able to get him to skijor without a partner but will keep working on this. I don't know how he would get along with another male dog, all a matter of trying, but he may be better off at a place with only females.

He double skijors just fine with my 11 yr old female who wasn't part of that fight. Those two are very mismatched, both in size and ability, but even her running mostly with a loose tug just trying to keep up spurs him on and we have fun. I'll probably race them together, but won't win, this is basically one-dog with a millstone around his neck masquarading as a two-dog team pulling a bad skier.

I wanted a big dog so I picked him, at 63 lbs rather than his smaller 53 lb littermate brother who was known to get along with at least two of my dogs because they grew up in the same kennel. If considering a dog unknown to mine, I probably should have picked a female. Hindsight is 20/20.
LauraBat Posted - 02/17/2015 : 11:16:22 AM
Thanks for the great advice and input CrazyDaisy! It's helpful to know that it might take looking at a dozen dogs. Will also have to keep in mind trying dogs with or dog and without.

I think we're going to aim for a dog between 50-65 lbs. My husband is a strong skier, and not a big guy. (Actually, you might remember him, I believe we were parked next to you at the Auburn, NH, rig race back in November. Orange truck, pit bull).

I think our race plan is to give our current dog another season or two, maybe in a two-dog team, and then run the newer, faster dog solo. Our dog isn't so fast, but he's so happy racing that it might be hard to leave him at home or in the truck come race time. :)
CrazyDaisy Posted - 02/17/2015 : 10:03:34 AM
I learned everything the hard way; picked each new dog with trial and error, but each time I learned something. I have seven dogs now, and am doing pretty good with skijoring to the point where my skiing is a weaker link than the dogs. By the 4th dog I had figured out how to pick a good one. Only one, the second one, was a complete dud, I got him from a shelter in the spring, didn't get to try him out. Dogs #1 and #3 were a bit leisurely, they were good to learn with and are now retired. For years I skijored with #1, #3 and #4 together, they were small 35 to 45 lb females.

Two mismatched dogs can still run together and have fun. If you get a top competitor your other dog may end up getting dragged unless you always snowplow a bit to keep the lines tight on both. I've run dogs in races with up to 4" height difference, and speed differences matter more. You are going to have to think really hard, and have discussions with your husband, about exactly what your goals are, whether race performance of the new dog alone outweighs what they may be able to do as team. With two you can train on a small sled in marginal conditions where it is unsafe to skijor.

If you or your husband hope to do serious racing, get a Eurohound, purebreed German shorthaired pointer, Greysther (pointer + greyhound) or very racy built Alaskan husky. For single skijoring get one >50 lbs, preferrably 60-75 lbs, depending on how powerful a skier you are. One that's too heavy will tire more quickly, and often the 75 lbs + dogs don't have a very long racing lifespan, loosing top edge speed after age 6. Go to the races, talk to the top competitors. Some here in Canada get their dogs all the way from champions in Norway.

Your skiing ability will matter a lot, and it is possible to sour a good dog if you fall all the time, jerk the dog aroud accidentally, and hit them with your skis.

Try the dog out, both alone and together with the other one. If there is something glaring that doesn't work, or something really irritating, don't buy. After I figured out that I'd have to get more selective than picking any old sled dog, I've rejected probably 15 dogs I tried out. Some didn't try to lope, only trotted. Some didn't pull hard up hills, some humped my other dogs, some ran fine on sled, but on skis wouldn't leave momma's side.... Don't buy if there is any indication that the two dogs don't like each other.

Even if there is no issue during the trial, some will crop up later, so don't make more work for yourself than you have to. So don't get a dog that won't stay out front by themselves and as part of a two-dog setup. They MAY learn to do it but it isn't guaranteed.

With a yearling you'll have a reasonable idea of how they will suit you, but they will probably still be pretty crazy and distractible. A two year old that has skijor raced before would probably be best. I wouldn't recommend a puppy that's just being harness broken now, unless you try one and it is perfect. One of mine was the most distractable, leisurely pup, then turned into a great yearling, my other pup was pulling hard right from the start. I got lots of dogs as young to middle aged adults before I tried to raise a pup.

Many of my dogs came from outside kennels, but they all ended up adapting well to the house after peeing on the floor a few times. Most skijorers keep theirs in the house.
LauraBat Posted - 02/16/2015 : 6:20:44 PM
Originally posted by m04a17

I'd guess there is no shortage of great dogs in your neck of the woods. You might want to try to contact someone from one of the better performing kennels in the Northeast, even if they don't have a dog, they'll likely know someone who does.

Thanks for the input Matt!

I had not thought of coat difference at all! Also, is the disparity between a smaller dog and a larger leggier problematic just because the smaller dog will slow the large dog, or does the difference in stride length make them less coordinated as a team?

We do have a lot of great competitors in the Northeast and we've put out the feelers and have started to try dogs. (In retrospect, I realized that out we had passed up on awesome prospect because I was leery of taking the first dog we tried, my husband is still peeved about that!)

We can get a max of two dogs in our home, so I think we may be better off with a younger dog (current dog is almost 5). Or moving.

I am continually amazed (and a little frightened) at how quickly sled dogs seem to accumulate. :)

m04a17 Posted - 02/16/2015 : 4:16:41 PM
. . . we sort of fell into the world of mushing sports in an attempt to wear him out.

That's exactly how we started out. By the time we added our fourth dog, our original first dog could no longer keep up with the others.

So I'd caution you to keep in mind, you're only as fast as your slowest dog. If your goal is to run them together, your primary consideration has to be to match the new dog to your existing dog.
Things like:
  • Speed
  • Distance
  • Coat (the thin coated hounds, can push dogs with more fur too hard in dryland conditions).

From a competitive stand point, the top sprint racing skijor/bikejor dogs are mostly big pointers (and some eurohounds) with long legs.

From what you've said, these bigger leggy limited class sprint dogs might not be a good match for your existing dog.

That being said, there are a lot of open class sprint dogs and distance dogs that are pretty small. I'd encourage you to consider seeking out an older dog or slower dog that's been cut from a race team - try before you buy.

I'd guess there is no shortage of great dogs in your neck of the woods. You might want to try to contact someone from one of the better performing kennels in the Northeast, even if they don't have a dog, they'll likely know someone who does.

Good luck,

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