Pre-training for bikejor really is a thing, and it’s pretty much mandatory…for an enjoyable experience at least.
The checklist for determining if your dog is ready to bikejor goes something like this:
- Understands start / go / speed up commands
- Understands stop / ease-off / on-by commands
- Understands left and right turn commands
- Is suitably fit to run and pull a moderate load (even if you are helping)
- Has a well-fitted harness designed for dog sports (no, a Julius K9 is not appropriate)
Once your dog meets the above criteria, then you can start to thing about starting out (assuming the other core elements are also up-to-scratch; check here).
Points 1-3 above are all about communicating with your dog whilst on the trail. Although I can somewhat guarantee your first few outings will result in endless ignored calls…having some basework in beforehand can help when you really need it the most.
Teaching commands is fairly straight forward, and really is one of the easiest things to accomplish. All you need to do is use the same commands whilst walking, using these key terms to start, stop and turn left/right throughout your daily walks. On-by, ease-off, pick-up speed etc can also be taught whilst walking. Just consider the natural movements associated and endlessly repeat them until your dog actively appears to understand, only then, are they really ready.
What commands should you use? Well…it’s up to you. There is no absolute right and wrong. You’ll generally find a split between those influenced by traditional sled dog tuition and those who’ve migrated to bikejor from canicross and other ‘non-sleddy’ dog sports.
The traditional mushing approach is to use traditional mushing lingo:
- Start/Go/Speed Up – HIKE!
(Alternatives for Speed Up are often used as to differentiate – these are generally left to personal preference – we use ‘Get Up’, ‘Hitch Up’ etc. I don’t have an explanation as to why, other than our dogs like that sound.
- Stop – Whoa/Wow!
(I also use STOP! Because sometimes, when panic sets in, it’s useful for your default setting to be recognised)
- Slow Down – Easy!
- Turn Right – GEE!
- Turn Left – HAW!
- On By! – On By!
(Yep – it’s just as it sounds, use this to get past distractions in the trail or pass another team)
Harness for Bikejor
Minefield alert – it doesn’t matter what anyone says, there is no ‘best harness for bikejor‘. All there is, is the best harness for your dog – and sadly there’s only one way to discover what that is. (Yup, cue buying more and more kit)
There is some guidance we can give however, talk to people with similar dogs to you – dogs of the same breed and same size are your best bet – but start with any similarity you can, and see what they use. It won’t always work out, as similar as some dogs may be, their requirements for a bikejoring harness may still be leagues apart.
Don’t know anyone to ask? Fortunately the bikejor scene is going from strength to strength and with a lot of very experienced riders on our Facebook group The Bikejor Bible – you’ll be sure to find the best starting point for you.
Whenever it comes to equipment, people always want to know what brands and models. Well, here’s the thing, the likes of Non-Stop, Howling Alaska, Euro DC etc etc are all brilliant. They all suit some dogs better than others, but in general, going for a well used brand will do you good. But not all are available in all locations, so again use The Bikejor Bible Facebook group to locate people in your area who can recommend a stockist.