Dog Mushing

Heading for the finish line

We’ve entered a new world here at SilverTree. Dog sledding and all its associated activities have become one of our new winter sports. Our oldest has become fascinated with all things mushing and as tends to happen around here the rest of us catch some of his enthusiasm.

There are lots of variations of dog sledding. Skijoring, where you ski while being pulled by a dog. Scootering ,where you ride a scooter while being pulled by a dog. Canicross, where you run while being pulled by a dog. I think you can see the general theme that develops. Essentially, musher sports are anything where some of your propulsive force is provided by a dog. It is tremendously fun and there is a wonderfully supportive community out there just waiting for you to join them.

As a woodworker I can’t help but to think of everything through that lens. Where’s the connection with dog sledding? When I start working on a chair I try to begin with the best wood I can find. Nice straight grain, tight growth rings, no knots or other defects. Same with mushing. You want to start with the best dog you can find. Good parentage, nice personality, the right breed. However well you begin, either with wood or dogs, you will find that both have personalities of there own. We were at a skijoring event last weekend and had left our dog in the car as we went to register for the race. She decided she’d rather not wait in the car and so (whether by accident or not) managed to get herself into the drivers seat where she proceeded to turn on the hazard lights and honk the horn until we came back for her. Personalities indeed!

The key, after doing your best to start well, is to work with you’ve got. The best sled teams are the ones where the musher and the dogs work together. They don’t expect their Malamutes to be as fast as their Alaskans but they know they will be able to pull a lot more weight. Even individual dogs will have their own strengths. The key is to know them well enough that you know what you can expect from them and how to motivate them to achieve their best performance.

We woodworkers know that some species of wood are better at some things than others. Cedar looks and smells great but maybe it’s not the best choice when strength is what you’re after.  Even individual pieces from the same tree will have different characteristics. You need to know it well enough that you know what you can ask of it. You’ve got to work together!

Oh and the coolest dog sleds are made of wood and involve steam bending. So we’re hooked.


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