Ridgebacks love to run. In my “previous life” with horses, my dogs could run with me over long distances and really satisfy their breed need. They were well trained to the horses (Ridgebacks seem to have an instinct for it so this makes things easier) and would voice command from a distance in front, behind and to either side of the horses. Since moving to Spain and living a life without horses, it has been harder to give the dogs their motivational run. They still get to run and play, but it is in a far less focused fashion, and focus (with a job to do) is by far the best thing if you have a breed specific dog. For dogs originally bred to run distances for hunting, this means running! We don’t currently have a scrambler bike (to which we had also trained them) and in our new location, cycling is much tougher and our human pedaling speed much reduced!
Sitting in a little cafe after a morning walk with the dogs, a programme appeared on the TV on the wall. It was a sporting channel, and the programme showing was about sled dogs. The dogs used were all breeds, most of which were rescue dogs, all harnessed together in a team of 12. It gave them exercise a purpose and great training. I thought it would be a fabulous thing to teach the Ridgebacks and wondered if there might be such a group in Spain and if so, whether they would be anywhere near to where I lived. As suspected, they are further north, mostly nearer areas that do occasionally experience snow, but their training is still mostly on wheeled sleds. While doing my research, I found a website called ChaloSulky and from watching the video clips I knew that this is what I wanted to learn for myself and to teach the dogs next.
Daphne Lewis of ChaloSulky has been amazing. She is helpful and supportive and I hope that soon I will be able to order my own sulky. For now, I have ordered the harnesses and will start training. As Daphne says “dogs love to pull” and often a daily walk does not use up all their energy. The sulkies can tackle rough ground as well as tar, so for us it is the perfect answer. Daphne sells all the equipment, develops new products and has a training manual. You can find all the information you need on her website and I have included a couple of video clips below. It is also possible to train your dog to pull a wheelchair and there is harness and information available to do this.
Once we have trained and I have finished my walking camino (and I have the sulky!), I plan to do a sponsored sulky drive along a different “El Camino” in order to raise money for one or two of the dog rescue groups here in Spain. Please follow us on the blog as that is where I will post news, video clips and training sessions.