Jog with a dog


Cross country running with a sled dog, or canicross, is being offered in Sun Peaks for the first time. - Photo Jamie Shinkewski
Cross country running with a sled dog, or canicross, is being offered in Sun Peaks for the first time. – Photo Jamie Shinkewski

In an effort to expand services to summertime, Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures has brought a new style of running to Sun Peaks.

Co-owner Taryn Schwanke is taking small groups out on the trails three times a week with canicross, the sport of cross country running with dogs.

The dog is attached to the person with a harness and runs ahead, easing the impact and making running easier.

“If you’re able to time it right and feel the motion of it, the dog pulls you so you can make your stride longer by making them do the work,” Schwanke said. “It’s less impact than normal running and the motivation is easier because the dogs want to go.”

The sport is popular in Quebec and Europe, particularly the U.K., and Schwanke said she has been looking for new ways to keep the dogs in shape during the summer months.

“We do a lot of fall training come October once the lifts close and it cools down, but that’s starting fresh every fall. If we can keep them more active, then our fall training becomes that much easier too,” Schwanke said.

Schwanke can take up to five people per session and is going for runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. She said they go about four kilometres in an hour with lots of stops at creeks and in shaded areas so the dogs don’t overheat. Anyone over the age of 12 can join and it costs $10 for a drop in session.

“We’ve been sticking mostly to the cross country trails and staying on flatter things so you’re not doing too much incline. That makes it easier for people who are just starting or not all that in shape. It’s a good workout but it’s not too hard impact.”

Before the run, people put the harness on the dogs and Schwanke leads them through an introduction with some basic yet important commands the sled dogs use.

“The dogs do know their lefts and rights and they do have some commands that most pet dogs don’t learn but that are quite important for my sled dogs,” she said.

Mountain Man is also looking to include scooter and quad summer tours, although Schwanke said those likely won’t be available until next year as the dogs will require more training. The scooters, similar to the running, will be a one-on-one experience with the sled dogs and Schwanke said the plan is to have a tour set up on a specific trail.

“They’re specifically designed for sled dogs to pull. They’ve got big bike tires, disc brakes and front suspension. They’ll be good once we get them, but the dogs are sometimes a little bit nervous because it’s a different feel. They’re going to need some specialized training for them.”

They are also looking to offer tours with their four-passenger quad, which is what they use for fall training. The experience would be the most similar to the winter tours with six to 10 dogs, but Schwanke said there are still logistics to work out before the tour can be offered.