All About Roading Harnesses by Steve Snell
Roading Harnesses are designed for exercising your dog. Nothing builds muscle, wind, endurance, and heart like roading. Most of my experience in roading dogs comes from the bird dog world, but it's a great activity for all breeds of dogs and is a perfect way to both exercise your dog and burn off all that extra energy that they build up during the day.
The idea behind "roading" is to transfer leash pressure off of your dog's neck and distributes it across his chest and shoulders. Roading provides resistance and is similar to weight training for humans.
We sell harnesses that are adjustable to fit most sizes and breeds of dog. We have harnesses that are made from leather, nylon, and duralon. Many of our harnesses are designed so you can add additional resistance by adding extra weight for the dog to pull with logging chains.
Put your dog in a harness and slowly walk him down the road. Pulling is a natural thing for most dogs, and once the pressure is off their necks they tend to pull even harder. You need to be prepared for how strong you dog might already be and brace yourself. A big part of the resistance comes from you holding the dog back. Many of my young dogs are solid muscle and they can drag some folks down. I dig in my heels and hold on tight. It's a great workout for both of us.
Slowly build up the time and distance that you road your dog. I tend to work in 1/4 mile increments on a weekly basis and work my way up. This amount will vary based on the age and condition of you and your dog.
When I can, I like to road multiple dogs together. This creates competition between them and they all get a better work out.
While many folks road dogs off of horseback, trucks, and ATVs, I prefer to road mine on foot. I do most of my hunting on foot and I need the exercise in the off season as much as the dogs. I just incorporate roading into my daily workout. It also allows me some time to keep their obedience tuned up. We stop at road crossings and when oncoming traffic is headed our way. I always try to get a few "whoas" and "hups" (my turn command) in during every workout.
There are a few things to keep in mind when roading your dog including traffic, heat, and feet.
Traffic -- Roading requires a little longer leash or check cord than walking and you want to make sure your dog can't get out into traffic. I prefer to work in areas that have little of no traffic, but that isn't realistic for most folks.
Heat -- Heat stroke is a major concern. Most dogs that have any amount of drive will work way past the point of safety. Always keep an eye on the temperature and make sure your dog gets plenty of water. I prefer to road my dogs early in the day before it warms up or after the sun has gone down during the spring and summer.
Feet -- Keep an eye on the condition of your dog's pads. One of the advantages of roading is that it will help keep his pads in shape during the off season but you want to make sure that you give them time to toughen up especially if you work on pavement or rocky areas.
Harnesses are not designed to be worn without direct supervision. It's unlikely that a dog would hurt themselves wearing one, but most of them are easy to "back out of" and are not designed for a dog to wear when he isn't being worked. They are also not designed to put on a dog that is being tied out or on a stakeout chain.
Adding roading to your "free running" and swimming exercises will increase muscle, wind, and drive. It's a great way to keep you and your dog in top shape. -- STEVE