Dispelling the Myths About Urban Mushing
Despite the popularity of Urban Mushing, it is still largely misunderstood. People see a dog working in harness and may assume abuse. While there have been cases of mistreatment and abuse of sled dogs, too often people jump to conclusions without knowing what is really going on.
“You can’t push a rope” is a common saying in the urban mushing community in response to people who think that dogs are forced to run. Dogs run because they love to run. Or they don’t. No musher can force them to run. We know that. But real life Negative Nellies and online Trolls don’t. They are quick to lash out and attack what they don’t understand. Here are some tips for dealing with the haters.
You know this sport. You love your dogs. They love you. You are all out there having a great time because life is for living. So fight with facts! Explain how you have conditioned the dogs and what temperatures you run in. Go over safety gear, including proper fitting harnesses for your dog’s build. Make it clear that your dogs are not in any danger. You feed a proper diet, your veterinarian is on board and your dogs are healthy and fit. An educated, impassioned speech might convert them to a life of mushing, or at least get them to leave you alone.
Listen carefully to what they are saying, and correct any misconceptions. Overly concerned busy bodied citizens with little information can easily ruin good things for the rest of us. Every winter, petitions and videos from animal rights organizations calling for the ban of sled dogs sports circulate. There is plenty of false information out there already, so when met with criticism, listen carefully and correct any of their misconceptions.
You can’t speak for every musher and for every dog, but you can educate them about your own best practices and the careful attention and nurturing you provide your dogs. Educating someone about how well cared for your dogs are, how they are passionate about mushing, how much of a bond you have with each dog, that just might mean they don’t go to town council and have sled dogs banned on your local trails. Be an advocate for your dogs, other mushers and our sport. Who knows, you might even convince them to give it a try with their own dogs.
Join a Community
There’s strength in numbers. Meeting up with a group of fellow mushers provides support. Take to social media and search for groups of like-minded mushers in your area. If there aren’t any around, join a virtual network of mushers. Even if you don’t live in the same area, having their support can be meaningful. A good group to learn from means you will always be bettering yourself and your dogs.
Sometimes it all comes down to a case of a mean person being mean. They may not be worth your time. So in this case, simply ignore them. They don’t get the reaction they were craving; you don’t use up your time. Move along!
The best part about ignoring them? It doesn’t add any fuel to the fire. Walking away from a potential argument leaves them with nothing to say.
If you can’t change their mind, or show them reason, the best thing to do is ignore them. Fighting them will only serve to inflame them. Shaming them, no matter how tempting, will just mean that their anger will crop up elsewhere. We have seen how “well meaning” but ultimately negative people have successfully petitioned to have mushing made illegal in their communities. Ironically, this is the biggest act of cruelty is denying a dog the chance to run.
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: "Get outside and play with your dogs!
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