Is it safe to run my dog?

You want to get out and run your dog, but looking at the temperature you’re not sure if that’s a safe choice for today. So, how do races decide whether it’s safe to run? And, can that help you decide if you should hit the trails today?

cold weather mushing
Brrr! Beautiful, but brrr!

Racing Temperatures

All races have a designated Race Marshall, one of their duties is to determine if the weather conditions are safe for racing.

Using the International Federation of Sleddog Sports 2021-2022 Race Rules, a warm daily temperature over 61°F (16°C) with 85% humidity may cause an event to be delayed or cancelled, no race will be run over 77°F (25°C) for Canicross & 72°F (22°C) for any other sport. With a low temperature minimum at the discretion of the Race Marshall. We’ve usually seen this evaluated around -4°F (-20°C).

Each racing organization will have its own rules for safe racing temperatures, but this gives us some hints at what may be safe for your team.

It goes without saying, that you should withdraw your team if you don’t feel it is safe for your team to race; regardless of what the Race Marshall decides.

Run Temperatures

When it comes to training and practice runs, you are the ultimate race marshall. You know your dog best and what heat or cold they can tolerate and continue to happily work…and what temperatures you happily work in!

On the too cold side, most of us wimp out before our dogs. -4°F (-20°C) is often a good rule of thumb as to whether you should go out. 

If you have a Northern breed, they might be happy to run in colder weather, but a thin haired pointer cross might be less than impressed. For me personally -4°F (-20°C) is my recreational cut off point. This is supposed to be fun, I am not having fun when my hands are frozen before I even get my dog’s harness on.

On the too warm side, the IFSS race rules allow for racing up to 77°F (25°C). I think for most dogs that’s going to be too warm to work. Potentially causing them to overheat.

For most teams an upper limit of 50°F (10°C) is probably more reasonable. In the fall when your dogs are acclimatized to the warmer summer temperatures they might be able to work when it’s a little warmer, but 50°F (10°C) when they aren’t used to the spring temperatures may cause them to overheat. 

I will take my dogs out when it’s warmer than 10°C but that’s typically for a slow canicross hike. Covering a short distance, off the pavement, and in the shade.

Northern breeds might overheat at much lower temperatures…like 32°F (0°C).

And conversely, if you live in a very warm climate your team’s “cold” weather might be my teams “warm” weather. So, use these guidelines, and your own experience with your dogs to come up with your team’s race rules.

Watch for any signs of overheating. Stop immediately and cool down your dog if they exhibit any symptoms of overheating, including:

  • Excessive panting and shortness of breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Changes in gum color or tongue (bright or dark red)
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Excessive thirst
  • Disorientation, stumbling or weakness
  • Vomiting

Keep it safe, have fun, and you’ll have years together on the trail enjoying this great sport.

If you’d like to earn some bling while putting in those training miles, Wheel Dog Titles are a great way to track your team’s progress. Join the League and start working towards your first Title today.

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