Strange but true: dog mushing in Israel

There may not be snow, but dryland dog mushing is now taking hold in Israel.

Mush!

That term, associated with dogsledding in Alaska, is entering the Hebrew lexicon as an avid “dryland musher” named Arie Schwarz is promoting the sport in his homeland as a great activity for big and medium-sized dogs and their owners.

Schwarz is using the Headstart crowdfunding platform in hopes of raising $11,000 to translate and publish his book, appropriately titled All About Dryland Mushing, into English.

The father of three relates that he left a successful career as a lawyer to devote himself to canine pursuits. He has served as chairman of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, and as a certified FCI judge for Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes.

A keen dryland musher, he manufactures dorsal hitches, single-shaft dog carts and designated harnesses in Israel under the brand name Dofunit. He has also volunteered with autistic children using dog therapy.

Popular in several countries, dryland mushing – also called cani-cross or urban mushing – involves a harnessed dog pulling its owner on a wheeled vehicle such as a bike, cart, sulky or scooter.

Schwarz says dryland mushing is a positive training tool for difficult dogs, and gives all dogs a sense of self-esteem, focus, meaning and a job to do. For the human partner, it’s great exercise and does wonders for kids with disabilities, he adds.

“Riding a dog cart, and having hands-on experience with dogs in the great outdoors, contribute immensely to the child’s concept of their inner world, self-confidence, self-esteem and happiness,” he writes on the campaign page. “Just imagine a kid restricted to a wheelchair sitting on a dog cart riding in the woods, or a dog sulky with a young child trotting along a cancer center yard. Their smiles tell the story about how dryland mushing makes a difference.”

Since he introduced dryland mushing to Israel two years ago, the Givatayim resident has gotten 700 active members in his Facebook group and leads group rides almost every weekend around the country.

About Abigail Klein Leichman

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.