A few years ago, Orion Paiement, owner of Snow Caps Sled Dogs in Breckenridge, was looking for a way to exercise his dogs in the summer.
“I really wanted to offer scooter trips for the public, and I wanted to offer them safely,” he said. “I found with the testing that it was fairly easy to be on the scooters with the dogs pulling you and active people could handle it. But people would forget to watch that line in the tire, and then it gets sucked in and you’re doomed — it’s never a good thing.”
He searched and searched for something commercially available to solve the problem, and when he didn’t find anything suitable, he started experimenting with his own design.
“So I settled on a recoil, but even your normal flexi-leash breaks at about 200 pounds of force; they aren’t built that tough,” Paiement said. “So I really needed something tough. I made my original prototypes out of old seat-belt mechanisms that I got from some cars from a junkyard.”
Eventually, enough people requested their own recoil mechanisms to exercise their family pets that Paiement developed the Tug & Tow, a self-retracting tug line for dog-powered bikes and scooters. We got our hands on a pair of them and tried them with our active dogs.
Tug & Tow, in action
I had some initial concerns with the Tug & Tow. I tested it on a dual-suspension mountain bike, and the original mount did not fit well on the stem, below the handlebars. On a different bike, with a longer stem or space on the frame, it would fit better, but brake and shifter cables might get in the way. Long-term usage could lead to wear and tear on shifter cable housings or the leash itself. That said, the rope on the Tug & Tow is easily replaceable, and it would be feasible to do something about the cables.
As an alternative, I tried the Tug & Tow mounted just off-center on the handlebars. This mounting didn’t conflict with cables and worked very well, with slight occasional compensation for the off-center mount. The resistance on the pull system was enough to keep my husky-malamute, Ike, close to the bike and may have initially kept him from pulling. At times, he was too close, though still manageable. With a short extension attached, Ike maintained a safer distance. For most of the test, he ran alongside me. When he did pull, the system worked very well. On the whole, it is a well-built, sturdy and practical system. With a little more time for a pet to adapt to it, it can be a lot of fun.
— Sebastian Foltz
I have a front-suspension mountain bike with a different stem configuration, so the Tug & Tow fit snugly on the stem away from my brake cables. At 35 pounds, my Alaskan husky, Nika, is at the smallest end of the weight scale that is recommended for a dog to use the Tug & Tow, so I was worried at first that the resistance might be a bit much for her. I hooked her up with a standard mushing harness, similar to the ones in the pictures, which attaches to the line at the base of her back near her tail. I’m not the most coordinated person on a bike, so I was apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to control the dog and keep track of what I was doing.
Turns out, my fears were unfounded. Nika loved being able to pull as much as she wanted, rather than being restricted and made to heel on a leash. I was able to go much farther on the bike than I would have walking her, so she was able to get the kind of exercise her breed needs in a much shorter period of time than walking or running her miles and miles. With her constant pulling, the mechanism worked flawlessly, retracting and staying out of the way of my front wheel when I had her slow down to cross streets.
I’ve also tested the Tug & Tow on a scooter at Snow Caps Sled Dogs with two dogs on a split line. Even with two incredibly powerful huskies pulling me, I was still able to control the scooter, brake and bring it to a stop, and I could enjoy the scenery without worrying about the line breaking or getting caught up in the front wheel and flipping me onto my face.
— Krista Driscoll