I am always looking for new activities that my dog and I can enjoy together! However, growing up in the sunshine state of Florida, skijoring was not in my vocabulary! What is skijoring? And what did I miss out on?
Skijoring is a winter sport in which a person on skis is pulled by a dog. It is derived from the Norwegian word “skikjøring,” which means “ski driving.” Skijoring is believed to have been a form of winter travel in the past, but now it is a competitive sport and favorite winter activity for people and dogs to do together.
The overall experience feels like snow skiing meets water skiing!
You will need at least one to three dogs, a pair of skis, and a pulling harness. If you are reading this, you most likely love dogs, and you know that the way to improve on most activities is to add dogs! Skijoring is a fun way to keep you and your dog healthy during the cold winter months. If your RVing dog is accustomed to winter travel, this could be a fun pastime to make your travels even richer.
Will My Dog Like Skijoring?
Does your dog like the snow? That will be your first indication that this may be an enjoyable sport for you both. Does your dog like to run? Is your dog quick to pick up new commands? If you answered yes–try skijoring!
Other traits of a successful skijoring dog include:
- A thick coat for warmth
- A leash-puller
- Stiff and thick paw hairs
- A dog that obeys voice commands
- A dog that is well-socialized with other dogs and people
- A dog that does not have a strong prey drive.
Experts recommend that dogs who participate in skijoring be at least 30 pounds, and preferably 35 pounds. German Short Haired Pointers, Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Dalmatians, Border Collies, and Golden Retrievers are just a few of the breeds (and mixes thereof) that are known to like skijoring and are seen in competitions in the states. Find a dog skijor race near you.
Dog sports require lots of patience! You both have much to learn at first, and will most likely not be successful at the beginning.
Is Training Needed To Participate In Skijoring?
If you are going to try skijoring with your dog, you should be comfortable on cross-country skis. Your skill level will significantly impact the success you have with your dog. Before hitting the trails, or signing up for a skijoring race, spend some time practicing at home or enlist the help of a skijoring club near you. This sport has grown in popularity, and resources are available online to guide you.
Many enthusiasts like to use clicker training and positive reinforcement. Begin training on dry land before hitting the snow, and let your dog get comfortable with all the new equipment before you begin teaching commands. Get familiar with line-out training and directional training.
Training is essential to learn safety points, such as never pulling by the collar. This can put too much pressure on the neck vertebrae and can restrict breathing. Pulling on a collar can also permanently damage the dog’s trachea.
What Equipment Do I Need To Purchase For Skijoring With My Dog?
For you, skis are your first essential purchase. Make sure the skis have no metal edges in case you and your dogs should get tangled up, because you could both get hurt. Most skijoring people use classic style skis, but others use back-country style skis. Try visiting a reputable ski shop for help on picking the right skis, boots, and bindings.
A quality pulling harness and belt for your dog are available online from companies like Ruffwear. Ruffwear has a complete Omnijore system which includes the three essential components of skijoring gear; the harness, hip belt, and bungee tether or tug line. Be sure not to purchase a dog walking harness to save money, as these are not built for active pulling.
Find other cold-weather accessories for your pet at Camping World so your ski-partner stays cozy off the slopes.
The tugline or towline is made with elastic to absorb shock. You will want to choose one that maxes out between 5-10 feet to accommodate your skis, and that will give you enough distance between you and your dog to stop.
You may also want to invest in treat pouches or water bottle holsters that you can attach for your day of intense activity.
For your clothing, be prepared with the right apparel and footwear: a high-quality base layer, a warm coat, a breathable pair of water-resistant pants, UV protection glasses, leg gaiters, and a neck gaiter. Be wary of wearing scarves as these can snag on obstacles like tree branches and cause serious injury. Well-insulated gloves are also a must; just make sure that they are flexible enough to quickly release a tug line in an emergency.
Where Can My Dog And I Go Skijoring?
Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Colorado will rent dog skijoring equipment, and they also have classes that you can take on how to improve your skills. The many miles of trails are calling your name nestled around the edge of Colorado’s Continental Divide.
Loppet Foundation in Minnesota has introductory lessons for you first, and then you can have another lesson with your dog out in the snow!
More and more park systems are now welcoming dog skijoring fans. Many nordic ski parks have open trails for dog skijoring. And at the beginning of your skijoring activities, you may want to look for empty parking lots or athletic fields; just make sure you are not trespassing!
What Benefits Come From Skijoring?
I am a fan of any activity that gives me more time with my dogs. I have also found that learning provides an excellent outlet for us in the winter months when I am more prone to seasonal depression. Skijoring can tighten our bond with our dogs and give them a new purpose at any age as long as their health allows. The winter months may give some an excuse to stay inside and cuddle. But what would your dog rather be doing? Perhaps skijoring! Burn some calories, spend time together and have the fun that you never knew you were missing out on.
If it is true that our dogs can make us better versions of ourselves; give your dog that same opportunity. Trying something new like skijoring doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. Skijoring can provide both of you the chance to grow and bond while staying active and healthy in the winter months!
Are you going to try skijoring with your dog? Tell us in the comments below