A Skijoring We Will Go!
By Lynn Whittaker
Bow Wow U
In a place like New England where winter is inevitable, dog owners are always searching for things to do with their pets during the dreaded winter months. I say get outside and enjoy the snow, and consider Skijoring!
And what is Skijoring you may ask? Well, Skijor (Ski-Jur) is a Norwegian word that means “Ski Driving”. It began with the use of horses or reindeer, and today dog owners strap on a pair of cross country skis, tie a tug line around their waist and to their harnessed dog(s), and away they go! What used to be a breed-specific kind of sport using sled dogs has now become a sport that virtually any breed can enjoy.
This great sport requires little in the way of equipment and start-up gear to get going. There are, however, specific harnesses the dog must wear for their own safety as well as yours. There is a belt and a long tug line that connects you to the dog. Some boots for your dog’s feet, your cross-country skis, and you are good to go.
The minimum size requirement for a dog is about 35lbs., but you can also harness more than one dog at a time, and having dogs that love to run is helpful too! Professional instruction is available, as well as recommended. Some great resources to investigate are local Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, or Mushing clubs for local competitions, or you can research on the internet. Skijoring needn’t be at a professional or competition level but can be at a recreational level which you and your dog may enjoy more.
Visiting a competition will allow you to see Skijoring in action, as well as place you in touch with people who do this sport regularly. They may be able to direct you in searching for proper equipment, training techniques, and how to work together with your dog. It is clear that there needs to be teamwork and a certain level of bonding and trust between teams. You certainly do not want to place a harness on an unprepared dog.
There are also specific training terms used to guide the dogs like, “Gee” (turn right), “Haw” (turn left), “On By” (leave the distraction alone), and Whoa (stop).
You should also consider conditioning your pet to walk in the snow and being out in the cold climate for brief periods of time, building up as you go. You don’t want to cause any damage to their feet. Using doggie boots is probably a good idea as well, especially if you have a breed that does not have excess fur between its pads. Your dog may require a coat too if they don’t have natural double coats or longer fur.
There is a lot of information on this growing sport, and if it sounds like something you and your dog might like trying, go and gather the information, get your skis out and have some winter fun!