Skijoring – Get Your Dog on the Trail

Skijoring

Skijoring is simply cross country skiing with a motive force to help move you along.  The word comes from the Norwegian skikjøring meaning ski driving.  You are basically on skis driving along with the help of your engine.

Skijoring With Your Dog

Skijoring

Skijoring
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While skijoring can be done with horses or even a motor vehicle, many people enjoy getting out with their dogs.  If your dog likes to pull you along and is inclined to go in the desired direction, or if you can train the dog, you can do some skijoring.  Smaller dogs, of course, don’t have the strength to do much pulling or the ability to handle deep snow very well, but you can still propel yourself while letting your dog do what they can.

For more serious skijoring you will want a larger dog.  If you are into speed, huskies are a good choice.  Malamutes are a better choice if you want a stronger dog that does’t take off quite as fast.  Any larger dog, like a retriever, German shepherd, pointer or setter, can also work.  No need to get a new dog;  give yours a try first.

Equipment

The key to making this sport work is to have your dog properly attached to you.  As a kid,  I’d hold my beagle’s leash and let her try to pull me.  It didn’t go well.  She didn’t like it much and you wouldn’t either if you were choking yourself while trying to pull with your collar.  The most critical equipment need is a harness for your dog like those used for sled dogs.  Next you need a tow line to connect your dog to yourself and, finally a belt for yourself that will stay in position without cutting into your body.  The photos above and below shows what a properly equipped skijorer looks like.

Skijoring with UltraPaw

This skijorer is using the Ultra Paws Basic Skijor Package.  The package includes an adjustable harness (for dogs with a 12 to 24 inch collar and 30 to 75 pounds in weight) that crosses over the dog’s back where the attachment point is located.  It is also well constructed and properly padded.  The webbed tow line has an integrated bungie system so that your ride remains smooth as your dog changes up its speed.  The hip belt that you wear is adjustable from 32 to 44 inches and sits at the hips over your clothing.  It also has a quick release system in case you need to get free in a hurry.  A special tacky coating on the belt helps it stay in place and not slide around on your clothing – a nice touch.

In many cases, snow conditions can be hard on your dog’s feet. A set of rugged dog boots will protect their feet and keep them happily involved.

Competitive Skijoring

As with any sport of this nature, some people want to make a competition of it.  Skijor races typically take place on groomed tracks where the skier can skate along at a rapid pace.  Is some cases a skier may have up to three dogs on their team.  They typically run from 5 to 20 kilometers in length and are often offered in conjunction with sled dog races.

There are sometimes local races, but major events are sanctioned by the International Sled Dog Racing Association in the United States and Canada, European Sled Dog Racing Association in Europe, and the International Federation of Sleddog Sports that sanctions World Cup races all over the world.  If you have a competitive streak, you can probably find a race in which to compete.

Video

Here is a short video with an introduction to skijoring and a look at a local skijoring event.

Credits

Further Reading

Ski Spot Run Book Cover

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Skijor With Your Dog Book cover

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