What is Skijoring?

A Fun Winter Workout With Dogs.

Skijoring is a sport where a person wearing skis is pulled over snow by one or more dogs (or horses or motorized transport). It is apparently derived from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning ski driving.

Skijor worlds racing - Heather Adeney, photograph taken at the IFSS World Championship race, Dawson City, Yukon,

Skijor Racing- Heather Adeney at the IFSS World Championship race, Dawson City, Yukon,

We are always looking for fun ways to get outdoors and exercise with our canine companions during the cold winter season.We heard about various friends who live north of Toronto with lots of snow trying skijoring. We saw an ad in our Events Section for Skijoring classes from our friends at the Red Barn Event Centre in Barrie last year so we decided to investigate. further.

skijoring photo of woman on skis pulled by one dog

D-Trek Harness Kit from Salty Dog Canvas

Photo care of Salty Dog Canvas where you can buy great dog sport equipment.

“Skijoring is an exhilarating and fast growing winter sport which combines cross country skiing and dog mushing. Originating in Scandinavia, skijoring allows a dog and owner to exercise together while enjoying the outdoors. Imagine yourself on a beautiful winter’s day gliding behind your canine best friend on a tree lined trail.” source: Skijor Now

All you need are cross country skis, your dog, a dog sled harness, your own belt or harness and a bungee cord lead or rope to get started. The skijoring line is usually at least 1.5 metres (8 feet)lon- maybe longer with more than one dog. The bungee cord lead attaches you to your dog’s harness for a fun hands-free way to cross country ski together. One to three dogs are commonly used. The cross-country skier provides power with skis and poles, and the dog adds additional power by running and pulling. The skier uses either a classic diagonal stride cross-country technique, or the faster skate skiing technique.

There are no reins or other signaling devices to control the dog; the dog must be motivated by its own desire to run, and respond to the owner’s voice for direction. They learn a few basic commands (like sledding) to go, stop and turn right or left. Apparently, it is a good idea to start training on foot using fun games to get your dog to pull you and understand the commands.

People who do it tell us it is a fantastic team sport, that builds and enhances the relationship between you and your dog as you learn to work as a team. Skijor races are held in many countries where there is snow in winter. Most races are between 5 kilometers and 20 kilometers in length. They are often combined with dog sledding in Canada and the US. The IFSS race pictured above took place in Dawson City, Yukon.

Dog Breeds That Enjoy Skijoring

Northern breeds like Alaskan Huskies, Malamutes and Siberian Huskies have traditionally been used for skijoring due to their instinctive will to run and pull, but any high energy dog 30 pounds or greater that loves to run and pull could be good. For example, the German Short-Haired Pointer is very popular in Europe and has recently won competitions. Golden Retrievers, Giant Schnauzers, Labs, and many cross-breeds are seen in harness. Pulling breeds work well also such as American Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, American bull dogs, and mastiffs. Unfortunately, I am not a good cross country skier and Kilo the Pug is too small although he does love pulling me and is pretty strong for short bursts.

Unfortunately, I am not a good cross country skier and have bad knees so I may just watch friends. Kilo the Pug is too small although he does love pulling me and is pretty strong for short bursts.

The sport is practiced recreationally and competitively, both for long distance travel and for short (sprint) distances. kirrawithharness3 A rule of thumb is that any healthy dog over 30 pounds who likes to run and pull can skijor. However please wait until your dog is physically mature (over 18 months old) and their joints are ready for the stress of pulling.   Always be sure that your dog is in good health, has plenty of water and that their joints are also in good health. Talk to your vet before starting any new sport. You also need to be a competent skier and fit enough to keep up yourself I imagine. Whether or not your dog is fast or slow, gets the hang of it first time out or not, the ultimate goal is to be a team and enjoy yourselves outside.

Stay Positive, Have Fun

Remember when training to only use positive, gentle techniques to help your dog learn to pull you. It should be FUN for both of you! Note: as with any sport, start slow and build up your dog’s endurance. Always warm up before activity and cool down afterwards both you and your dog. Be safe.

Happy Fit Dog Friday- thanks to our hop hosts SlimDoggy,  To Dog with Love and My GBGV Life.


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