Forget what you think you know about winter dog sports. While dog sledding races like the Iditarod might get most of the press, dog sledding isn't the only winter sport that humans and dogs enjoy together. You don't need to own a team of Northern breed sled dogs to enjoy dogsledding's simpler offshoot - skijoring.
Skijoring, which is derived from the Norwegian word for "ski driving," requires one to three dogs, a pair of skis, and a pulling harness. Most outdoor winter enthusiasts already have at least two of those, and quality pulling harnesses and belts are available online for under $75. If you love cross-country skiing as much as your dog loves running through the snow, then you and your dog might have what it takes to try skijoring this winter.
Is Your Dog Ready To Try Skijoring?
Unlike dogsledding, most skijoring races are short. They usually run anywhere from 5 to 20 kilometers, which means almost any breed of dog can skijor without fear of surviving for days in the frozen tundra. Skijoring organizations recommend skijoring with dogs over 35 pounds for canine safety reasons, and German Shorthaired Pointers, Greyhounds, German Shepherds, Dalmatians, Border Collies, and Golden Retrievers are just a few of the breeds seen at skijoring competitions in the states.
Regardless of their breed, your dogs need to love to run, consistently obey their training, and respect other dogs if you wish to compete with them in a race. Dog races, just like other canine events, are full of strange people and dogs. The last place you want to be in the middle of a dog fight is on skis.
Getting Started With Skijoring
Before you sign you and your dog up for a skijoring race, you need to spend some time practicing at home or with the help of a local skijoring club. Dog sports require patience and training if you want to have fun and stay safe. Luckily, as skijoring grows in popularity in the states, the amount of online resources available to beginning skijorers is also increasing. Take the time to learn the commands and make sure that training is fun for both you and your dog.
Finding Skijoring Competitions
Watching and participating in winter dog sports is both exhilarating and a little chilly. Bundle up this winter and see if there are any local skijoring races near you. Most dogsledding races hold skijoring races alongside traditional dogsledding and weight pulls, and if you are serious about skijoring then races are a great place to connect with other enthusiasts and learn more about this up and coming winter sport.
As dog lovers, we know that the best way to improve most activities is by adding dogs. Skijoring is a great way to keep you and your dogs active during the winter months. Once you've skijored, you'll never think about cross-country skiing the same way again.
Header image credit: PhotoBobil/Flickr