Is there anything worse than cabin fever with an energetic dog? Many of us love staying active all year long with our dogs but we struggle with how to do so in cold weather. Winter’s next-best adventure may just come in the form of an activity you don’t even know about yet: skijoring. If you love to be outside in the winter and enjoy staying active with your dog, this might be your new favorite sport.
What the heck is skijoring? The word joring, originating from Norway, translates to “pulling” or “driving”. Dog joring means that your dog is pulling you along by any means of transportation, such as a bike (bikejoring), skateboard (skatejoring) or skis (skijoring). To put it simply, it is the practice of having your dog tow or pull you. It also applies to the sport of Canicross where your dog pulls you while you run. Additionally, any type of joring falls into the category of “mushing” which is defined as a sport or transportation method powered by dogs.
What do you need to get started?
- A love of being outdoors in winter weather! This includes both you and your dog.
- A dog who loves to run, weighs at least 30 pounds, and is in good physical health. To dispel any myths, you don’t need to have a Siberian Husky or a Malamute to get in on the fun. Breeds like Labrador Retrievers, German Shorthaired pointers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and many others would be great for the sport too.
- Your dog should know his basic obedience commands: Sit. Stay. Come. You can consider getting a book if you’re interested in training your dog with more skijoring-specific commands. Check out Skijor With Your Dog: Second Edition by Mari Høe-Raitto and Carol Kaynor.
- A pair of cross-country skis. You shouldn’t ever use metal edge skis to skijor.
- Harness: A pulling harness is very important. Do not use a neck collar as you could really hurt your dog’s neck!
- Tether: A tow line from the harness to your waist should include a bungee. For skijoring, you will typically need 8-12’ of line to account for the speed and ski tips.
- Human Waist Belt: A proper skijoring belt will ensure you are comfortable on the trail.
You can also consider purchasing a Long Hauler Joring & Canicross Kit that includes a harness, a line, and a waist belt.
Do your dog and yourself a favor and get some practice alone on your cross-country skis. Practice on a straightaway as well as going downhill and using a snowplow to stop. Make sure you are comfortable falling as well. Megan from @tansypup enjoys skijoring with her dogs and says, “Don’t be afraid to fall! I always want to keep skijoring a fun and exciting activity for Tansy and Crockett, so if suddenly one of them stops in my path or if one lags behind on a downhill, I immediately fall down to prevent any of the pups from getting bumped or pulled down.” Once you are ready to involve your dog, try out the harness in your backyard while you are still on foot before attempting it with the skis.
Be patient with your dog as you teach him something new. This new adventure will be very fun but will take a little time to get the hang of. Start slowly and increase sessions as you get going. Megan’s advice is to remember that this is a team sport! “Your dog is doing a lot of work pulling, but you are doing just as much work keeping the speed up while also giving verbal cues and encouragement!”
Consider seeing if there is a skijoring club in your area to watch or take part in local events. This can be a great way to meet people who are also interested in skijoring or a chance to watch those with more experience in action.
As a friendly reminder, you should never skijor on groomed cross-country skiing trails. Find a nice open area and let your dog pull you to beautiful places and new adventures!
Have you tried skijoring your dog? What tips do you have for beginners?
Brooke Spater oversees Social Media Marketing at Kurgo. Among other things, she manages the Kurgo blog and enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 kids, and their 90 lb. Goldendoodle named Baxter.