Skijoring--Winter Fun for You and Your Dog
Does your dog love snow? Do you love to ski cross-country? Want to try something a little different--something that your CBF can do with you--try skijoring, which is kind of a mix of cross-country skiing and dogsledding.
It All Started When...
Someone had the idea to let their pup pull them on cross-country skis. Nobody knows for sure where exactly the sport started, but it seems to be a variation of an older Scandinavian sport known as pulka (no, not polka--no canines dancing here!). All that's required is a person on skis harnessed to a pup that wants to pull. Since most dogs have an innate desire to pull (and anyone walking a young, strong, large-breed pup will attest to this!), there's not much training involved on the animal's part, other than not pulling the skier into a tree. (Ouch.) Competitions are held in many areas of the United States, Canada, and Europe--pretty much anywhere there's a lot of snow in the winter.
Not much equipment is required for skijoring. All you really need (besides at least one canine) are cross-country skis, poles, and the right harnesses to attach the animal to you. You can use one dog--or more if you like. (One to three is the norm.) The animals are hitched to a dogsled harness, the skier wears a harness, and the two are joined by a length of rope, usually about 8 feet in length, longer if more than one animal is used. Special skijoring harnesses are available, which clip to the skier's waist and may also have leg loops to further stabilize it. Some participants use a rock-climbing harness. Since there are no reins to guide the animals (this ain't no horse and buggy ride!), they must respond to the skier's commands.
You won't usually see a pup under 35 pounds skijoring, but since the skier can provide some of the power if necessary, all it really takes is an enthusiastic canine puller to get moving. You'd think that this sport would appeal mainly to the northern breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, and Samoyeds--but any energetic bow-wow will do.
Skijoring competitions may be held by a local club, or they may be sanctioned by one of three international organizations: ISDRA (International Sled Dog Racing Association) for the United States and Canada; ESDRA (European Sled Dog Racing Association) for Europe; and IFSS (International Federation of Sleddog Sports), which sponsors World Cup races everywhere and also holds a World Championship race every two years.
Most races are between 5 kilometers and 20 kilometers in length. At the World Championship races, teams are separated by gender (the skiers, not the animals) and whether the team has one dog or two.
Training your pet for skijoring is similar to training him for dogsledding, as the commands are the same for both sports. The commands are:
2.Gee or Haw--to turn to the left or to the right
3.Whoa--this is a no-brainer
4.On by--this means 'please ignore any distractions'
Speaking of distractions, the animals must be trained to avoid distractions and to keep moving in the commanded direction. During competition, the team may be passing another skijoring team, and it's not a good thing if one pup decides it's time to wander over to the other team for a friendly 'hello' sniff!
The skiing strides used for skijoring are the same as for cross-country skiing--the 'classic' diagonal stride, unless racing, in which case the 'ski-skate' stride is used. Skis are hot-waxed from tip to tail to keep 'em sliding smoothly and the pups running swiftly. (Imagine rapidly gliding along, and then your skis stick suddenly in the snow...not a pretty sight.)
Happy skijoring!! Stay warm, and have fun!!
You and your dog are primed to hit the ski trails! Want more athletic fun? Visit our pages on Agility, Flyball, and other sports!
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