Summer is a great time to have your dogs play outside and get as much exercise as possible. When winter comes, their exercise might be lessened due to the cold weather. However, there is one sport that your fur babies can enjoy. Skijoring is the best and most fun sport that you and your dogs can enjoy.
What is skijoring with dogs? Skijoring is part skiing and part sledding. Both human and dog wears a harness. Both are connected to each other by a tow line. Teamwork from both humans and dogs is needed to have successful skijoring.
Knowing this fun and energetic sport will help you and your dog get the exercise that you need during the winter season. In this article, you will learn what skijoring is, what gear to use, best skijoring dog breeds and safety precautions to take.
What Is Skijoring with Dogs?
If you are not familiar with skijoring, it is a wonderful winter sport for your furry best friend. It is part skiing, part sledding, part dog walking, and part trail running. It’s not only fun for the dogs but also the fur parents like you!
As per Wikipedia, skijoring is derived from the Norwegian word “skikjøring” meaning ski driving. It comes from Norwegian countries where cross-country skiing is very popular. Skijoring with dogs is also known as dog skiing wherein both humans and dogs wear a harness. Both the human and the dog are connected by a tow line.
This sport is done with the dog running in the snow while towing the human behind them on skis. This sport is almost like sledding without reins or whip involved. Now, you would have to keep in mind that skijoring would depend on the enthusiasm (plus energy, health and strength) of your dogs.
However, since this is a recreational dog sport, it is easier to learn than dog sledding. You have to take note that the dog is not doing all the work in this sport. The human needs to keep up or they might get taken for a wild ride. They might even fall face down on the snow because of the dog’s enthusiasm.
Those humans with a skating background would be good at this sport. What is key for beginners is the need to keep their balance and learn the motions quickly. When it comes to skijoring the effort is placed on the human instead of the dogs.
The dogs usually just run forward, assuming there are no distractions around. It is the human’s job to ski with the dog instead of waiting for the dog to fully pull them. The key to enjoying skijoring is to have your dog trained. The better your dog is trained, the smoother run you will have.
Skijoring Dog Breeds
Best dogs for skijoring
The best (and most obvious) best skijoring dog breeds include sled dogs. Those breeds are Samoyeds, Huskies, Chows, Malamutes, and other cold-weather breeds. However, other purebred dogs for skijoring include those that love to run and tow like:
- German Short-Haired Pointers
- Border Collies
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes.
Common traits of the best dogs for skijoring
If you want to size your dog up for skijoring, let’s see how they stack up with these common characteristics of the best skijoring dog breeds.
The best dog breeds for skijoring are medium to large athletic dogs.
For those owners who have small dogs, they should not force them to participate. It is always important to consider if your pet is the type to play fetch or less strenuous activities. Having said this, Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus are not the best dogs for skijoring.
The masculinity of a big-boned runner dog (strength) complemented with a thick fur for insulation is the best companion when doing this sport. You need to be confident your dog can adapt and thrive in cold weather and snow.
If your dogs love to tug on their leash down the street or get crazy every time they see snow, then they are great candidates for skijoring.
Skijoring dog breeds are known to have strong paws which allows them to move freely in cold terrains. They may differ in size, built, and insulation, they all have one thing in common which is the love for running, towing, and just simply having fun.
Not easily distracted
Another great trait that your dog should have is not being easily distracted with the surroundings. With the right equipment and gear as well as proper training, it can make any medium to large dogs a Class A skijorer.
The best skijoring dogs are the ones that can ignore other dogs that may come in their trails. Also, the best skijoring dogs enjoy the running so much, they are not distracted by smells like the tracks of other dogs, animals and spying field mice!
Best Skijoring Gear For You And Your Dogs
Now you know the best skijoring dog breeds and traits, it is important to get the right gear for the safety of yourself and your dogs.
|What You Need||Brief Description||Recommendation|
|Adjustable dog harness||Allows them to pull you along safely and comfortably (for them)||Ruffwear Omnijore|
|Adjustable human harness||Connects you to your dog’s bungee line|
|8-12 feet long shock-corded tug or bungee line||Connects you to your dog|
|Skis and boots for you in the snow||Connects your feet to the snow and enables you to glide along the snow.|
Harness for your dog
The pulling harness is very important.
If you will just use a neck collar, it can injure your dog.
It is best to get a pulling harness that is adjustable and not prone to any pulling or choking which may hurt your dog.
It is also a plus if the harness is easy to use so that you can just grab and go.
Belt or harness for humans
Having a comfortable harness for yourself is important. The straps should be adjustable and of course, it should be sturdy. If you plan to make skijoring as your professional sport, you would need to invest in a skijoring specific harness.
Shock corded tug line
This is one of the most important pieces of equipment that you may need during skijoring. Your shock-corded tug line should be at eight to twelve feet that can connect you and your dog. You would need enough length so that your dog can pull you easily.
It would also help you take control of a situation, should the need arise. You also have to make sure that your tug line is sturdy and can withstand any pulling that your dog may do.
What we recommend
Rather than buying 3 different pieces of gear for the dog harness, human harness and tug bungee line, Ruffwear has bundled all you need into one convenient kit. We review the Ruffwear Omnijore harness in more detail here.
Other stuff you need
You also need a pair of skis/boots for yourself.
A dog poo bag is also important so that you can keep the dog trail clean at all times.
Dog treats and snacks are always a good idea to bring especially when you are just training your dog.
It is also important to bring water with you because with all the running that a dog may do during skijoring, they may get thirsty and tired.
How to Get Started (Skijoring for Beginners)
If you love skiing and you have a dog that loves to pull as well as enthusiastic, then skijoring is the best sport for you. You might have heard of it from friends or videos online but you don’t know where and how to start. Here are a couple of things to take note of when you are just starting.
Well behaved best buddy
In order to make sure that you have the perfect skijoring journey, you need to make sure that your dog is well behaved in public. Your dog needs to interact with other dogs and other people in new situations without becoming aggressive.
They should not be overly frightened (skittish) or too unrestrained. Now, if your dog is not used to being well mannered and hasn’t socialized recently, make sure that you introduce them to public places until you believe that they can behave.
Knowing if your dog is physically capable
In skijoring, your dog needs to have the strength to pull you without the risk of them being hurt. This means that your dog should be big enough that you do not need to worry about crushing them during the ride.
You also need to make sure that they are fit and not overweight or they rarely get the chance to run. If they are not fit, you will be risking the chance of them getting injuries and can have a great consequence for the dog.
An unfit dog will not enjoy the experience of pulling and will be less likely to learn the sport itself.
Learn to ski
It is best to learn how to ski first before trying out skijoring with your dog.
Trying to handle your dog while you have a long plastic strip attached to your feet is hard enough when you are a skilled skier. If you do not have a strong skiing skill, it is best to practice first.
You need to feel confident in stopping, turning, going up and down the hills, as well as handling your poles gracefully.
Teaching your dog on how to pull
Once you have the right equipment, you can teach your dog to pull the harness before you go skiing. Make sure that you take your dog for a walk or jog in the harness that you would use for skijoring. You should ensure that you are only moving forward when they are pulling.
It is easier to teach them when you don’t have to worry about your skis hitting your dog if you get too close. There are plenty of online videos where you can learn how to properly teach your dog on how to properly pull. Remember, take baby steps, just like in the video below.
Watch skijor race or dog sled race
You can learn a lot from watching others race. Races can be fun to attend to, inspiring, and will expose you to a lot of different types of equipment and styles. Some athletes will teach you their best practices.
Others will teach you what not to do.
Please be aware that spectators are not allowed to bring their dogs during the races, so make sure that you leave your buddy at home while watching the races.
Wear protective gear as needed
Skijoring can be unpredictable. There are times that you might think that you got everything under control, but situations can change quickly. You can definitely fall over and hurt yourself and your dog/s. The trail can also be a danger to a person as well.
Even though there are no trees present in the typical skijoring trail, the ground can be pretty hard if you go over a bump that stops your skis. Icy patches are also present and can be a huge challenge.
Have fun and a laugh
Enjoying yourself (your pup too) is important too. You and your best bud may not be the best at skijoring, but you can still have fun while learning it and doing it. Your dog can easily pick up your mood.
Being joyful and laughing also increase your success in encouraging your dog to have fun as well.
Pick up after your dog
As mentioned before, it is always best practice to pick up your dog’s poop.
It is always great to bring some poop bags whenever you are in a public place.
Leaving messes in public areas will give a bad reputation to everyone who does skijor.
There are times where you can get banned from skiing areas that previously allowed it.
Can you go skijoring with small dogs?
Whilst small dogs could go skijoring, it’s unusual to see them participating. This is because their size means they can’t add alot strength (needed for pulling) or speed (momentum). Small dogs may have more success skijoring with young children.
Can you go skijoring with a lab?
Labs are the right-sized dogs for skijoring with adult humans. The question is, do they have the fitness levels to run and pull. Strength, speed and stamina are the qualities you need in a dog considered athletic enough as skijoring companions.
Can you go skijoring with 2 dogs?
Yes you can. You can even take 3 or 4.
Where can I find skijoring dog race?
Run the video to find out what a skijoring dog race looks like.
This video was posted on Robert Brown’s YouTube channel. Thanks Robert! Robert is also a fan of bikejoring, which he participates in with his dogs in the warmer month of the year.
It was really hard to find websites that had information more recent than 2017/18 about skijoring dog races and events.
Instead, I found the name of some local clubs which may be more useful, depending on where you live in the U.S.
If you are in Canada, check out the Snow Motion site for more information. This club is based in Winnipeg.