Skijoring Basics

Skijoring. It's just you and your dogs on a crisp, clear winter afternoon. Skijoring is fun and a greSkijoring(105950)at fitness activity for you and your pet.

It's not a difficult sport. You'll need the right skijoring equipment including a belt and dog harness. You'll also need patience and training for you AND your dogs.
To get started you'll need to be a relatively accomplished cross country skier. Trainers recommend you fall to stop your dog if it gets out of control, so you'll need to know how to fall safely to avoid injury to you and your dog. You should also know how to snowplow as a method to slow the dog down.
You'll also need the right breed of dog. Depending on your size, you dog should be 40 pounds or more, but bigger isn't necessarily better.
Look at the pictures of the dogs in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest sled dog races. The dogs are surprisingly small, but their combined power allows them to pull a fully loaded sled and musher a thousand miles.
And, of course you'll need a dog that can be trained to respond well to commands.

Equipment You'll Need

FOR THE DOG:Dog Harness

good quality dog harness. It is important that it fits well to avoid injuring the dog.

Dog booties. Dog's paws can be sensitive and if you're planning to skijor  long distances or over rough or icy trails, the booties will stop your dog's paws from becoming cracked and bloody.

A dog jacket. If your dog has short hair, or you'll be skijoring in extremely cold or windy conditions, a dog jacket or blanket can provide extra warmth and comfort.

A skijoring line.  It's essentially a synthetic line with a bungee cord that runs between the dog's harness and your skijoring belt.


Skis, boots and poles.  Make sure the equipment is in good shape. Metal skis are not recommended for skijoring.

Clothes appropriate for the weather conditions. It's a good idea to dress in layers. You'll be working hard, so it's easy to become overheated.

Small backpack. You'll need somewhere to carry water, dog treats, cell phone and addition clothing. It's important your dog has a source of water. Even in cold temperatures he can easily become dehydrated.

Skijoring belt. Choose one with a wide strap on the back.  There are also belts available that you step into, which help distribute the pull more evenly, reducing the pressure on your back.

Overall, take your time and research the best information on skijoring.


Getting Started

Get your dog used to wearing the harness for an hour at a time. Reinforce with praise and treats. It's important that he associates the harness with a positive skijoring

You probably already know if your dog has a natural tendency to pull. In fact, it is a characteristic that you may have spent some time trying to break him of.

Start by attaching a log or other relatively lightweight object to the skijoring line. Run in front of the dog, encouraging him to follow you. Training with a partner and his or her dog is also a good idea. Dogs like to chase other dogs.

You can also command the dog to stay while you move up the trail, and then call him to come to you, dragging the line and log behind him. Of course, that warrants praise and a treat.

You may need some training too. You may be able to borrow a trained skijoring dog to get used to feeling the pull on your skijoring belt and feel comfortable being pulled on your skis,

Keep your training sessions short to begin with and reward the dog with a treat after each session. Skijoring is hard work, so keep your dog's physical fitness level in mind. If he hasn't had much exercise or is overweight build the sessions up very gradually.

If possible, when you do your first skijor, choose a trail your dog is familiar with. It may be an area you have run or walked together in the summer.

Choose a trail that is relatively flat and straight to begin with, particularly if your dog still isn't fully trained to respond to all the commands.

Ask for help from experienced skijorers. There are also some great books and videos on skijoring.

Be patient and have fun. Before you know it, you'll be competing in skijoring races.

Skijoring Commands

The commands for skijoring are the same as dog mushing. "Mush" is only used in the movies.

GEE    means turn right

HAW  means turn left

HIKE  means let's go

WHOA means stop

STRAIGHT AHEAD means keep going straight. It's used if your dog encounters another dog or anything else that distracts him on the trail.

There are many more commands you and your dog can learn, but it's a good idea to become proficient with the basics first.

It may take many sessions of practice and reward before your dog responds efficiently to the commands.