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Should My Dog and I Go Skijoring?

Dogs don’t have to be pro athletes to enjoy some quality time in the snow.

by Claudia Kawczynska
October 1, 2021
Skijoring brown dog in snow sport racing with owner
TRAVELARIUM / Adobe Stock

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Powder, hard pack, drift, blizzard — whatever you call it, snow’s a fact of winter life in many parts of the country. It covers our favorite paths and can turn casual outings into endurance sports. What’s a pup and their person to do when it’s colder than a three-dog night?

Well, as it turns out, plenty. If you can walk, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski, and if you’re even moderately skilled on those skis, you can skijor, too. The best part is, your dog can join you, and they don’t have to be a Husky to enjoy the experience. Aerobic, calorie-burning and low-impact, all three activities are pretty simple to learn. Except for skijoring — canine-assisted cross-country skiing — the pace is slow, and dogs are often happy to let you break a trail for them, especially if the snow is fresh and deep.

Get Started Skijoring With Your Dog

If you’re just starting, rental equipment is the way to go. Renting allows you to try a variety of brands and types to find out what suits you best before investing in your own. Your dog’s needs are even simpler: unless they’re a Malamute or another double-coated breed, they’ll need a jacket to keep them warm, and something to protect their feet — booties or a paw wax made for dogs — is a good idea. Skijoring requires a padded belt for you, an x-back harness for the pup, and a towline to connect the two of you.

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Safety First

Check with your vet to be sure your dog’s up for it. It is recommended that dogs should be at least 30 pounds; smaller dogs may put undue pressure on their bodies. While you are at it, check your own health. Skijoring can be demanding on the knees and lower back.

If you’re new to skiing, look for a Nordic center and take a few cross-country lessons. Two basic techniques are used when skiing behind a dog. Which one you use depends on the type of skijoring you intend to do. As a bit of caution, brush up on obedience training; good communication will make for a better experience. Understand your limitations. Stick to trails that are the appropriate difficulty for both your and your dog’s skill levels.

It is important to be prepared for an emergency when taking your dog into the backcountry, whether it's skiing, skijoring, or snowshoeing. Always bring first aid supplies (and know how to use them) and have a plan for how to carry your dog to safety.

So, how much fun can you have with your dog in the snow? Enough to warm you both up nicely. Watch these action videos for some cool fun.

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Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.