by Pam Landers
Bob Newman and his two dog
You are desperately hanging on the the end of your Sam's leash, trying to stay with him as he drags you down the street after that flick of a squirrel's tail or that provocative female canine. It occurs to you that all that power and energy could better be put to fun use for the both of you, not just one of you. Maybe its time to give skijoring a try.
In its simplest form, the sport of skijoring is training your dog to pull you while you are on skis. My husband, Roger, and I started skijoring with our Samoyeds as a way to keep them exercised and happy during the winter.
There are two basic requirements for skijoring:
1. You need to know how to (or learn how to) cross-country ski. If you fall all the time, your dog soon fails to see the fun and purpose in the effort.
2. Your dog needs to learn how to pull.
Jill Wilson and "Mingus" at the start
of a skijor race
When those two skills have been mastered, the rest is refinement - teaching commands for turning, starting, stopping, and passing other dogs, people or miscellaneous distractions. These are very much the same commands a sled dog learns and can be taught one-on-one using a double ended lead, one end attached to the dog's collar and the other to the harness loop. This lead is also a good tool for teaching your dog to go out in front of you and pull.
Most Samoyeds seem to really enjoy skijoring. Pulling one person on skis is not hard work, and it gives them a chance to burn off some calories and energy in the fresh air. Many of them (not all) take to it quite naturally. It is also very good exercise for the human, especially if you learn to ski along with your dog to increase the speed. Skate-skiing is a skill worth mastering for this purpose.
Other than your skis and poles, the equipment you'll need is fairly simple - a sledding harness for your dog, a skijor belt for yourself, and a gangline to attach the dog's harness to your belt. Many outfitters on the web sell these pieces. You may also find it useful to use a snub line when you are starting, to hold the dogs until you get your skis on and are ready to go. If you wax your skis, forget the grab wax under the foot, and just use glide wax.
Bob Wilson and "Finney"
Skijoring can be anything from a jaunt of a short distance with the skier just hanging on to one dog for the ride, to long-distance skijor racing (20 to 60 miles) with as many as three dogs going full bore, helped by a mighty
ski-skating effort from the nylon-clad racing. human. (This is quite something to see!) Many sled racing circuits now include skijor races, and skijoring clubs have formed in the last few years that hold their own races and recreational runs. My own favorite form of skijoring is just hitting the trail with a couple of dogs and a small backpack for a two-to-three hour run, including a lunch break.
If you are interested in learning more about skijoring go to the website Skijor Now for training tips, equipment, and information about how to get going in the sport. You and your dog will both love it! You also might find some useful information at the Skijoring page from Sled Dog Central and this scooter comparison article.