Park information specialist Jill Legault of Quetico Provincial Park recently started skijoring. In today’s post, she shares her best tips for getting started with your puppy.
If you love skiing and have a dog, skijoring can be great!
Before you “jump on,” here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this fun winter activity:
Can any dog ski?
Ideally, your dog should weigh at least 30 pounds.
If it’s smaller, you can still ski together, but you really have to ask yourself if they’re strong enough to pull you.
Skijoring Day Trip to Batchewaung Lake, Quetico Provincial Park
Our vet told us to wait until our dog was 18 months old to make sure he was fully grown.
Do I need to be an experienced skier?
Moving at high speed while a dog pulls you is not the time to be learning to ski.
Your dog needs to be able to trust you to:
- do not run over them on a downhill
- Move over if they take a sharp turn.
- handle your sharp poles safely
A sled is a great way to learn to pull if you are less confident on skis.
If you’re not a skier, you can have your dog pull you on a sled.
What type of skis should I use?
Put on the skis you feel most comfortable on. Both classic and skate skis work well.
What extra equipment do I need?
Getting a dog harness that fits well is essential; there are many options. Your dog should NOT pull on your collar.
Your setup should have a quick release for safety.
May your destinies separate! A quick release is a necessary part of your setup.
The belt and human hip line can be purchased or made by yourself.
Many people DIY a climbing harness, bungee cord, and rope. A quick online search will reveal many options!
…and don’t forget the poop bags!
Where can I ski?
A flat, smooth surface is perfect for teaching your dog to pull.
You can find a list of Ontario parks with ski slopes here, but you should always Check with the park if skijoring is allowed.
Here in Quetico, dogs are allowed on all ski slopes, but this is not always the case.
Be sure to check what’s available at each park before you go.
Is there any training I can do at home?
Learning to “stand in line”
Lack of eye contact with your dog can make initial skijor training difficult.
One of the new skills we worked on at home was “getting out of line.”
This is where the dog stands in front of you, with the rope taut, but does not begin to pull. This is important both to check for tangles in the equipment and to minimize shaking your dog at first.
We practiced the command by attaching the rope to the fence of our house.
Your dog should also be socialized before heading out on public trails. You don’t want them to be distracted by other skiers or wildlife!
The “go” command, which means to ignore and pass by something, can be trained while walking or running with your dog.
How do I get them to pull?
There are probably more dog training methods than there are dog breeds, but here’s what worked for us: We start by chasing an encouraging “bunny” (human) in front, then gradually eliminate the bunny.
Chasing “Peter Rabbit”
We also went with another dog who already knew how to ski. This was very helpful.
How far should we start?
It depends on both your physical condition and that of your dog. If you have an inactive or overweight dog, you don’t want to risk injury by pushing him too hard or too fast.
You should also keep an eye on your dog’s paws and let his pads slowly “harden” to adapt to the icy trails of winter.
Ultimately, you want your dog to have fun all the time, so gradually build up to longer skijors.
Remember to keep him safe and keep his paws still!
Dress for the weather, pack what you need for a safe winter adventure, and hit the trails long before dark.