skijoring / Skijoring

skijoring, i.e. skiing with a dog, offers the charm of speed and good fitness training for both the dog and the skier. In skijoring, the canicrosss ahead and is connected to the skier by means of a harness and a flexible bungee line and a pull belt. You can practice the sport regardless of race, and it's reasonably easy to get started. As the sport grows, so does the number of hobby places, and you can already go to the track with your dog all over Finland.

Before going to the slopes, it would be good for the dog to know the basic commands, at least to stop, and for the skier to have sufficient skiing skills. With ski boots, the handler's control over the dog is largely dependent on verbal communication. It is often easier to start a pulling hobby with canicrossning, because a runner can physically control the dog much easier than a skier. You can read about starting a canicross here .

If you wish, you can progress in the hobby of skijoring even up to competitions.

Equipment for skijoring

sled dog harness

In skijoring, as in other sled sports, the most important equipment is a well-fitting and ergonomic harness for the dog. The harness must not rub or pinch anything or limit the movements of the dog's limbs. A well-fitting pulling harness directs the pull to the dog's chest and the pressure of the pull does not come to the dog's throat. Read more about finding the right harness from our matching guide . You can also ask us about choosing suitable harnesses and equipment. NOTE: never pull the dog by the collar, even for an experiment!

Pull cord

The flexible bungee effectively dampens jerks and is a very essential piece of equipment for the safety of both the dog and the skier. In dog sledding, according to the competition regulations, the tow rope must be stretched to its full length at least 2 m and at most 3 m. In order for the skier to have enough time to react to the dog's movements, a longer leash (but a maximum of 3 meters) is usually more practical. There should not be any kind of metal part (lock, ring, etc.) on the skier's side of the bungee cord, as they may injure the dog if the bungee line for some reason comes off/disconnects during the pull.

Canicross belt

The skier's hip (note NOT the waist) has a pull belt, preferably at least 7 cm wide (competition rule and safety factor). The pull must be directed at the skier's hips, and to prevent the belt from rising too high on the waist, it must have leg straps. The pull coming from low does not sway the skier so easily and also prevents strain on the back. In ski competitions, the pull belt must have either an open hook or a panic lock for attaching the pull cord, so that the bungee line can be removed quickly if necessary.

equipment for skijoring from traildog

Ski equipment

In the actual skijoring, you ski on skates. Often, skiing with a dog is so fast-paced that ice skating is a natural choice. With traditional skiing style skis, you can start trying out skijoring, but as the speed increases and for actual skijoring on cross-country trails, you will still need ice skating equipment. Of course, nothing prevents you from skiing in the traditional way, if the dog is not hard to pull because of its size or nature, or if you just want to enjoy the outdoors.

Dog

You can enjoy dog ​​skiing with almost any type and size of dog. The most important thing is that the dog is healthy and wants to pull or at least move on the slopes with the skier. As a hobby, most dogs learn to pull and enjoy it. In competitions, fast and powerful big dogs are the best, because in skijoring the dog's speed and endurance are emphasized. Popular breeds are, for example, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers, Huskies and various bird dog mixes.

To start pulling training, the dog must be past the age of growth and healthy. The dog must be basicly trained and get along with other dogs to the extent that overtaking situations are safe for everyone.

Getting started in skijoring

As with any other sport of pulling, start with short distances. The elementary exercises of the pull can be on a distance of 50-100 meters when the canicrosss to the pay. In this way, the dog learns to enjoy pulling and gets used to the strain of the pull. When the dog has learned that it is permissible and desirable to pull in the pulling harness, you can start to gradually lengthen the pulling distances. If your dog has not pulled with a pulling harness before, it is easiest to start the pulling exercises instead of skiing by first jogging behind the dog.

Even if your dog already knows how to pull, a skier needs to be pulled differently and the dog also needs to get used to skis and poles and e.g. the sound that is made when braking. For someone who already knows how to pull, but who is just starting skijoring, the training distance can be, for example, a kilometer at first. Observe your dog and end the pull training at the latest when the dog shows the first signs of fatigue. When the dog does not get too tired, the interest in pulling remains. Although running is a rewarding activity for many dogs in itself, remember to also praise and reward your dog at the "finish".

A dog also learns by imitating others, so it can help on the first ski trips if you get to follow a more experienced dog skier (or a skier without a dog). Often the dog gets excited to follow another dog and the pull and following the route comes naturally. However, a sufficient safety distance must be kept from the dog going ahead, and it is advisable to practice overtaking as a separate exercise. You should also be sparing when using the so-called "hare". If you want your dog to also learn to be an independent puller, you should also do pull training without the lure running ahead. The reward at the end of the bet can be, for example, treats or play.

For skijoring, the skier should master reasonable (skating) skiing technique and especially braking and cornering technique. Of course, the required skills are also affected by the terrain: it is easy to start on a flat, for example, ice track as there are no hills and bends. On cross-country trails, mastering skiing technique is naturally emphasized.

skijoring technique

  • In skijoring, the goal is for the skier to disturb the dog's run as little as possible. In other words, ski at the same pace as possible with the dog's running speed: on the uphills, skiing yourself and on the downhills, braking so that the bungee remains taut. When plowing, you can also grab the bungee with your hand so that it doesn't come loose under the skis or the dog's feet.

  • Stay in the lowlands always plowing behind the dog. Don't count on a traditional track groove, where braking is impossible.

  • Mastering different skating skiing techniques naturally also makes skiing with a dog easier.

  • Dog skills: The dog must at least know how to stop on command. Directional commands and a hint to slow down or increase speed are also useful. Moving from the command to the edge of the track makes overtaking easier.

Etiquette for the dog track

  • Always be prepared for unexpected situations. skijoring is a fast-paced sport, with top speeds of up to 30-40 km/h. Keep safe distances and don't stand still on bends or downhills. When stopping, keep the dog close to you at the edge of the track or between your legs.

  • Dogs must always be leashed on the dog cross-country skiing trail.

  • Walking on tracks/track bottoms is never advisable. A dog track does not mean a track where dogs can be walked or walked freely. By walking on trails that are allowed for skijoring, you endanger the safety of both dog skiers and your own dog. Overtaking situations come quickly and unevenness in the track surface always increases the risk of injury.

  • If there is a dog in front of you, announce your intention to pass early and loudly. Say which side you're coming from (usually the left). Give the passerby time to take his own dog closer or completely to the side of the track if he wishes.

  • If you are about to be passed, move to the side of the track (usually the right side), slow down and stop if necessary to make sure your dog is under your control.

  • There are often also dogless skiers on the trails that are allowed for dogs. Also inform them of your intention to pass in time and pass from a sufficient distance and at a safe speed. Thank you!

  • Try to keep your dog out of the traditional skiing style trail track. The groove is broken and the risk of the dog spraining injuries at high speeds on an uneven surface increases.
  • Let your dog relieve himself even before the ski run and definitely clean up any messes away from the slopes!

  • Do not under any circumstances bring an aggressive or unpredictable dog to the track.

Where can you go skiing with your dog?

As a general rule, skiing with a dog is prohibited on public maintained slopes. A separate skijoring trail is usually assigned to skijoring, or a separate skijoring shift has been assigned to the public trail, for example on certain nights of the week. Find out the permitted sections/times in advance.

You can move freely with your dog on natural ice, so skijoring is allowed there. Please note that inexperienced dogs may not know how to pull (at least directly) if there is no ready track to follow on the vast snow field. Of course, even this can be done by more experienced dogs.

If you're planning to go on a skiing trip with your dog, it's a good idea to contact the destination in time and inquire about skijoring possibilities. Every enthusiast can contribute to increasing skijoring opportunities. There is no supply without demand! Be actively in touch with municipalities and ski resorts and tell them your wishes.

You can search for existing dog tracks in various electronic track information services using search terms skijoring or k dog track. Different municipalities use different systems.

You can also find trails and trail turns allowed for skijoring on the dog trail map compiled by Traildog:

dog trail map

    Dog sledding competitions

    In skijoring, competition distances vary between 5 and 20 kilometers. Skating skiing is used as the skiing technique and the dogs of goal-oriented competitors are usually from the larger end of the breed, for example German standing dogs, standing crossbreeds and Dobermans, i.e. dogs that have a lot of speed and strength to help the skier. Of course, you can go to the race with smaller dogs as well.

    There are three different competition formats in luge skiing:

    • skijoring with one or two dogs (so-called rope class)
    • luge skiing, where there is a gap between the skier and the dog
    • combined, where you ski alternately both with and without a pack.

    Sled skiing competitions in Finland are organized by two different umbrella organizations: the Finnish Sled Athletes' Association VUL and the Finnish Service Dog Association SPKL. Only purebred registered dogs have the right to participate in the competitions of the last mentioned association. You can also participate in VUL competitions with mixed breeds. In addition to the official classes/exams, several competitions also have a hobby series. You can find the calendar of sledding competitions we have put together from here .

    Frequently asked question: Does the dog always pull on a leash if you do pulling sports with it?

    One thing to think about for those who are considering starting pulling sports is whether the dog will also start pulling on a leash during daily runs. In practice, dogs quickly learn to distinguish between different equipment when they can pull properly and when they can't. sled dog harnesses feel different to the dog when worn than normal everyday outdoor equipment, so it is easy for them to distinguish them. It is therefore logical for the dog that the tow leashes use different harnesses than those that have been taught to walk nicely in everyday life without pulling.

    A dog used for pulling sports does not automatically mean a dog that always pulls on a leash. Practicing pulling sports is also a great way to channel an active dog's energy into exercise. Therefore, permitted pulling in sled dog equipment can also make everyday jogging easier.