American Dog - Aspen Ski Patrol and Skijoring

Skijoring is a sport in which your dog pulls you while you are skiing along on cross-country skis. It is different from dog sledding in that, while your dog is pulling you, you are also adding to the momentum by skiing along. In a unique twist, you bring not only your skiing skills to the team, but also your dog training and handling skills.

Typically, people skijor with one to three dogs at a time. You can do this sport competitively or recreationally. It is a great way to get exercise for you and your dog during the winter and a fabulous way to build a bond with your dog.

In the summer or in warmer climates lacking snow, you can enjoy scooter-joring, bike-joring or cani-cross. Scooters used in joring are quite stable and low to the ground with hand brakes. You can also hook your dog to your bicycle and have them pull you. Or you can run or hike with your dog while they pull you in a sport called 'cani-cross.'

In skijoring and cani-cross, you have a belt that fits low across your back and hips.

  • This is connected to your dog via a bungee line that reduces the stress of pulling on your dog.
  • Your dog will wear a pulling harness in either an 'x-back', 'h-back' or 'fast back' design.
  • When using a scooter or a bike, the dog harness is the same as is the bungee cord line connecting you to your dog.
  • The connections at the scooter and bike level can vary, but look for a design that is safe for both you and your dogs.

These are simple sports for a dog to learn and very self-rewarding for dogs and humans together. They offer a dog a chance for sustained and focused aerobic exercise.

Training Techniques
One of the greatest factors that will affect how well your dog pulls you in skijoring is your cross-country skiing skills. It is essential that you know how to keep your balance and stop on cross-country skis before you hook up to your dog. Taking a skiing lesson will be a benefit to both you and your dog!

  • Dogs can learn to pull by being hooked to a dog that already knows how to pull or by chasing another human or dog.
  • Pulling for most dogs is very instinctual and highly self-rewarding.
  • Other cues a dog will learn will be 'on by' meaning 'leave it and move on', 'whoa for stop and 'let’s go' for go.
  • Traditionally 'gee' means go right and 'haw' means go left.
  • 'Come around' means to make a 180-degree turn and 'line out' means to pull the lines out to get ready to go, but not yet bursting out at full speed.

Again, reward-based techniques, especially praise are essential for teaching a dog to pull in front with confidence.

What not to do:

  • Do not exercise your dog in heat or extreme cold. Different breeds have different heat and cold requirements and its important understand where your dog’s limits are. Bring water and adequate clothing for your dog.
  • Do not get frustrated with your dog because you need to improve your own skiing skis. Rather, take a few ski lessons and your dog will love you for it!
  • Do not do this sport with young dogs before their growth plates have closed. This can take up to one to one and a half years.
  • Do not feed your dog for at least 2 hours prior to exercise.
  • Do not teach your dog not to pull using aversive methods. Dogs taught this way are so afraid that they will not pull.
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