Ever feel torn between cross-country skiing and walking your dog?
You may want to try Skijoring, the sport that combines cross-country skiing with dog sledding, providing fun for both you and your dog.
The sport began in Scandinavia, where the word skijoring means “ski driving.” People have skied behind dogs, horses and reindeer and have added a small pulk or sled to the parade.
Skiers put on a waistband with a clip attached to a lead that is attached to a harness on the dog. The dog provides extra power to the skier, who is equipped with either classic or skate skies. The skies are hot waxed from tip to tail to avoid slowing down the dog.
Canicross is a variation of skijoring, jogging with a dog in harness. This method is also used with bikes, carts and scooters.
According to Jim Benson of the Midwest Skijoring Club, the sport is becoming more and more popular because people want to enjoy the outdoors with their dogs. About 80 percent of working breeds can be trained for skijoring and enjoy it.
“I recommend people buy the dog they want and train them for skijoring,” said Benson. “I’ve seen golden retrievers, Chesapeake and even Dalmatians skijoring. If you want to get into racing, you may consider dogs like the Alaskan Huskie.”
Benson has been asked if skijoring is cruel to dogs.
“These dogs really want to get out and run. They want to be of service and connected to their owners. There is a big difference between the collar and the harness. The collar is controlling, and the harness means the are free to run and pull,” added Benson.
Skijorers train their dogs by running with them or canicross. Here the dogs learn the basic commands of “Hike!” to go, “Whoa!” to stop, “Gee!” to turn right, and “Hawh!” to turn left.
Skijorers prefer trails groomed for skate skiing. Popular Twin Cities skijoring trails can be found at Elm Creek Park Reserve, Baker Park Reserve, Carlos Avery and Pine Point Park.
You can learn more about skijoring from the Midwest Skijoring Club at www.skijor.org or by attending one of their informational events.