Skijoring is a relative of dog sled racing, and in fact skijoring races are often held in conjunction with dog sledding events. In this particular sport, a person on cross country skis is pulled by a dog or a team of up to three dogs, with dog and human attached by way of a belt, line and dog sled harness. People in many locations around the world participate in the sport but, not surprisingly, it is most popular in areas where there is steady snow coverage throughout the winter.
Unlike dog sled races, where the dogs provide all of the propulsion, in this sport the skier can participate as well, using his legs to provide power while the dogs do their part by pulling and running. The skier wears a belt around his waist, sometimes including leg loops for extra stability. A length of line (usually at least 8ft. for one dog, longer for multiple dogs) is connected to the belt and then attached to the dog’s harness. A length of bungee cord may be incorporated into the line to act as a shock absorber for any quick moves by the dog or stops by the skier.
Since the skier is using poles for stability there is no physical control of the line. When racing in skijoring events, the skier uses verbal commands to direct the dog. The commands are the same ones used in sled dog racing… hike (to start running), gee and haw (for right and left turns), whoa (to stop) and on by (to pass any potential distractions). Because dogs will have to pass their competitors during races it is important that they learn not to become distracted as this can lead to serious complications.
While northern breeds such as Siberian Huskies and Malamutes are most inclined to this particular sport, any breed of dog can be trained to participate. In fact, some of the top ranked racing teams in the world are comprised of German Short Haired Pointers, Pointer/Greyhound mixes or Huskies. Other breeds, including Golden Retrievers, Giant Schnauzers, Labs and various mixed breeds have all taken to it with much success.
StockphotoVideo / stock.adobe.com
StockphotoVideo / stock.adobe.com
Competitions are held in many locations around the world, the longest being the Kalevala in Kalevala, Karelia, Russia. In the U.S. and Canada, skijoring competitions are generally held in conjunction with dog sled races, as part of a full slate of activities and events. Not surprisingly, the sport is particularly popular in Scandinavia, where it is closely associated with the older sport of Pulka.
There are several sanctioning organizations, both nationally and worldwide. In the U.S. the primary organization is the International Sled Dog Racing Association (ISDRA), while the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) sanctions World Cup races in many locations throughout the world. At the IFSS World Cup, skijoring races are usually divided into men’s and women’s events, and one and two-dog categories.
For owners who love to compete and dogs that are geared for speed, this can be a way to experience the thrill of dog sled racing without the expense of that particular sport. All you need is a pair of cross country skis, a harness and a dog and you can be competing with the best. Or if competition isn’t your thing, just get out and enjoy a little fresh air and exercise, something that can benefit both you and your furry friend.