What is Skijor? Skijor (also spelled skijore) is cross-country skiing while being pulled by a dog, horse, other animal, or even a car. Yes, we said a car! It is a popular sport in snowy northern countries, for obvious reasons. It is a great way to stay in shape, keep active pups happy, and get lots of vitamin D during the cold and dark winter months. It was created over a century ago by the Norwegian military to transport sleds of goods between the dogs and a skier. Skijoring means “ski driving” when translated from Norwegian.
Now, it is a popular sport with competitions and championship titles. There is even a movement to get it added as a sport in the Winter Olympics! Check out this video to see how intense and fast skijoring can get:
You can also watch how it (and dog mushing) is done in Norway here:
If you want to see skijoring with a horse, check out this video of an event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming:
Skijor can be done with one dog, two dogs, carrying a dog while your other dog skis with you, or pulling a sled or carrier for your ride along smaller pup or even the kids! You could try tandem skijoring or multi-skier skis too.
Skijor race courses tend to be between 5 and 20 km long. You can find races throughout Canada, USA, Iceland, Europe, Australia and Russia. You can also find skijor communities and organization where you can do it recreationally with other like-minded dog lovers. The most popular or well-known skijor races are in:
- New Hampshire
- Alberta, Canada
You can find a list of races on www.skijorusa.com. You can also visit www.skijorinternational.com to learn about the history of the sport and get links to different regional organizations and articles.
The most frequently seen pups participating in Skijor are those with heavy coats, like Huskies, Eskimos, Samoyed, Chow Chows, and Alaskan Malamutes. But, other shorter haired dogs who can pull a skier, can also participate. Actually any size dog can technically participate but small dogs tend to be ride-along spectators as opposed to participants! The key is making sure that your dog likes running, listens to commands and respects other dogs.
Most organizations recommend that your dog be at least 35 pounds in weight in order to participate safely. Puppies should not participate until they are over 1.5 years old. Here’s our list of breeds that you could consider for skijoring:
- Canadian Eskimos
- Chow Chows
- Alaskan Malamutes
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- German Shepherds
- Border Collies
- Golden Retrievers
Once you have your running buddy picked out, you should get the Vet to check that your dog is healthy and has an open airway. Then, if you are not already running with your dog, you can start incorporating running into daily walks until the two of you can run long distances together. Dogs that participate in Canicross are great candidates for Skijor.
Once you are confident that your pup likes to run and will listen to your commands, you can get the equipment and start getting out on the trails. When teaching your dog commands, you want to make sure your dog understands commands for directions, slow down, speed up, and stand still.
There are essentially 4 pieces of equipment that you need for Skijoring:
- Harness for your dog
- Bungee leash
- Hip or waist belt with a leash attachment
- Cross-country skis
This kit is a great starting point for skijor equipment.
You should also ensure that the harness allows the dog comfortable and full range of motion. You want to make sure that the harness does not push on their chest or rib cage and that it is shorter so that the dog doesn’t get pulled up when running with you. The bungee leash will help to absorb shock when you and your pup start running.
If Skijoring sounds interesting to you, you may want to check out Canicross and Bikejor. Bikejor is similar. In Bikejor a cyclist is tethered to their dog who runs in front of them. Canicross is different because the runner cannot rely on a bike, skis, or other equipment to propel them and help them keep up with the dog. They can only rely on their running skills.