All Things Dog Blog
The Sport of Skijor!

skijoringski joring bike joringdog joringfun with dogs omni joringGot a dog who loves to pull? Perfect! We’re talking joring today. Joring is a great sport for your energetic dogs who love nothing more than to pull. Let them pull you and you can have a great ride while your dogs get their thrills & their exercise.  Look fun? It is!  And you can do it so many different ways in many different environments. We are lucky enough to have a FB fan Kelsy Gibs, who along with her dog Twigs, is now ranked #2 in Australia in the sport of Skijor. She’s provided this great article to introduce us to this exciting canine sport. 

Skijoring is a great sport.  You don’t need a kennel, a husky or even a sled to be able to enjoy the pleasure of working with your dog.  Skijoring is often associated with snow, but dogs can also pull scooters, bikes and off-road skateboards on dirt tracks.

The sport originates in Scandinavia where large teams of dogs were impractical to use in the more populated areas.  They combined their love of skiing with a more modest version of Alaskan-style mushing and the result was a team of one to four dogs pulling a small sled (called a pulk) with the driver skiing behind the sled.  Skijoring lives on today in Norway in competition sport, touring, rescue work and transportation for the disabled.  Trappers and mail carriers in North America also adopted the sport for practical purposes, and increasing numbers of people are taking skijoring to the recreational trail.

Sled dog sports in Australia have been popular for years, but the skijor scene is up-and-coming.  In 2012, the first internationally sanctioned skijor race was held at Dinner Plain, Victoria with the first place winner qualifying to represent the land down-under in the championships in North Pole, Alaska.  This is the main snow race for the season; however, many other dirt races are held annually across Australia.  In Victoria there is a substantial race schedule across the state starting in April and ending in September.  The main races include Goldseekers Sled Dog Club Race (dirt), Northern Victorian Sled Dog Classic (dirt), Falls Creek Classic (snow), Altitude 5000 (snow) and the Canberra Classic (dirt).  These races have a 1 to 2 dog scooter category but also have classes for rigs pulled by up to 8 dogs!

Any individual with moderate fitness and a keen sense of adventure can learn to ski or bikejor.  Most medium to large-sized dog breeds are suited to skijoring; it is not necessary to own an arctic breed.  In fact, the most popular competitive skijor dog is usually a German Short-haired Pointer or similar hound-like breed.  There are teams of border collies, heelskies (ACD crossed husky) and even Labrador retrievers who compete in sled dog sport in Australia.

Gear for skijoring is reasonably affordable.  You will need a harness for your dog, a strong collar and a bungee line to attach the two (or three) of you together.  It is best to choose skis without metal edges for your pet’s safety (especially if you are just starting out).  Poles are optional, but a helmet is not.  Boots can also protect your dog’s feet from rough terrain or cold snow.

Training your dog is relatively simple.  Pulling exercises are a great place to start, and give a good indication of your dog’s drive and ability to enjoy the sport.  Many puppies (older than one year) are trained to pull using tires or jugs full of water.  Just attach to a puppy-sized harness and lure with treats, toys and praise.  It is good to start at a young age, but it’s just as easy to teach older dogs the necessary commands.  Most mushers use the term ‘hike’ to get the dogs running.  You will also need to teach your dog the turning directions, as they will be out ahead of you and must be drivable by voice command.  Historical horse cart driving terms of “gee” and “haw” are most commonly used for right and left turns respectively.  But it’s up to you- many people simply teach their dogs ‘left’ and ‘right’.  Other useful commands are ‘line-out’ (pull the line tight), ‘on-by’ (pass) and ‘whoa’ (slow down).

The best place to learn more about skijor is to find a local sled dog club near you.  You will be surprised at how many clubs exist across the country (yes, even in Queensland!).  The newly formed Australian Bike and Skijor Club is hoping to offer a few training events this year in NE Victoria in the snow.  If you enjoy cross country skiing and giving your dog a fun job, try skijor!

Anyone looking for an awesome jore-ready companion? The gorgeous dog on the right on the 3rd photo down bikejoring is named Bronson. He’s been rescued by Northern Victorian Sled Dog Rescue. He is seeking an adventure buddy to call his own. This stunning dude carries his own backpack, has been taught to pull in a harness, doesn’t shed and walks loosely on a leash. He’s looking for an active family. Click here for more information on beautiful Bronson

Best book on the topic: “Skijor with Your Dog”- Mari Hoe-Raitto and Carol Kaynor. OK Publishing, Alaska.  ISBN 978-0-9630864-0-5

Links:
http://www.assa.asn.au/
https://www.facebook.com/AusJorClub
http://www.siberianhuskyvic.org.au/
http://www.shcnsw.org.au/shcnsw/index.asp
http://www.sleddogtours.com.au/

Ruffwear have introduced a great joring system which we carry at Waggle. It’s called the Omnijore and has been gaining quick popularity. Here’s a link to a quick starter video on the Omnijore and here’s a link to a video of a skatejoring dog having the time of his life if you’d like to see it in action! Of course we’ve got great dog boots too if you’re heading for the snow.

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