The thing I love most about Vermont is the distinction between the four seasons and the unique outdoor activities each lends itself to. Spring, summer and fall are great for hiking and water sports, while the colder months attract thousands of visitors to southern Vermont’s slopes. For outdoor adventurists with canine companions, Vermont can seem limited for activities with man’s best friend. This season, strap on those skis and discover something new: Skijoring.
Skijoring is, in the most basic sense, a cross-country skier harnessed to one (or several) dogs. Other animals, such as horses, can also be used.
If you’ve already mastered the basics of cross-country skiing, the next step is to ensure your dog is physically capable of spending hours in the snow.
While any breed weighing more than 40 lbs. will do, certain breeds are best fit for the exercise, as the activity is truly a team effort. Northern breeds, like Malamutes, Huskies and Chows are natural Skijoring partners. Some breeds that you might not expect, but perform well are Greyhounds, Labradors and Retrievers and German Shepherds.
In addition to the dogs energy and stamina, the human at the end of the towline also powers himself with poles.
While it’s best if your dog has a natural desire to pull and run, positive training and cold weather gear can transform any dog into a successful Skijorer. For equipment, you’ll need two harnesses: one for you, and one for your canine. For everyone’s safety, make sure all equipment is made for use with dogs and, more specifically, for Skijoring.
For more information on places throughout Vermont that provide instruction on Skijoring and dog sledding, visit voga.org.