Skijoring- The Coolest New Winter Activity for You and Your Dog in the Lakes Region

Photo Courtesy of Gunstock Mountain Resort

Photo Courtesy of Gunstock Mountain Resort

Are you looking for a new experience for your dog to challenge them both mentally and physically? Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH is now offering you the prime opportunity to do just that and it’s called Skijoring!

What is Skijoring?

This sport is becoming more popular in the Lakes Region and is designed to give both you and your dog exercise and a good time! Skijoring is defined as a recreational sport or activity where a human is pulled over ice or snow on skis by a dog. Essentially, it is cross country skiing with your dog pulling you.

Worried that you are not ready to ski with your dog attached to you? Start out walking in the snow or put on a pair of snowshoes.

Looking for more of a summer activity? Not to worry, skijoring can also be done in the warmer months while you are walking, running, scootering, or biking.

Benefits of Skijoring for Your Dog

Both Murphy and Lee were naturals with Sarah’s expert advice!

Both Murphy and Lee were naturals with Sarah’s expert advice!

Mental Exercise for Your Dog

The mental benefits for your dog from skijoring are abundant.

The Working Dogs

For some, the sport provides a job for dogs who need the work. When the specially designed harness goes on, many dogs snap into work mode and after enough practice with skijoring, they know what is required of them which is to safely navigate the trails and pull their human along with them.

It’s All in the Process

Another mental benefit is from learning how to skijor. The dogs need to not only learn how to stay in front of and pull a person attached to them, they also need to learn several new commands related to mushing and how to ignore any distractions they may encounter such as smells, sights, sounds, or other people and animals. The basic commands that they will need to learn include, but are not limited to, gee (turn right), haw (turn left), hike (go), on by (move by a distraction), and stop. Like with learning any new commands, this requires the dogs to think, problem solve, and act which tends to be mentally tiring and is also key to making sure that your pup is happy.

2. Physical Exercise for You and Your Dog

On the physical end, skijoring is a sport meant to get both you and your dog active. Regardless of if you are skiing, snowshoeing, walking, biking, scootering, or running, you are getting exercise from this activity. Your dog is too, as they are pulling you along by leaning into the harness and running or walking. It is a great workout for your dog as they are usually only responsible for carrying their own body weight since we usually teach our dogs not to pull on walks. With skijoring, they are supposed to be pulling and the resistance of having a human attatched to them is an addition to what they have to carry. This added bonus is sure to tire out your dogs especially if they are new to the sport and have the mental stimulation wearing them out as well.

What is it Like To Learn to Skijor with My Dog?

To answer this question, Lee and I decided to round up some dogs and head to Gunstock Mountain Resort for a lesson. We borrowed our mid-day dog walking client dog, Murphy. Since Murphy prefers his winter walks over his summer walks, I knew this would be a good fit for him. We also brought my dog, CiCi. Initially, I was hesitant to bring CiCi, as she often is fearful of new people. If you don’t meet her on her terms she will bark and snarl. Imagine my surprise when we got to Gunstock and she didn’t show any of that behavior. She knew she was there for a job and buckled down to business!

Lee and Murphy getting ready for their first skijor lesson.

Lee and Murphy getting ready for their first skijor lesson.

Preparing for our Skijoring Lesson

Lee and I were introduced to Jane and Sarah, the skijoring instructors. Both are excellent with dogs! They fit us and the dogs with our special skijoring harnesses and lines. We spent some time going over the commands we would be teaching the dogs while we were on the trails. We decided our first lesson might be better on snowshoes since Lee and I were both entirely new to cross country skiing.

Our Skijoring (or technically, snowshoe-joring) Lesson

Once we got on the trail, CiCi was ready to run! She was so happy to be out there. Jane was right there with us on her skis, helping to encourage CiCi and remind the difference between gee and haw. I think CiCi picked up on it before I did! I tested her at home and she immediately knew which way to go when I yelled out gee and haw. I always knew she was a smarty pants!

Murphy and Lee stuck with Sarah and from what I could see they did an amazing job as well! Towards the end we could tell Murphy had used enough brain cells when he laid down in the snow and started rolling around. I am sure he was tired when he went home to his mom and dad that night!

CiCi and Alix on their first Skijor lesson with Jane at Gunstock Mountain Resort

CiCi and Alix on their first Skijor lesson with Jane at Gunstock Mountain Resort

We can not wait to return for our next lesson, on skis! I’ll be sure to bring my helmet as my cross country endeavors in the past have usually involved me tipping right over!

How Do I Pursue Skijoring with My Dog?

Gunstock Mountain is now offering skijoring lessons and they would be happy to help you learn the ins and outs of this up and coming sport!

Have you tried skijoring? Tell us about your experience in the comments!