Skiing with Dogs
Believe it or not it isn't as simple as just strapping on a pair of skis and boom, your dog will come with you. There are also different ways to get your best friend involved in your favourite sport- from back country, to Skijoring. Some resorts (Big White) have dog friendly runs and some let you hike up and ski down before first chair. Your best point of call for resort skiing is to call the resort beforehand.
We will be looking more at the mechanics of how to get your dog to ski with you.
An average fit dog can pull 25% of their body weight. This means you want your dog to be at least 30 lbs, fit and healthy before trying something so strenuous. For starting, make sure you are always on a gradient so that gravity can help your pooch out!
Skiing is not an easy sport, and the added complication of a dog makes it that much more difficult. Ensure before you begin, you have a good handle on how to ski. You should be able to control your speed and emergency stop before you think about involving your dog.
You may think that because your dogs like running it's going to be an easy change. That couldn't be further from the truth. A lot of dogs will find your new strange movements unsettling and may jump up or become over stimulated.
Start on a small slope- one that is not too steep, but still has a slight gradient so that the dog isn't pulling all of your weight and you can get momentum. Keep your speed slow and work up to skiing how you normally ski.
A lot of people when you first start will recommend leash's that tie round your waist so you still have your hands free. I actually advise you NOT to do this and to keep your leash in your hand when you are first starting. Imagine your dog sees a squirrel and heads to the side and you don't have the ability to let go!
Teaching the commands is like any other training. Use the leash to direct them. Positive reinforcement works best for me (treat them when they are doing something good, with lots of GOOD GIRL YAYY!!... They're doing lots of exercise, the extra cal is okay!) You know your dog best and how to train them, so judge what you think is right. There are two ways to teach.
These are the mushers commands:
Gee: Turn to the right.
Haw: Turn to the left.
Easy: Slow down.
Straight Ahead: move forward, for instance at an intersection of trails.
On By: Pass another team or other distraction.
I personally don't use these. It flows better for us when we're using words that I don't have to learn too.
We use "Go, Right, Left, Easy, Stop and Go Past." Whatever you choose to use is between you and your dog.
Firstly train one command at a time to keep it simple for your dog. Teach the dog to respond to not only your
verbal commands, but your gentle movements through the leash. Keeping that connection between your hand
and your leash will keep you both in-tune with each other enabling you to better direct them.
All The Gear
I'm going to go ahead and assume you have got skis and boots...
To protect the dogs back you will need a cross-back Harness. I bought this Man Mat one from Snowy Owl Adventure Dog Outfitters, but here it is even on Amazon.
Cross back Harnesses take the weight off the shoulders and neck and disperse it evenly throughout the dog, so they are well worth the investment. Even if you are only planning on doing back country where the dog will not be directly pulling, the extra length and control it gives you are much better.
We use the Rocky Mountain Dog All-Mountain Leash. It is great because it has a bungee leash, is strong, padded handle and a hands free option.
We really like Rocky Mountain Dog because it is a local business, the owner seems to really care about his products and we have a range of them and no quality issues.
While this is not a sponsored post and we do genuinely use and stand by RMD, we do have a discount code if you would like to use it. Enter AKELA at checkout.
Goggles and Helmet
You might not think you're going fast enough or on a steep hill, but you still need to protect yourself. I always wear a helmet (firstly because it looks cooler- everybody knows if they don't have a lid they're a jerry/punter/grom... whatever you call them) and secondly because you don't know what will happen and if your dog sees a squirrel there's a good chance you could end up in a tree. This is not a safe sport!
Goggles are a safety essential because of the dog in front of you. I find Akela is constantly kicking up snow and it has a habit of landing directly in my eye. Wearing goggles means I can see what I am doing at all times.
A few things to note to be popular on the trails:
Stick to Dog Friendly Areas. Research your destination beforehand to ensure it is dog friendly.
Do not allow yourself or your dog to smash up groomed cross country trails. Keep to the side.
Do the appropriate training with your pet before trying this type of activity in a busy area.
Pick up after your dog.