How to Go Snowshoeing and Skijoring with Your Dog

If you can walk, you can snowshoe, and these days snowshoes have come a long way from your grandfather's pair that resembled tennis racquets.


Editor’s note: This article originally ran on Chris’ Dog About Town blog, but we’re rerunning it here with her permission so Dogster readers can enjoy it.

Love to walk your dog, but feel confined by the snow? Don’t be resigned to getting all of your exercise on the indoor treadmill during the winter months. You can strap on the snowshoes, grab the pooch, and go! It’s pretty simple, really. If you can walk, you can snowshoe, and these days snowshoes have come a long way from your grandfather’s pair that resembled tennis racquets. Now they are made of materials such as lightweight aluminum, composite plastic, even titanium; they are high tech and are well designed.

Snowshoeing is a low-impact, calorie-burning exercise that allows you to get out in nature and stave off cabin fever. Add a dog or dogs and voila! The perfect snowy day activity, with some tips on training.

Another outdoor exercise option for you and the pup is skijoring. Skijoring is simply connecting the cross-country skier and his dog (or dogs) together via a specially designed belt and tugline and dog harness. If you are a competent cross-country skier, consider bringing your pup along. It’s another great way to commune with nature and bond with your four-legged friend. Generally, any breed of dog (35 pounds and up) that loves to run can be trained. Oh, and it helps if the dog likes snow!

Now you may think that the dog pulls the skier when skijoring. Ummm, no. Dogs are not supposed to drag the skier, just increase his speed. A skier can ski faster or farther with a dog, but it takes additional skill and effort to maintain control and balance when skiing with a dog or dogs. If you are new at cross-country, become competent before you invite Fido along.

So is your dog up to these kinds of workouts? Well, as with any new exercise, it’s always best to check in with your veterinarian. Most trim and fit dogs should do fine, but remember, walking through deep snow is physically demanding for your dog, so be sure to start out with a short outing and gradually build up to longer ones. (You don’t want to end up with an exhausted pet that you have to carry back!) Also, take a daypack and carry plenty of water and snacks for you both. Don’t forget to check your dog’s paws for ice and snow, which can clump between your dog’s pads, resulting in painful ice balls. You might consider getting protective booties. In addition, if your dog is not dressed in a heavy fur coat, like a Husky or Malamute, he might benefit from a man-made coat.

Before you start, make sure the place you are planning to visit is dog-friendly, and if so, what the rules are. Some places allow dogs only in certain areas or at certain times of day, and there may be a charge. Also, your dog may be required to be on a leash or skijoring equipment (harness for the dog, a belt for the human and a towline to connect them). If your dog is off-leash, it’s important to be considerate of other trail users and keep your dog under control and out of the way.

As for the “doo,” you know what to do. That’s right, pick it up and pack it out. Good doggy etiquette helps to keep the trails dog friendly.

Don’t let the winter weather keep you on the couch. Get out of the house and into open spaces filled with nature’s beauty. Whether you choose to snow shoe or cross-country ski with your dog, you will be spending quality time together, which will no doubt result in happy tails and tales. Have fun out there!

About the author: Chris is a pet enthusiast and the creator of Dog About Town NW, a regional blog that celebrates dog ownership in the great Northwest where outdoor adventures with one’s canine companions is typically more than a walk in the park.

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

Read more about hiking and snow activities:

About the author: Chris Shafer TKTKTK.

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