Dog skijoring: You, your dog, skis … and a ton of fun

March 20, 2023

Does your dog love exercise as much as you do? Here’s the perfect outdoor activity to help you reacquaint yourself with the joys of winter!

Picture a cross between horse skijoring—a horse pulling a skier—and dog sledding.

You get to strap on your choice of “skater” or “classic” cross-country skis. Your dog gets a special harness. And together, you connect via a quick-release strap clipped at your waist.

Welcome to the world of dog skijoring! I thought it was crazy until I saw it with my own eyes.

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Skijoring is so popular these days that Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville, Ontario—just 40 minutes north of Toronto—has a dedicated trail. On select winter weekends, they also host 45-minute seminars run by Lowell Greib and Katherine Ahokas from The Sports Lab.

First, equipment is loaned out, including a harness, belt and “snub” line, which according to Greib, medical director of The Sports Lab, has a bungy to protect yourself and your dog’s back, should the going get rough.

Second, are the commands. Skijoring uses the same main three commands as dog sledding:

“Gee!” for right, “ha!” for left and “on by!” for leave it.

And the participants? Dogs and people all share the same level of stimulation.

Birch, a beautiful Australian Shepherd, is new to skijoring but active living is his wheelhouse. “He needs 4 hours of exercise a day,” Birch’s owner Gwen Norkas says. “I can’t just walk, walk and walk. I’m doing this to bond with him and to do something I also want to do.”

Rogan, a sweet and excitable doodle, is giving it a try with both paw parents today. He needs some help from Greib to focus but manages to figure it all out surprisingly quickly and propels “dad” home on the final stretch, just like a pro.

Bernie, a giant Bernese Mountain bear of a dog, is thrilled with himself after a second round. “He’s very purpose driven,” his owner says. “He likes to have a job.”

And that’s the take-away today: everyone’s here to bond with their furry buddy at a snow-covered provincial park. This team activity checks all the healthy dog-training boxes: exercise, socialization, and the reward of a job well done.

What better way to fully enjoy winter?

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