Just when you’re looking forward to spring … I bring you snow-covered images. But not any images – pics of dog skijoring.
That’s right, dog skijoring. You cross-country ski with your dog tethered to you. I thought it was crazy until I saw it with my own eyes: a group of excited dogs actively trying to figure out what was expected of them while their people strap their feet into skis.
Most dogs are first-timers, except Woody, a bouncy grey and black cross. He knows what to do; he’s done this before and happily pulls fur mom along the wide pre-groomed trail … if there are other dogs to run after. Woody needs incentive.
He isn’t here for a lesson, but others are. From 1 to 4 pm on select winter Sundays, The Sports Lab led by Dr. Lowell Greib sets up a dog skijoring workshop at Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada. Nine dog-and-people teams signed up today. (Check out our previous Arrowhead Park adventure here).
No need to bring your own harness – equipment is on loan (and so is a dog, if needed). Harnesses are sized for the dogs, a belt goes around the skier and a ‘snub’ line connects the belt to the dog. According to Greib, medical director of The Sports Lab, there’s a bungy in the snub belt so if the dog jolts, you won’t dislocate some thing and it takes load off the dog’s back.
Everyone here is skijoring for different reasons, and the dogs are remarkably stimulated.
Today’s lesson is saturated in dog park energy. Participants are encouraged to sign up in advance for a time slot staggered throughout the three-hour session. Three teams of dogs and skiers take turns around the trail loop – this trail is dedicated to dog skijoring only, a new feature in the park.
The beautiful Australian Sheppard is new to skijoring but needs four hours of exercise a day and skijoring might change it up from walking.
Another, an excitable doodle, arrives with both fur parents. Despite being easily distracted, by the second lap the doodle has skijoring down.
A Bernese Mountain dog is thrilled with himself after a second round. A golden retriever can’t contain his sense of achievement and rolls victorious in the snow.
Strange as the sport seems on the surface, skijoring fulfills a dog’s need to have a job. And socialize. And exercise. One afternoon at a snow-covered provincial park checks a lot of healthy dog boxes.
The dog skijoring trails at Arrowhead Provincial Park are open in the winter during park hours, 9 to 5:30 pm, 7 days a week. Cross-country skis, but not skijoring harnesses, can be rented at the visitors centre.