Ski…what? Skijor!

Kali and I recently joined a Skijoring/Kicksledding course and I am going to be writing a few blogs about our experiences. We are taking the course in Winnipeg, Manitoba at Training Loyal Companions with the amazing Diane and Skijor master Kev Roberts from Skijor OxfordDogs. Make sure to click on those links to check out more about them! Kev has tons of great info on gear, Skijoring, Kicksledding and dog information in general.

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First I should explain what Skijoring and Kicksledding are. Skijoring is a winter sport where a person is pulled on skis by a horse, dog, or motor vehicle. When Skijoring with dogs, the skier is skiing and pushing with poles, while the dog assists. The dog and skier both have special harnesses so you aren’t putting any pressure on the wrong places of the human’s or dog’s body. Kicksledding is the same idea but on a fancy sled rather than skis. The dogs are still assisting, you are helping move along by kicking the ground to keep the sled moving. If you want to learn more about these sports click here for some book recommendations and reviews.

We started a few weeks ago, but there wasn’t any snow you say! Well, you can’t run before you can walk, in most cases. We started all of our training on foot to really teach the cues and keep them focused. Especially with Kali and Nanu….We would have been visiting rabbits all over the street! The first class we talked about the sport in general, some safety stuff, and our dogs got fitted for gear. You will see Kali wearing the Second Skin Harness. For more information on gear click here.

The second class we really started to get into it. We talked about stretching our dogs before and after, I didn’t even think of this! So important and a great way to bond with your dog. We discussed getting our dogs comfortable with us touching their feet to apply paw wax and remove any snow build up between the toes. We then began to work on “LINE OUT” where the dogs pull the line taught and wait for you to get yourself, or the other dogs ready. I am telling you, this one was tough. It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice. It can take a year to get your dog to have a solid line out, especially since with obedience training you are always training your dog to come back and look at you.

Our third class, we went on a group walk to Assiniboine Forest. We took turns passing, worked on our “LEAVE IT” or “ON BY” and did some hill work (getting your dog super excited and running really fast up a hill). We also started adding in the cues for left “HAW” and right “GEE”. While practicing at home, Kali still wasn’t quite getting the whole “LINE OUT” and she was fairly distracted, but on this walk she really surprised me and did so amazing. I couldn’t have been more proud. It also gave me the motivation I needed to brush off the old skis, take them in to get hot waxed, and buy some new boots.

In the video above, Kali is practicing some of her Skijoring commands before we start on skis. Her “LINE OUT” is really coming along, as is her “GEE” (turn right) and “HAW” (turn left). I called for the “GEE” command a bit late but did get to see that she is starting to understand what it means. Once we started moving she did a great job keeping the line taught and didn’t get distracted by some people who were walking down the street towards us. All in all I am super impressed with how well she is doing.

Our next class will be trying out a kicksled now that we have some snow. Kali and I are just so excited. Make sure to stay tuned to learn about our first experience with equipment. I am hoping to get some video of Kali and I in action.

Oh, did I mention what my favorite part of this class is? That it is all trained using Positive Reinforcement. Last winter, I took a one time workshop and was fairly disappointed in how my dog was treated, and the class in general. I was pretty discouraged until I heard about the OxfordDogs course and now I am just waiting for that snow to fall!

Have you ever tried Skijoring or Kicksledding with your dog? Tell me about it in the comments below!

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