Taking your dog skiing is great fun for both of you. Here is everything you need to know to for a safe and positive experience when skiing with your dog.
Skiing with dogs can be split into multiple sub-categories.
- Skijoring is a dog powered sport where one dog or a team of dogs pull a skier. Skijoring is perfect if you enjoy cross-country skiing and want to bring your dog along on the trails. For reactive dogs that might not be able to run off the lead, it is also a great choice.
- Backcountry skiing is ideal for adventurous nature lovers who prefer skiing off the tracks at a slower pace. If you plan to go winter camping with your dog, you can bring a pulka for your equipment. The pulka, which is a small sled, can be pulled by your dog, you – or both as a team.
- Alpine ski mountaineering is great fun for the adrenaline seekers! Having some extra dog-power assisting you going up the mountain and seeing your dogs’ happy face and tail when racing you down feels amazing.
Preparation is key
Before you take your dog skiing for the first time, there are a few things we recommend you prepare.
- Provide your dog with an ergonomic harness and equipment suitable for your activity. We’ll go more into detail about gear for skiing with dogs below.
- Ensure that your dog is fit for the challenge. When skiing we are often moving at a faster pace, and the soft surface can be heavier to run on. Gradually build up your dog’s endurance and strength before you go skiing with them for the first time. Adjust the distance and pace to your dog.
- Gradually introduce your dog to the equipment for a positive experience from the very beginning. You can start by letting your dog sniff and examine the gear, then pick up your skis and walk slowly next to your dog. If your dog is fine with that, you can let them run free while you are skiing before being attached for the first time.
- Practice useful skills, such as directional cues and a stop signal, overtaking others and waiting for your cue to run.
Equipment for skiing with dogs
An ergonomic harness is one of the most important pieces of equipment an active dog can have. A bad harness can cause discomfort or injuries. Look for a harness with a Y-shaped front for unrestricted movement and breathing.
When choosing a dog harness for skiing, the first thing to consider whether your dog will be pulling or not.
If your dog is pulling you, we recommend the Freemotion harness 5.0. The harness has been developed with some of the world’s best athletes in skijoring to enhance your dog’s performance and comfort. If you plan to compete in skijoring with a pulka or go backcountry skiing with your dog pulling a pulka, the Combined harness is an excellent choice. It offers the same properties as the Freemotion harness 5.0, along with pulka connectors and an optional girth strap.
If your dog is only pulling moderately or not at all, the Line harness 5.0 is ideal. This harness is ergonomic, lightweight and versatile, suitable for any adventure with your dog.
For skiing a line where the entire length or parts of the length is elastic is recommended. This will soften sudden pulls and maximize comfort for both of you.
Skiing is an activity where high speeds can be involved. You also need to maintain a safe distance between your dog and your gear. For skiing with dogs, a 2,8 meters length is recommended.
The Bungee leash is a fully elastic skijoring line made for competition use. The rubber core is extremely durable. This line can hold even the strongest dogs. A Twistlock carabiner that locks automatically keeps your dog secure.
For small or medium dogs, the lightweight and softer Touring bungee is an excellent choice. This line is also available in multiple lengths and widths to suit your preference.
When skiing you depend on having your arms free, as you need them to hold your ski poles. The Løype belt is developed specifically for skijoring. It helps you maintain a good skiing technique by providing excellent support and freedom of movement. The Quick release snap hook makes it possible to easily detach your dog if needed.
For backcountry skiing with a pulka, the Ferd belt allows you to attach your dog’s line in front, and your pulka to the D-rings on the side.
The Trail light belt is a versatile belt pack with five pockets for skiers that need some space for storage. In the five expandable pockets you can fit your dog’s jacket, a drinking reservoir, dog booties, snacks and other essentials.
Safety when skiing with dogs
Cold temperatures are the primary challenge when skiing with dogs. Most dogs will stay warm and comfortable when they are moving, but in rough weather and during breaks, even huskies can need protection from the elements. We recommend you bring a lightweight insulated dog jacket, such as the Blest jacket or the Glacier jacket 2.0. If you are travelling light, the Trail light dog jacket is an excellent choice for a protective shield in emergencies.
Make sure to also dress yourself well when heading out on your winter adventures.
Some dogs struggle with snow and ice packing into their fur, turning into uncomfortable snowballs. With the Protector snow full-body dog suit, all dogs can overcome snowy weather and have fun in the snow with you!
Frost bite, paw cuts and lumps of snow and ice in the paws can be prevented by using dog booties. On snow, the Long distance booties provides excellent ground feeling and protection. If the surface is rough, the durable Protector light socks are ideal. Both are available in long versions, Contact bootie high and Protector light socks high, that also protect your dog’s legs against sharp snow crust. To keep the paws soft and healthy, regular use of paw ointment is advised.
If using skis with steel edges, there is a risk of severe injuries. Teach your dog to keep distance from your skis and always pay attention to where they are. Bear in mind that other skiers might not be able to read your dog and predict where they are going next. Choose skis without steel edges or sand them down if possible.
Teaching your dog to be carried in a backpack or over your neck is a good idea, in case you need to do so in an emergency.
Always check the weather predictions and avalanche warnings. Choose safe routes, as your dog does not know where the ice is unsafe or where an avalanche might happen.
The benefits of a good warm-up routine
Remember to always warm your dog up before skiing. With a warm-up, you prepare the body physically and mentally for the activity. It will help your dog feel better, perform optimally, and prevent injuries.
Most dogs will also go potty during the first minutes of activity, meaning you avoid them pooping in the ski trails.
You can start by simply walking your dog for at least five minutes. Then you can increase the pace or let them run free for at least five more minutes. If you are planning a high-intensity skijoring session, the warm-up should also include some pulling and running at a faster pace.
After skiing, walk your dog for about ten minutes. With the cooldown, you bring your dog's respiration and blood circulation back to a calmer level. This helps restitution and prevent injuries.
Your dog sets the pace
Racing you on skis can be so much fun for your dog that they may struggle to control their excitement, potentially leading them to push themselves too much.
Let your dog dictate the pace by having them run in front of you. If your dog prefers to stay next to you or behind you, take breaks along the way and keep an eye on their well-being. This is particularly important in heavy snow and challenging conditions. When we take our dogs skiing, it is our responsibility to provide them with a positive experience and keep them safe.
Etiquette when skiing with dogs
If you plan to go skiing with your dog, make sure dogs are allowed. Also check whether you must keep them leashed or not. Learn the local rules and regulations in advance.
To become the most popular dog owner on the trails or in the mountains, you are advised to:
- Always pick up your dog’s waste.
- Have control of your dog. This is important both when leashed and running free.
- Announce your arrival. People might not expect being overtaken by a dog, and it could scare them if they are not prepared. Some people attach a tiny bell to their dog’s harness for this purpose.
- If the snow is fresh and the trail was just groomed, consider doing your training a bit later. Also, try to avoid letting your dog run on the classic tracks which will leave paw prints. You can train your dog to run on the side of the track if you are classic skiing.
- Be positive and polite! Give skiers with dogs a good name.
The most important thing when skiing with your dog is, of course, having fun together and enjoying the moment.
Do you have questions about skiing with dogs, finding the right equipment, sizing or anything else? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.