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Morrissey suggests that your dog know some basic obedience to start, but otherwise you'll learn the commands you need, like how to turn right and left and to stop, in your first skijoring lesson.
The training is straightforward, Thompson says. "We set the dog up for success — attach that command to an activity that they're already doing," he says. "Walk down a trail that only turns 90 degrees to the right, then give the command 'Gee,' then they associate the command with that behavior."
Put it all together, and it's a workout for both of you —not the sort of wild ride that some initially fear. "It's not that the dog is pulling you everywhere; you're working as a team to move forward," Draguns says. "While there are times when the dog will increase your momentum, it's more about staying on pace with one another."
Trainers are quick to reassure that letting most dogs pull in skijoring isn't going to make them drag you down the street when you get back home. "It's very easy for the dog to differentiate," Thompson says.
For safety, there should be a quick-release on the line attaching you to your dog, in case you get tangled. And if you're worried about going too fast, there's a simple solution if all else fails, Thompson says: "Normally with one dog, if you just sit down on your skis, you're not going anywhere."
You can, in fact, do skijoring with more than one dog of similar size, although you should work with them separately at first. This may seem dubious, given what happens when a lot of people try to just walk two dogs, but Morrissey says skijoring with more than one dogcan actually be simpler. "The dogs have a job, and when you give a dog a job, things get easier," she says. "You give them a focus."
Maybe the most challenging thing is to find a place to do it, because like other outdoor spaces, not all ski areas are dog friendly. There are cross-country centers that rent equipment and give lessons, but don't expect to do skijoring just anywhere that you can ski. Morrissey says that in Colorado, out of probably more than around 620 miles of groomed trails, there are only about 30 miles where dogs are allowed.
But enthusiasts say skijoring is worth seeking out, because you'll get more than just a dog who's tired at the end of the day.
"The best moments in my life have been out on the trail with my dogs," Thompson says. "They're having a blast. Maybe some light snow is falling. It's quiet. You're in the outdoors, you're with your best friend, and you're having fun."
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