This nonfiction how-to book details the sport of skijor, which is being pulled on skis by a dog in harness. The authors are experts in the sport and assert that almost anyone and any dog of medium to large breed can do this, building on the dog's urge to pull.
Review: Skijor With Your dog
Originally published in 1991, this updated and expanded 2012 edition adds spectacular black and white photographs and sections on "dry land" dog driving as well as skijoring (on snow) techniques. The co-authors bring together great expertise in terms of both the dog sport and writing, creating a technically accurate, outstanding "how to" resources with an appealing and fun to read "voice."
Mari Hoe-Raitto has competed in Nordic-style mushing since the age of fourteen, having been born and raised in Norway. She has been a successful skijorer racer and sprint musher in both Norway and in the United States, has written articles on dog driving for dog sport magazines and owns and operates a dog boarding and training facility in Alaska.
Carol Kaynor is a professional dog writer and editor who has been widely published in dog magazines, and moved to Fairbanks, Alaska where she learned to skijor in 1977--and never looked back. She is an active member of the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. With Mari, she co-founded the Alaska Skijoring and Pulk Association and Carol was instrumental in the addition of a skijoring class being added to the International Federation of Sleddog Sports World Championships.
The authors have together presented many clinics and lectures on skijoring, and the book offers a compilation of their knowledge of training and the sport. Within its pages, you'll find a definition and history of skijoring as well as many associated dog driving sports. The book details kinds of equipment both you and your dog(s) will need, training your puppy to pull (or choosing one that's already trained), insights about competition and more.
While it purports to be geared for beginners, as someone who is totally unfamiliar with the sport I found it to be quite challenging for the neophyte dog owners. For those interested in learning a fun winter sport, the book has a section that addresses puppies. The authors state that youngsters learn more readily--but may take a year of training before ready to hit the snow. If you're interested, get this book and start training your baby dog now!
There is great information on providing outdoor shelter for dogs (and for people) in cold climates to protect dogs from hypothermia and frostbite. The book also covers ways to work with your dog when there is no snow in such sports as canicross and bikejoring.
A Few Concerns
I had a couple of concerns with what appears to be outdated information in the book. The authors live in Alaska, and dog owners in similar locals may have more open space for maintaining packs of dogs. I also know that tradition plays a role in how sled dogs are managed. But in much of the "lower 48" states, ordinances and laws prohibit tethering and chaining dogs outside, due to the potential for escalating aggression and increasing risk of dog bites. In fact, the authors do warn of the dangers to children if they wander into "dog yards" where dogs are tethered. Certainly, experienced dog mushers having lived for many years managing multiple dogs may be able to keep their dogs (and others) safe but this is not something to recommend across the board, especially to beginners. In many places, chaining and tethering is considered by law to be inhumane and can potentially be dangerous to the dog, too. I was glad to see further sections expanding on the safety of kids with the dogs, bravo!
In another section the authors emphasized people must maintain control and be in charge of the dogs. I agree with this statement, as well as being consistent in enforcing commands. However, a reference was made to one of the authors holding a dog on her back and staring into the dog's eye--"alpha roll" basically--an old-fashioned way trainers used to "dominate" and show the dog they were in charge. Please do NOT do this--it very well may get you bitten. More modern training techniques and behaviorists no longer recommend this behavior myth since it can backfire with scared or aggressive dogs and make them more shy/aggressive. I will say, the author does caution against using this alpha roll with shy dogs--I only wish it had been entirely stricken from the book. Perhaps it slipped through and wasn't changed from the first, older edition.
My final concern was with the bibliography. It is a long list of excellent references, but sadly, many of the cited books are quite old or even out of print. This is, however, someone mitigated by a great list of online resources for the most current information.
On the positive side, the information whetted my appetite for learning more. My own German shepherd dog is a champion puller and I suspect would take to the sport readily, although here in North Texas the challenge would be to find snow! For folks with pups living in snowy regions, this book is a great resource for learning more about the sport and having great outdoor fun on snowy days, and beyond.