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Cross Country Skiing with Your Dog

Posted by  //  December 21, 2020  //  Uncategorized

Do you like to cross country ski? Do you have a good friend that watches you pull out the driveway as you leave for your ski? Your dog can also enjoy the fun and benefits of being in the woods and on trails as well. Dogs have a lot of energy and require exercise just like you or I. Depending on the type of dog you have will determine the extent of running he can do. Most medium to large size dogs from the hunting or working class groups (or a combination thereof) do well with cross country skiing. Obviously a little dog with short legs will have a tough time trying to keep up especially if the snow is deep. If you have a four legged buddy you want to take out on the trail for the first time it would be a good idea to talk to your dog’s veterinarian about what you have in mind for him. It is important that your dog can handle the rigors and intensity of a trail run. A person on cross country skis can move right along at a good pace and cover many trail miles. If the dog is just a puppy, it’s recommended to leave him home until he is at least 6+ months old. After he has gotten a little older, start your first slow and short cross country ski someplace where you can work out the little details. Dogs instinctively are pack animals and if you lead they will follow. Since he will be off the leash for the ski/run he needs to know a few important commands. The most important ones are “stay” and “come”. Control of Fido is very important because of all the distractions on the trail. Distractions come in many forms, such as other people and possibly their dogs, snowmobiles, deer and other animals. If you start your ski from a spot near a busy road, it might be a good idea to keep him on a leash until you are ready to leave for the ski.

I have found another good way to break him in is to take him on a group cross country ski with other well behaved dogs. He will most likely be so excited to be in the woods, around you and the other dogs that he will follow without question; again it’s the pack idea. Before you hit the trail you should have a checklist for Fido. Your list should include a water bottle just for him, a leash, and some first aid supplies and maybe some treats to lure him back when he strays (a little piece of a peanut butter Clif bar is our dog’s favorite). So, you and dog are headed down the trail, now what? Well you’ll find that while you are following some kind of trail, your 4-legged buddy will be running from one side of the trail to the other, smelling all those scents that drive a dog nuts. Some dogs can put on half again as many miles as you, so keep that in mind. Most dogs will want to be out front, but because of their sniffing, they may lag for a few seconds and then come charging up thru. It’s important for you to hold your line, because that is what your dog is expecting. A few things that the new trail dog must learn and that is to stay away from the cross country ski tips or even stopping in the middle of the trail, not good. Usually if you shout “Go!” works, but sometimes a collision happens. Both you and the dog need to be alert and aware of what is going on. 

When the temperatures get really cold some dogs still sweat from their paws. This can cause ice balls to form between their toes which can hurt them to run on. They will try to lick or pull off the ice balls with their teeth but this seems to make it worse. Sometimes booties can help but they tend to be problematic. I have had real good luck with Musher’s Secret wax. I rub it in and between their toes/pads especially heavy and deep in the middle of their feet. Apply it just before the ski and by the time you get back it will wear off or be absorbed and not all over the inside of your car.

Cross country skiing with your dog can be a challenge, but patience and time will make it worth the effort. Just remember, that it will be difficult to pull out the driveway without taking your riding buddy along. 

Happy trails to you and your furry friends!

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