hed: Skijoring brings canines, owners together | VailDaily.com

hed: Skijoring brings canines, owners together

Fritz Howard

Smokey Burgess, of Leadville, allows Charlie and Dash to pull him in the Norwegian sport of Skijoring.

Do you know a dog that likes to run and pull?

Do you like to Nordic ski?

If you answered “yes” to both these questions, you might have a skijor team in the making.

No, not cowboy style skijoring as seen once a year on Harrison Avenue, but Nordic style skijoring. Hook up a dog or two with sleddog-style harnesses and an eight foot line running back to your waist belt, and off you go. You and the dogs could be flying down a nicely groomed trail on skate skis, or cruising together deep into the backcountry, working together to form an all-natural, emissions-free winter travel machine.

Any dog with some energy and enthusiasm for running and pulling can make a decent skijor dog. People win races with sled dog rejects and pound pups, it just takes some time and practice.

Dogs were originally bred to work for and with humans and putting your dog to work is a great way to strengthen the bonds between man and beast, and to give your dog a purpose in life. He or she will be very grateful.

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Keep it short and fun at first, and give your dog a chance to slowly adapt to pulling and working. A good way to start off is on foot, on a distinct, familiar trail without a lot of distractions. Keep your dog moving forward in front of you. Be patient but firm and insistent.

Several good sources exist for equipment and further information. Check out http://www.neversummersleddogs.com for Colorado-made harnesses, lines and belts, or http://www.coldspotfeeds.com in Fairbanks, Alaska for the largest selection of skijor and sled dog stuff anywhere.

The book “Skijor With Your Dog” is a great overview of skijoring, and http://www.sleddogcentral.com is an extensive clearing house for all things related to sled dog sports.

After a little training, try taking your dog to a race. Most dogs really get off on the excitement of the race and will try extra hard to do a good job.

A new event called the Leadville K9 Skijor Classic is set for January 24 and 25 on the CMC Nordic System and Mineral Belt Trail on the south side of town. Three separate classes will be run: 1-Dog, 2-Dog and 3-Dog. The course is a fun but challenging 4 or 6 mile loop. This is a two day race with winners determined by combining the times from each day’s heats. Come and race for a piece of the cash purse, drink some free beer at the post-race parties, and learn more about skijoring. Beginners are welcome! For more info, call Fritz Howard at (719) 486-3245 or log on to http://www.melanzana.com.