4 January 2013

My Dog Won't Go!

My Dog Won't Go!?!?!

Dogs run because it's their instinct to, it is innate in many dogs.  They keep running when it's fun!  Your job is to keep it fun!

The issue of a dog not running is very broad, this article will touch on the most common problems.

Let's first assume you are on a safe, and decent trail.  The dog's instinct is to run down that clearly defined trail.  If there has been other dogs down it, that's the trail your dog wants to follow.  I took the pack for a walk the other day, about 30 minutes after a friend had been skijoring in the same area.  The dogs caught the scent, and wanted to follow the trail with dog scent on it already.  So take advantage of this! 


Use a trail that smells and looks like a trail to your dogs.

Now, lets look at your end of it.  Skijoring is a team sport.  Dogs and people working together.  Your dog will provide momentum, but, as my friend Lorne likes to say to his skijor student's "It's not your dog's job to haul you around the trail!".   So put in some time on your skis, and be a team member your dog can brag about! Your dog will pull better if this is a team sport.  

Still won't go? 

You have a few options here.

 Your best option is to find another dog you can hook your dog up with. Learning from another canine can really do the trick! Make sure the owner and dog are both experienced, you want your dog to learn good habits here. If the goal is to skijor with your own dog, then don't rely on this trick. Run your dog a few times with a seasoned pro, on the same trail. Once your dog gets what's expected, head out and try it on your own! Once your dog is pulling, offer praise! You want to make this fun!  Keep it short and happy! 
The Rabbit Trick. Many newbies find that using the dog's chase instinct is a fast way to get skijoring. Ask  first, some people are working on their own training goals, and may not want you tagging along on their run. Some dogs may whip back and connect with your team. So communicate that you want to chase them to get your dogs pulling. If the team is much faster than you, your dog may become frustrated and think he's too slow to keep up. You don't want this to happen, so make sure the team  keeps a decent pace.
If you are reading this, and are the rabbit, also think about your own training goals, and ensure that running at a trot is what you want for your team. Too much time trotting down the trail, might mean your dogs don't go as fast as you like, when you like.

My dog goes, for a bit, then stops! 

Good! Your dog is pulling! Your job now, is to learn when the dog stops, and stop before. This not only shows that stopping is your idea, not the dogs, and gives you a chance to keep it fun! So stop, take a break, and don't start again until the dog shows he want to go. Barking, pulling at the harness are all signs your dog wants to go! Wait for the signs, you want an excited skijor dog!

Leash Laws

Dogs who have been trained to walk nicely by your side will be a little confused about getting out front and pulling.  If your dog is so well behaved that he always trots along nicely at your side you can start teaching him what is expected by doing a good line out command first.   Line out entails having the dog walk to the end of the gangline and facing off down the trail.   Offer your dog praise when he does this for you!  He will catch on quickly.  
Dogs who have been given corrections with their leashes might also have a harder time starting out pulling, as soon as they put their body into the harness and pull, they may initially stop and thing they will be corrected for tugging on the leash.  Use a gangline with a good bungee sections that stretches enough for your dog.  The thicker the bungee for the larger the dog.  


Some dogs are more likely to differenate between pulling and walking, if you change the pace a little.  If you start out your dryland training at the same speed as your daily walk, the dog might think you are simply out for a normal walk with some funny gear on.  Do a slow jog or trot.  You don't want to run, and lose control when your dog suddenly starts to pull.

Don't over do it. Keep runs short and fun, and build up to speed and distance over time.  

A good trail: The basics.

Hard Enough.  Wide Enough.  Safe Enough.

A good trail is Hard Enough, that the dogs do not have any punch through on the snow.  If there is a crust overtop, and yourdog hits the crust, while pulling forward, they are likely to sustain damage to their shoulders or legs.  A preventative injury, which could cost you the season.  Look for trails that are hard packed by walkers, snow machines, or groomers.

A good trail is Wide Enough, that you can get your skate on, run your dogs past any other people or teams and has trees far enough away that you don't end up dead.  People whose dogs stop to smell the roses, will also be happy with trees that are too far off the trail to prove tempting to pee sniffers.

A good trail is Safe Enough.  Think of things that can endanger your team, and yourself.  Know the area.  Are there hills? Thin spots of ice?  Lose dogs?   Traffic?   If you haven't skijored the trail before, ask around first or ski it without so you know what to expect. 

Be Safe Out There Kids.

Trails- Where to run?

Winter Trails

There are going to be 5 basic types of trails that you will run into out there.


Groomed Skate Ski Trails

By far the best trail to find if your skijoring technique involves skating behind the dog.   These trails are wide, and smooth.  Groomed to look like corduroy, your dogs paws will do just as much damage as your poles to the trail.  A great choice if you have permission to use them! 

In Winnipeg, various skijorers, led by our fearless leader Susie,  have worked together to get the permits required to run on groomed skate ski trails.  The trails are located in Bird's Hill Park.

With any shared trail always work to avoid tension tension.  Be polite, pick up after your dog, and go with the flow of traffic.  


Classic Ski Trails

Classic ski trails look like 2, or 4 lines running through the woods.  The lines, or grooves are for the skis to track in, so the skiers can get a good kick and glide.   These are unacceptable skijor trails, and should be avoided.  

The potential damage your dog will do to the trail is not only unfair to the people who want to ski it, but also to the groomers who have spent a lot of time getting it into good shape.

As a further note, your dog will likely run in the groomed tracks, which will throw off their gait, and make skijoring that much less fun.  

Snowmobile Trails

Another passable option!  Look for snowmobile trails along a river, or next to a wooded section.  The idea being, you need room to get off the trail QUICKLY should a snowmobile come down towards you.  We don't skijor on any official snowmobile trails, but rather use the tracks made by snow machines along rivers.   The tracks are often pushed down enough that there is no break through for the dogs, and some are wide enough to skate ski in.  

Service Roads

Another great option for skijoring is service roads through campgrounds, or near parks.   They often don't have any salt or sand down, so they are safe for your skis!   If the roads have been plowed lightly, they are good to go!   Just be careful of workers or machines operating in the area.


Walking Paths

Another excellent choice.   Some walking paths though parks and wooded areas, are plowed, but not salted or sanded.  Which make for a perfect spot to skijor!   A tip would be avoid the area during peak times, and attach a bell to your dog, or yourself.  To give people walking plenty of warning you are coming.   Expect to run into lose dogs on some of these walks, always remain friendly, and explain your dogs are working, this isn't play time.