It is your responsibility to make sure that your dogs are healthy and happy about skijoring with you. They are relying on you!
Here are some tips for helping you both to make skijoring an enjoyable, life-long activity. The first set of tips applies to overall dog care, and the second set applies when heading out to skijor (or any activity) with your dogs.
Basic Dog Care Tips
- All dogs should have annual veterinary exams and be kept current on vaccinations.
- All dogs not intended for breeding purposes should be spayed or neutered.
- All dogs should have proper identification in case they become separated from their owners. This ID can be a tag that dangles from the collar, one that is fastened directly to the collar, or a micro-chip. Micro-chipping is available at many vet clinics and at the Animal Shelter. Collars should fit tightly, room for 2 fingers between collar and neck is a good fit.
- All dogs should be trained on basic obedience commands and socialized to get along with other dogs and humans. A professionally led obedience class is recommended.
- Different dogs with different activity levels have different nutritional needs. Do not over feed. If the ribs or hip bones (depending on breed) cannot be felt under a light layer the dog is probably overweight. However, ribs and hip bones that are readily visible through the coat may be a sign of underfeeding. Check with your vet if you are not sure.
- Some dogs, especially huskies, may need additional nutritional supplements not included in their regular food. Huskies often have a higher need for zinc than is available in commercial dog food. Foot problems are often evidence of this deficiency.
- All dogs need regular access to fresh water. Snow is not a substitute.
- All dogs need shelter when kept outside. Line the inside of the doghouse with straw which is changed regularly. For shorter coated dogs consider an insulated house and/or a door flap.
- All dogs need a clean environment for good health. Keep poop shoveled at least once a day; two or three times is better. Use the time to spend quality time with your dog!
- Transport dogs in a safe, secure manner inside a vehicle. No loose dogs in open pick-up beds!
Skijoring Basic Care Tips
- Water your dog 30 minutes before exercising and immediately afterward.
- Allow 4 hours after a full feeding before exercising to avoid possible torsion or bloat.
- Long-haired dogs often build up ice balls on the hair between their toes. Use dog booties (available at most dog supply stores for around $2/bootie) to prevent this. Have a store clerk help you fit the booties to your dog. Keep the hair between the toes trimmed.
- Check for cracks or splits in the pads or between the toes regularly, especially if running on rough/hard surfaces for any length of time. Use foot ointment (available at dog supply stores or your local vet) to toughen up and heal feet.
- Start with short distances (1/2 mile to 1 mile) when beginning skijoring with an inexperienced dog or after extended periods of inactivity for an experienced dog. Work up to longer distances gradually. Don’t expect your dog to run farther or faster than he is physically fit enough to do.
- Be aware that lameness may be attributable to poor harness fit. Try a different size or style.
- Dogs who suffer from occasional stiffness after a run can be treated with buffered aspirin if given with food. Give 1 tablet every 12 hours per 50-60 pounds. Prescription Rimadyl is better for long term treatment. Check with a knowledgeable vet.