Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ski Training

We are taking a break from obedience to focus on training for the upcoming skijoring season. Last year I started training Lok in November and by the time he was ready and I had all my ski equipment and learned how to ski we only managed to get out on snow once before it all melted. I would like to run Lok and Jun together this winter for some extra power, but first they both need to be trained separately.

Ski training is fairly simple. The dogs need to learn to stay in front and not stop or sniff on the sides of the trails, which is the hardest part for Lok (if they are pulling, that's great, and they usually do, but technically, they don't even need to pull). That's really all you need to get out on the trails, but this year I'd like to enter a couple races, so my dogs need a bit more. Right now, we are working on a "line out" which means go out front to the end of the line and do a stand-stay until you're told to run. The dogs need this at the start line so they don't tangle their lines. We're also working on directions. Last year, Lok got "gee" (right) down pretty well, but doesn't know "haw" (left). Both dogs are doing pretty well on these things, considering we've only been working on them for a couple of days. Jun gets a little worried when she hits the end of the line, so I'm trying to work on desensitizing her to that a bit as well. We also need a stop command. But that's about it--probably one of the easiest dog sports to train and dog power over snow is such a rush!!

Of course, we have some unique issues as well, since one dog is blind and one is deaf. From what I've learned from other mushers, blind dogs can do well as lead sled dogs--they don't need their eyes to follow the trail. But still, I imagine particularly directional commands will take a lot of trust and I will really need to fine-tune his responses to them. Hopefully, having Jun hooked up will help with that. With Jun, all of her training so far has involved her looking at me--it's the only way I can communicate with her. Skiing will be the exact opposite--I want her to NOT look and me and just run ahead. Yet, if I need to give her a command, I need her to look back at me. So that will be interesting as well. But I think we find ways to make it all work.


  1. When you have 2 dogs are they next to each other or in single file? Maybe as they start working together, Jun can start taking cues off of Lok rather than you giving them to her? It sounds like Lok will be your lead dog anyways.
    That said, I dont know what I'm talking about. Lol! But I think that's so awesome that you do that! I want to try it, but I wouldnt have the foggiest idea where to begin training them. Lol!
    I think Shannon was expressing some interest in teaching her dogs.

  2. I think they can be either, but normally they are side by side. I've also thought about doing them single file. I think it would work well to have Lok as my lead dog and Jun as my wheel dog, since she pulls harder anyway. Not sure she is humble enough to follow Lok's lead.

    There really are no rules for ski training and unfortunately, you won't find much info or help out there. Mushers really aren't much of dog trainers. But if you do actually want to get into it, let me know. I'd love to have another person to ski with!! You need a harness, a line, and cross-country skis and that's about it--can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.

  3. wow that sounds like a fun adventure. My dogs are a bit too small and I personally hate the cold, but it sure sounds like fun!

  4. I too hated the cold before I got the dogs, but I needed a way to wear them out in the winter. I stay warmer skiing than standing in one spot throwing balls, and the dogs love nothing more than running in the snow. It's a win-win!

  5. Wow! That sounds like a ton of fun for you and your dogs. And something I'll probably never get to experience as a Texan!

    I am currently organizing a clicker training blog carnival and am wondering if you would be interested in submitting one of your posts from September to the first edition of the carnival, which will be published on October 3. You can check out the carnival's home page here: http://www.stalecheerios.com/index.php?id=4 I think the carnival readers would really enjoy reading about you ski dogs!


    Mary H.