"that dog whisperer lady I was telling you about" at Wild Hearts

Thoughts and observations from someone who has been repeatedly introduced as "Nicole Silvers, that dog whisperer lady I was telling you about" I don't whisper to dogs; I eavesdrop on their conversations with each other.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014


After living in Alaska for four months, and after my first day out doing it, I'm already addicted to skijoring.  I think I've only had the skis for just over 2 months...

What is skijoring?  It's being dragged by dogs on skis.  That makes it sound like a bad idea, and it is.  It also happens to be positively exhilarating for the dog and human!

True to my general approach to dog activities, I simply hooked them up and gave it a go.  (I would not recommend anyone else do that!)  The dog wears a fairly traditional harness, since he is tied to a line that attaches relatively high off the ground.  The human wears a belt around the waist or hips, which is much higher than the dog's back.

One "secret" many dog owners don't know is that dogs tend to run instinctively on a trail.  Epecially if they have never been on that trail before.  You don't have to "steer" dogs like a bike or a car with constant steering left or right.

The experience they had with my bike attachment really seemed to translate effectively to skijoring.  I could stop the dogs almost before I could stop myself on the skis!  On the bike, I used a long "ho" to let them know we were coming to a stop, then braked the bike.  During this phase, the behavior I am praising is slowing down to a stop.  Once we stopped with the bike, I would say "WAIT".  This means that the dogs are not to move forward.  We do a lot of "WAIT" at doors, crate doors, car doors, dog dishes...  so I can stop them almost on a dime with just that command.  On the bike or skis, I am looking for a gentle stop most of the time, so I use the HO--WAIT combo.

We also used "LEAVE IT--LET'S GO" for poop piles.  I did have to use the towline to convey the idea, but they did extremely well.

The worst part was my skiing!!  Skate skiing is not an easy thing, even for someone who has spent many hours figure skating, hockey skating, rollerblading...  I'm sure it will get better with time.  I did fall once, but the dog was very concerned about me and patient while I got myself collected back up for take off.

I did 1 mile with each of two dogs.  It took us around 15 minutes, for an average of about 4 mph, but top speed was about 12 mph.  One of the dogs nearly had a fit when she realized we were done for the day.  She kept trying to get back out to do more.

I'm looking forward to doing more, and posting video as well.