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Training canine ski partners and the enjoyment/tribulations thereafter

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
This thread prompted me to start this one:

the walkin' the dogs TR


Please contribute stories, pointers, cautions, etc.
post #2 of 21
Hey Si,

Glad you liked the shots.

I originally got into the backcountry because I wanted to take the old girl riding 10 years ago.

She was very easy to train. I just took her up, and she ran down behind.

The very first day we took them (maddie and my buddy's dog) their feet got cold. My buddy tried those dog booties but just ended up losing a bunch.
I never tried the booties, and Maddie's feet toughened up.
After a few days my buddy gave up on the boots and his dog got used to it also.
I've never had any problems with snow building up in their paws, but some dogs get that.
Pam cooking spray does the trick.

We got Dakota last year. He's very fast. At first he would get a little too stoked and a little too close. He ended up with more than a few cuts on his legs. Never anything serious, he never even noticed. But I had to make it very unpleasant for him anytime he got too close.

It took a number of days, but by the end of the season he was doing great. This year he knows the drill. He stays away and even if he stops below us, all you have to do is say go, and he turns around and takes off.

I don't take them on technical lines with big consequences if they miss a step or cause me to make a mistake. Usually anything I ride with my girlfriend, the dogs get to come.

And they should be a year old to give them plenty of time to develop their hips.

Don't let them poop in the skintrack.

post #3 of 21
Thread Starter 
Fantastic Splitter, Thanks! Anytime you've got pictures please consider adding them here or to trip reports. Not only will I enjoy it but so will my girlfriend (wife to be) and a lot of other animal friendly Epicistas.
post #4 of 21
This is a great topic, Si.

As you know, we don't have any dogs anymore but we have many, many friends whose dogs go backcountry skiing with them.

Splitter had some great suggestions. I'll add a couple and maybe throw in a caution or two.

1. First off, you have to REALLY be careful about conditioning and exhaustion for the dog. They have a tendency to roam all over on the ski/boot uphill, which means they're covering much more ground than you are. If the snow is deep, they're working hard when they do that. Then when they run down as you ski/ride, they may be working REALLY hard if the snow is deep. Be mindful of that and make sure you're not working them to death. They enjoy it so much that they'll go right up to the point of exhaustion if their master isn't paying attention.

2. Along those same lines, either you or the dog should carry water and food along. They need hydration and fuel as much as we do. Eating snow to hydrate uses as much or more of their energy as it does for us. I've seen dogs start shivering and dragging in the middle of a backcountry day and I'm convinced that they're doing the doggie equivalent of hitting the wall. Some water and high-calorie snacks are important.

3. Watch their paws, especially on powder days. They can pack snow so tightly into their pads that it can split the pads and cause bleeding. Like Splitter says, you can spray Pam on them, but a lot of the dogs I've been around like the taste and immediately lick it off.

4. Be REALLY careful about them on the way down. Our local vets treat a LOT of dogs for severe ski-edge cuts every winter. The dogs love to jump and play on the descent and they'll be right next to you if they can keep up. They don't understand that those things strapped to your feet have sharp edges.

5. As Splitter says - no poop on the track . Carry a doggie bag and use it. At the VERY least, stop and get out your shovel and bury the poop somewhere well off the track. Letting your dog poop on the skin or boot track is an UNFORGIVABLE backcountry faux pas.

Other than that, have fun.

And as for stories, here's one:

http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/s...787#post545787
post #5 of 21
A Shaggy Dog Story

About six years ago, when Zeus (American Eskimo) was about a year and a half old, we took him out with us to ski from Loveland Pass. Zeus couldn't have been more excited, and he promptly lit out for the very highest summit. It took 30 minutes of calling and cajoling to get Zeus to rejoin us down below, though he still was yipping and running around with joy. Finally, we took off downhill. After about 30 feet, as I was in midair, I saw a white flash beneath me, which was Zeus running directly under me. My ski came down on his right front paw, slicing it open and severing 5 tendons. I carried him out to the car and we drove right down to our vet in Denver. As she was one of my wife's patients, she cut us a break, so the microsurgery to reattach everything only cost $1000. Oh yeah, and six weeks of Zeus unfailingly ripping off his bandage outside just before I had to leave home for any key business meeting. Needless to say, we've never taken Zeus skiing again.
post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks Bob and raspritz, those are both stories with very important lesssons.
post #7 of 21
My first post here, but some of you know me.

The most important thing to remember is that if you are taking your dog, you are doing it for your dog. Be mellow, be aware. It's not as much about the turns as about the time you spend with your dog... but anyway.. this story is what got me to register and post.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/new...che-week-wild/

Give your dog some love. It's one of the best investments you'll ever make.
post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Thanks Klaus, a great story and a great lesson. I'm thinking it will take a lot of time on very low angle stuff before I ever consider taking a dog into steeper avalanceh terrain, if at all. (Same for me too on my own )

Give Chava girl a kiss for me and thanks for chiming in.
post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by klausBCC View Post
My first post here, but some of you know me.

The most important thing to remember is that if you are taking your dog, you are doing it for your dog. Be mellow, be aware. It's not as much about the turns as about the time you spend with your dog... but anyway.. this story is what got me to register and post.

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/new...che-week-wild/

Give your dog some love. It's one of the best investments you'll ever make.
Nice story.

And it's good to have you hanging around here.
post #10 of 21
Hi,

I've got an 10 months old siberian husky and i'm wondering if he is too young to come and have and ride with me. I'm in quebec province, so no big mountains or anything but still soem remote areas with plenty of snow. After reading above, walking doesn't make me too nervous, but going downhill kinda scares me since he might get a little excited and come real close to me. Any thoughts on whether i should wait till next winter ???

Hellevhisse
post #11 of 21
They should be about a year old. So he's close to being the right age. This is hard, hard work for your pooch. They will love it, but if you start them too young they can get some developmental damage. Talk to your vet about it. I am not sure when the right age is for a Husky.
Also the dogs running close thing. That is going to happen. You have to be willing to stop, even though it's going to cause you to post hole, side step, have a big pain the arse. It takes a bit of work to get your pooch to understand to step aside and that sort of thing. Also, injuries can happen so be prepared to pay for an expensive vet bill should something go wrong.
post #12 of 21
Yeah, well i'm walking him for 1 hour 3-4 times week but going backcountry might still wait a time. But still i've already brought him to the firing range and he stays rock calm so... He's a calm dog but he still get excietd sometimes
post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellevhisse View Post
Yeah, well i'm walking him for 1 hour 3-4 times week but going backcountry might still wait a time. But still i've already brought him to the firing range and he stays rock calm so... He's a calm dog but he still get excietd sometimes
I'd wait until next year to take him. That way he'll definitely be developed. Walking for an hour 3-4 times a week isn't close to the effort he'll put out on a 5-6 hour tour in a foot and half of snow.

If you wait until next year, hopefully the first time you take him will be a powder day instead of spring corn and you'll have a chance in hell of staying in front of him if he turns out to be one of those dogs that likes to get close.

In regards to the firing range, loud noises are way different than chasing moving objects, especially if that moving object is you.

Remember to get some avalanche training if you don't already have it. Not only is it necessary for any backcountry skiing, but you are bringing an extra trigger and a friend that could get buried.

Dakota watching Jake the fruitbooter
post #14 of 21
I love this thread!
I had a special relationship with my dog, who went with me nearly everywhere.
This, along with the fun with Corbet at Boyne makes me want to get another dog.
post #15 of 21
Well, I fugured I might give it a try but for super short tours at first (1 hour, or something like that on flat terrain and not much new snow) and see how it goes. For the downhill part, 2 ideas came in mind to me :

-1st, I thought I could train him to stay uphill while I'm going down and then tell him to get back to me and do that in intervals (100-200ft at a time) but that might be difficult for him to wait uphill,

and 2nd, find a signal or something like that that could tell him to get away from me (whistle or something) and probably with time he'd learn that he has to stay away while we're going down.

Do you guys have other ideas as for methods of avoiding accidents and maybe comment the 2 methods i've thought at ????
post #16 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellevhisse View Post
Well, I fugured I might give it a try but for super short tours at first (1 hour, or something like that on flat terrain and not much new snow) and see how it goes. For the downhill part, 2 ideas came in mind to me :

-1st, I thought I could train him to stay uphill while I'm going down and then tell him to get back to me and do that in intervals (100-200ft at a time) but that might be difficult for him to wait uphill,

and 2nd, find a signal or something like that that could tell him to get away from me (whistle or something) and probably with time he'd learn that he has to stay away while we're going down.

Do you guys have other ideas as for methods of avoiding accidents and maybe comment the 2 methods i've thought at ????
I don't know about #2, but #1 has many great advantages and one potentially huge disadvantage.

The advantages have to do with training, period, not just with skiing with your dog. If you can train him to STAY while you leave him, you will have a dog that's better trained than about 98% of the dogs I see in the backcountry or anywhere else.

He can definitely be trained to stay until you call - all you have to do is work hard with him. It's difficult, yes, but he'll get it if you keep after it.

So the advantages are that you'll have a dog that's disciplined and you won't have to worry so much about what he's doing when you can't constantly watch over him. Here in Jackson, for instance, wildlife like moose, elk, deer, and predators like coyotes, foxes, and even wolves! are pretty common on hiking or skiing outings. A dog that is trained to STAY will not harass the other critters. Harassing wolves = not good.

The only downside to your idea of having him stay while you ski and then come when you call has to do with the terrain you choose to ski. If you're skiing potential avalanche areas, you normally aren't going to want to stop somewhere on an open slope and wait while the dog runs down to you. That can be mitigated by your selection of terrain and your choices about where and how far to ski, but you would need to take it into account.

I've not heard of anyone teaching the dog a signal of some sort that would keep him away from you while you ski. That sounds like a good idea. I wonder if it's possible?
post #17 of 21
Well,

the only downside i found in the first method is that I would not be able to ski on long intervals. But effectively, it would be good on his discipline. Also, I don't need to worry about avalanches since I am in the east. And there are not any big peaks where I go backcountry.

For the second method, it is based on the fact that when i go cycling in the summer, a whistle blow makes every single dog go away. So I thought I would only need to blow when he comes too close and with time (hopefully) he would learn to stay away (10-20 feet)

Thanks for the advices
post #18 of 21
All you need to do it TEACH your dog to ski and no more stepped on paws. Here's my dog getting fitted for a helmet.
525x525px-LL-vbattach2789.jpg
post #19 of 21
 How young of a dog would you begin taking on this type of ski adventure?
When we get snow, I'd like to start getting Jester used to the idea but I'm afraid he'll be too puppy ish to "get it"
post #20 of 21
When his legs get long enough to keep his head above snow.
post #21 of 21
 I have spoken to vets about this and a dog should be at least a year old and probably closer to two years.  There is a lot of wear and tear on developing bones and ligaments.  As Bob said earlier it is also important to keep your dog fed and hydrated, and watch for overexertion.  My dog used to just go crazy running around.  It is also critical in a place like Teton Pass to keep control of your dog at the trail head where the traffic is.  I never let the dog out of the car until the gear is packed and we are leaving.  Lots of dogs run into traffic up there and its really annoying.  I carried a razor and a few extra tampons in the first aid kit.  Ski cuts can be deep and hard to bandage over fur.  I've had to do it a few times.  I like to teach the dog to run behind me on the downhills.  I ski faster than the dog can run so it's safer for both of us.  You must also teach your dog to stay with the group that brought it.  I've seen dogs take off and follow the wrong skier.  Lucky for me my dog hates to have people watch her poop, so she always goes way off trail to get some privacy.  I hate brown ski wax.  I patrol at Snow King and lots of people take dogs up there before and after operating hours.  We see plenty of unpicked up poop.  Our OEC team at last years PEC conference was called "The Coil".  They won and didn't explain the name.  Unfortunately my dog is too old to ski or even hike much any more.  I took her up to Crystal Creek fishing this weekend and it almost killed her.  It seems like most dogs can't handle skiing by the age of 8.  I really miss skiing with my dog and she gives me a look when I leave the house with skis and she stays.  Fortunately I keep a set of gear at each of the mountains I work at and don't transport skis where she can see them.
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