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Wisconsin State Parks

Wisconsin State Park System Dog-powered sports


Photo © Wisconsin Department of Tourism

A dog-powered sport is an activity in which dogs provide all or part of the power needed to move a transport. The sports are increasingly popular in Wisconsin and are practiced recreationally and competitively. Though mushing invokes images of sled dogs running in the arctic, there are many different sports practiced in Wisconsin, some of which do not even require snow.

Dog sledding

The most famous dog-powered sport, and our traditional understanding of mushing, is using dogs to pull a sled over snow and ice. This ancient mode of transportation has deep roots in the arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia, and its popularity has grown in Wisconsin through the 20th and 21st centuries.

In many parts of the world, including Wisconsin, mushers train year-round for sled dog races. These races are often distinguished either by distance (sprint, mid-distance and long-distance racing) or by the number of dogs in a team. Wisconsin hosts a number of races during the fall and winter months [exit DNR].


"Skijoring" comes from a Norwegian word that means "ski-driving." In this growing sport, cross-country skiers ski while being pulled by a dog or dogs. Skijoring is not allowed on designated cross-country ski trails or nature trails. Trails are considered "designated" if the use is indicated on maps and/or with a trailhead sign. Dogs must be on a line/leash no more than 8 feet long.

Dryland sports

Contrary to popular belief, dog-powered sports are enjoyed year-round and are not limited to winter months. Many dog owners attach their harnessed dogs to bicycles (bikejoring) or scooters, or run cross-country with them (canicross). Dog carting, the dryland pulling of a wheeled cart, is also practiced recreationally and competitively, and is often used by winter dog sled enthusiasts when snow is not present.

Where to go

The DNR allows dog sledding and skijoring on non-designated cross-country ski trails and anywhere off-trail as long as the property allows dogs. Dogs must be on a line/leash no more than 8 feet long. Contact the park or forest office if you have questions about where you want to recreate or train with your dogs.

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Last revised: Monday May 15 2017