Doctor dog: how man’s best friend is also the best medicine

Victoria Carver

Dogs bring us joy with their silly antics and never-ending optimism. Studies show that a owning dog can benefit our health too. Dogs can also help their owners get more exercise.

Studies have shown that, on average, dog owners take
2,760 more steps per day than their dogless counterparts. This adds up to about 23 extra minutes of activity each day. Dog owners are significantly more active in winter and during Alaska’s coldest and darkest months, the extra motivation brought by sweet, puppy dog eyes staring you down can be just what is needed to get off the couch and go for a walk.Walks and romps in the backyard are great daily activities for you and your dog but sometimes, the walking routes can become monotonous and the epitome of “been there, sniffed that.” Here are some ways for you and your dog to exercise together this winter.


Victoria and Doc Holliday
UA Wellness Coordinator Victoria Carver and Doc Holiday

Do you like to ski? Does your dog like to run? Then skijoring might be a great way to get out and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful trails with your pup. Skijoring is a winter sport where a cross country skier skis while being pulled by one to three dogs using a harness, skijor belt and special shock cord line. Skate skiing is the most common style used for skijor, but classic skis can be used too. Just don’t use skis with metal edges, as these can injure your dog. 

If you and your dog are a social pair, go out with some friends or reach out to your local skijor club for beginner clinics and group runs. Dogs learn very quickly from one another and skijor groups are a great way to meet new people with similar interests. A couple of skijor groups are the Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association in Fairbanks and the Anchorage Skijor Club.  

Skijoring is a team sport between you and your dog, and the more you are able to help each other out, the more fun you are going to have. Dogs over 30 lbs are typically recommended if you want some real pulling power, but that doesn’t mean smaller dogs can’t run ahead and enjoy the experience too.  


Bikejoring is a lot like skijoring, except your dog will be pulling you on a bike instead of on skis. Mountain bikes and fat tire bikes are the most popular choices for this sport which means that bikejoring is something you can do year round and on a variety of surfaces. Another benefit of bikejoring is that the bike’s brakes make slowing down or stopping during an emergency easier than when you’re on skis. Whatever bike you decide to use, make sure you have disc brakes and not caliper brakes as this will give you better stopping power when you need it.


For those who feel that skijoring and bikejoring are too risky, kicksledding might be the perfect fit. Kicksledding is another mushing sport that looks a lot more like traditional dog sledding. A kicksled is a small sled that is traditionally powered by a human kick, hence the name. However, many people have found them to be small and lightweight enough for one or two dogs to pull while their owner kicks along. 

UA wellness coordinator Victoria Carver can be contacted at (907) 450-8203 or .