Whether you have a poodle, a retired sled dog, or a dog in race form, the Dog Powered Sports Association (DPSA) of the Yukon has an event for you. The association runs events year-round and provides dogs -— and their owners — lots of opportunities for exercise, skill-improvement and socializing.

In the summer, the Hot Hound races feature events in bike-jouring, which is biking with the aid of a pulling dog, and canine-cross, which is a running event with dogs. In the winter, the Twister races provide the opportunity to compete in dog sledding and ski-jouring, which is like bike-jouring, but with skis, while the River Runner provides the longer distance challenge of 100 miles (160 km) along the Yukon River during the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous weekend.

“The events are really a lot of fun,” says DPSA board member Stefan Wackerhagen. “They’re very social and provide great opportunities to learn and improve your skills.”

Fellow board member, Fabian Schmitz agrees, “It’s really amazing watching how much skill levels improve over a season of events. The first few events that a new participant takes part in seem like chaos — there are people in snow banks, dog teams getting tangled, dogs getting distracted by other dogs, or people, or squirrels — and then very quickly you see people and their teams start to figure things out.”

“The Twister race series has been key for training my own dogs,” says Schmitz. “When I started out, my team didn’t have a clue what was going on. A fellow musher loaned me an experienced lead dog for a couple of the Twister races, and the rest of the dogs picked up from him how they should behave — for example, how to act when passing another team or meeting other dogs on the trail. It only took them about two races to get it figured out.”

The Twister series makes up the majority of the association’s winter activities. They run an event approximately once a month in various locations. This year, races will happen in December, January, and twice in March (a race in February could be added if an organizer steps up).

There are three categories: Recreational, which includes pets and retired sled dogs; Competitive; and Kids.

Wackerhagen recalls one young participant’s race with a laugh, “He was only about four years old and he was tiny. We sent a bunch of extra volunteers out on the course before he set off to make sure he was safe. He started to scream the second the dogs took off, and as far as we can tell he screamed his way around the entire course and across the finish line.”

Both Wackerhagen and Schmitz encourage anyone who is interested in dog sports to come out to the Twister series and give it a try.

“All you need for your dog is a harness and a tether to get you started in ski-jouring,” says Wackerhagen. “If you don’t know what you’re doing that’s alright, there’s lots of people at the events who will be happy to give you some advice and pointers — after all we were all beginners at one point, too.”

Schmitz adds that people who are interested in trying dog sledding would be wise to check out a race.

“It will give you the opportunity to meet some of the mushers in the community and connect with them,” he says.

To learn more about the Dog Powered Sports Association check out: http://dpsay.wordpress.com/