The in and outs of dog sledding

by Sleddoggin Staff on March 8, 2011

Article by John Grant

In some parts of the world such as Alaska, there is too much snow and ice to get around using regular vehicles. Instead they depend on sled dogs to pull them around. These dogs are specially trained for this type of work from the time they are very young. It takes a team of sled dogs to make it work and each one has to be able to keep up with the others. Sled dogs are highly respected and they are also well cared for by their owners.

There are plenty of stories throughout history that cover the miraculous events of sled dogs. Teams of them were used to get vaccines to the Alaskan children when the weather was too bad for the trains to bring in supplies. While the adventure was certainly risky these animals did what they were asked to do.

In honor of the efforts of sled dogs over the generations, the Iditarod has become a well known event. It involves musher’s and teams of sled dogs traveling along a particular route. They have rules that require them to check in at certain points. The dogs also can only be ran for a set amount of time. This event draws millions of spectators and there is quite a large cash payment for those that win the event.

Huskies are the most common breed of sled dogs out there. They are very intelligent animals, obedient, strong, and they can handle the cold weather. Part of their efficiency is that they are well trained and given a good diet. A sled dog needs to be fast so they can’t be overweight. You may find it surprising to find out that a sled dog can consume up to 10,000 calories a day so it can get expensive to feed them.

Some sled dog teams are only made up of five or six dogs. Others can have up to sixteen on the team. They have their hierarchy among them and there is generally one lead dog that helps the musher to keep the rest of them in line. Sled dogs are very loyal and there have been many accounts of them working to help injured musher’s as well. One down side to using huskies is they do have very sensitive feet. In order for them to continue moving fast small booties are often placed on their feet. This can allow them to travel up to one hundred miles per day.

Caring for the dogs isn’t easy but most musher’s find it to be quite enjoyable. They often breed their dogs in order to keep a good supply of them available. Sled dogs are specially trained from a young age to be able to follow the commands of a musher. They are also involved in strict exercise regiments in order to give them the strength they need. Most dogs have a desire to pull as part of their behaviors so they don’t mind it at all.

The diet for the dogs is very important. Musher’s may need to feed them up to 10,000 calories a day in order for them to perform the work they have to do. This is compared to a normal dog that would consume 1,500 or less in calories each day. The musher’s also make sure their dogs have some fun and get plenty of rest. Many musher’s knit soft booties to keep the feet of the dogs warm and protected from the elements.

The bond between musher and dog is very important to this culture and way of life. A dog can become part of the sled team after being fully trained. This is around one or two years of age. Most of the dogs are valuable for hauling around ten years. Musher’s pay close attention to them and address health concerns. As a dog starts to get too old for pulling they are allowed to freely roam the area but they are still well cared for until the day that they die.

A musher is in control of their team of dogs at all times. They control where they travel, how far they travel, and how fast. Most sled dogs are extremely loyal to their musher’s if they get the right care. The musher stands on the back of the sled and there is a harness that is linked to the dogs. The musher controls the movements of the dogs by the use of this harness.

Musher’s work very hard to make sure their dogs are happy and healthy. They may engage in mushing to move materials such as supplies they have purchased and firewood. Others engage in mushing so they can travel around the area and see other people. While musher’s are in the spotlight during popular races, there is plenty more that takes place behind the scenes.

John Grant is an avid camper and enjoys the outdoors You can check his latest website at Best Snowshoes where he provides an unbiased review and buying advice










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