Interview with Dana Day & Mike Langois

by Sleddoggin Staff on May 20, 2011

Name: Dana Day & Mike Langois
Kennel: SnowPack Siberian Huskies
Birthplace: Dana: Calgary, Alberta (Canada) / Mike: Sudbury, Ontario (Canada)
Current Residence: Logan Lake, British Columbia, Canada
Occupation: Park Facility Operators for BC Parks
Email: snowpacksiberians@yahoo.ca
Website: www.snowpacksiberians.com

Introduction To Our Musher

I’m from a small town in western Canada and he’s from the east…Toronto!
We decided early on that we wanted an outdoorsy, adventurous lifestyle so we both took on careers as Provincial Park operators. We have the pleasure of living, working and training our Siberian Huskies right in the middle of 17,000+ acres of protected area in beautiful British Columbia.

The Background of Our Musher

How did you get involved with the sport of dog sledding?
Mike & I started attending local dog sled races as a spectator sport over 9 years ago. Strangely, this coincides with the addition of our first Siberian Husky! At the time we were still “city dwellers” so were unable to pursue our dreams of one day having our own team. That has since changed and we now have a kennel of 14 and are looking forward to our first race this winter.

Could you tell us about your first mushing adventure?
We were spending our winter lodge-sitting for friends and needed to find a hobby that would occupy our time. A local sled builder, Irvin Wiens, built our first sled & we enthusiastically attached our two house huskies to it. How we ever thought that they would just naturally enjoy pulling our big butts around, right outta the blue, is beyond me! They hated it, but we loved it!

Who have been your biggest supports during your mushing years?
The whole sled dog community has been wonderful. Most everyone that we have encountered has been very supportive & informative. Mike’s children, Matt & Rachel, have been great help with everything from feeding to whelping. Their enthusiasm is infectious and is a real bonus for us and the dogs, especially when we are training.

How long have you been addicted to mushing?
We were hit hard by the dog sledding bug back in 1996 when we saw our first race. We have been addicted ever since!

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your dog sledding career?
Finally, after years of trial & error, we understand the workings of a dog sled team! This may sound strange, but it’s easy to think you know what you’re doing but until you actually do it and do it successfully you really have no idea!! With time and patience everyone will reach the point of the perfect run where everything “clicks.” That is the best accomplishment of all!

What is it about dog sledding that makes you enjoy it so much?
The dogs! Just spending time with them doing what comes naturally. This is especially enjoyable when everything jives, you know when the harnesses all fit nicely, tugs are tight, gee & haws are effortless and the sun is sparkling off the snow! It doesn’t get better than that!

Do you have any other pets besides sled dogs?
We have one old girl who is a Shepard/Siberian cross. She was our first dog and is ever the obedient, lovable house pet. She likes, most times, the huskies and adores the puppies. She is getting on in years and we just can’t imagine our life without Blue.

Are you married and do you have any children?
Yes, we are married and have two great kids, Matt (18) and Rachel (13 & a half).

What hobbies, sports or activities do you enjoy doing besides dog sledding?
We used to camp every chance we got but now that we run a provincial park, we really have no time to do anything until the end of October then dog sled training begins! I love photography (sled dogs of course) and Mike, well, he makes great homemade wine.

Maintaining a Kennel

How is your kennel set up?
We have an open-concept kennel. We all live in a 120 x 120 fenced-in compound with our ranger’s cabin tucked into the north-west corner. The fencing is 6 tall with 1 of security barbed wire on top. Out of all the huskies we have only one is a digger but just to be safe we ran electric livestock wire 6 off the ground around the whole perimeter.

We have, what we lovingly call, a husky airlock. It is a 50 x 17 fenced in area that extends off of our main gates. This allows for vehicle comings & goings, hooking up of the teams and close-up, public viewings of the Siberians.

We have an isolation kennel located in a covered shop and a whelping cage next to our cabin which is also covered by two big 20 gazebos with sides. This area, complete with bark mulch, cedar decking and doggy furniture, serves as a husky hangout.

Our compound is mainly gravel but has areas of sand (for digging fun) & bark mulch. We also have a BIG woodpile that serves as a husky agility course. Our last big yard project was installing 120 of extra large drainage culvert. We are hoping this will help with spring thaw as it seems we are the low spot of the forest!

The piece of resistance is the doggy door that lets our husky fam come in and out of the cabin as they please..or as WE please.

How many lucky dogs currently enjoy your kennel?
We have 13 purebred Siberian Huskies and 1 Blue (our Shepard/Siberian cross). We are happily counting the days to the arrival of another Sibe girl that we are adopting from our mentor AND we are also keeping fingers crossed in hopes of a much anticipated pregnancy.

What is the feeding routine for your dogs?
Because of our open-concept kennel, we tie out the dogs in our covered shop on individual drop chains. They are fed once/day except for the puppies and pregnant females who get fed at least twice/day. We keep heated water buckets throughout the yard and we just love them they work great!

What is your kennel philosophy?
We cherish our dogs & treat them just like family probably better! We are a forever-home to them all & they only run in team as long as they’re having fun & enjoying it. It’s all about having happy, healthy huskies

What is important to you when maintaining a kennel of working dogs?
To us it’s very important that everyone gets along! Pack dynamics are very intricate & will change because of new additions, females in heat/whelp or even because of an injury. That’s OK as long as there is no fighting & the true alphas (Mike & I) have last say!

If I were a dog in your kennel, what would my day be like?
First you would wake up in our nice warm cabin, head out the doggy door, go for a pee & then come back in and jump all over Mike & me while we are still in bed! After lots of cuddles, you would play outside with the rest of the pack until it is time for lunch. You would be extremely excited about lunch, wolf down your kibble and head back onto the wood pile for play time & a chance to howl at the visitors who come to see you. Time for a quick nap & then its harness time and out for a run with the ATV or sled. Even though you hate to stop, you are looking forward to your snack of baited water and a nice scrub down while I check you over for injuries. After that it’s play time again and then back into the cabin for a nice cozy sleep. You, of course, would be dreaming of the fun that you will have the next day.

Working With the Dogs

What physical attributes do you try and produce in one of your average sled dogs?
We are still very new to breeding. After much reading, watching & talking with others, we have decided that positive attitude & a pure, unwavering work ethic are what we want most in our puppies. Physically though, we like lots of leg, nice compact feet and big JLo buns!

What breeds do you currently mush with?
Purebred Siberian Huskies, registered with the CKC.

What is the demeanor like in all of your sled dogs?

Each dog is different but as a rule, our sled dogs are our pets. We like happy, well-adjusted & social huskies. We don’t subscribe to the insanely, excitable, out of control sled dog mantra. Even though they may seem somewhat subdued & focused, we swear they are smiling when they are in team!

Please describe your vision of the perfect sled dog.
I asked Mike this question and he immediately stated a dog that is a good athlete, who stays focused, knows the commands consistently and is HAPPY! Couldn’t have said it better myself!

The Magical World of Puppies

How do you house your puppies?
Our babies are kept in a 10 x 6 cage with a large whelping box inside. The box itself is insulated all around and is full of soft warm blankets. On top of the floor of the cage is a thick layer of pine chips. The whelping cage is covered by a big gazebo with a roof & sides. The whole thing sits outside of our cabin’s front door. If we had the room, we would have them in indoors with us…even though they are huskies. We keep a security-caged light bulb ready to use inside of the whelping box on very cold evenings especially during the first 2 weeks after whelp.

During the first months of a puppy’s life, what is their training like? What do you work on with them?
For their first month the pups are mainly with their mom. We are in the whelping cage constantly to change bedding, check temperatures, clean the cage and keep an eye on mom & babes. We also use a child’s play pen to keep the pups in while they are hanging out in the cabin for socialization (loves, hugs & kisses). When they are old enough to stumble & play, they get use our bedroom as a puppy jungle gym. This usually lasts for 2 hours/day. After that it is playtime in the compound, at first with just us & then slowly with 1 or 2 older pack members until eventually everyone plays together while we supervise. It’s pretty much just play time & socialization until they are around 8-10 months old when they start Gee-Haw hikes in harness. We always keep training session’s fun.

What do you look for in your breeding pair?
We, being Siberian Husky lovers, adore the classic Siberian look..the pert ears, mischievous eyes, laughing smile, gorgeous coat, fox-like tail & distinctive masks. That being said, these attributes don’t a sled dog make! Positive attitude and the drive to pull are key considerations. We choose our breeding pairs after years of observation. To us it is, really, about knowing the dogs. How they look, move, socially interact and, last but not least how they work in team

What is your favorite part about raising puppies?
We just love having puppies around plain & simple! Puppies are innocent, sweet, soft, cuddly and full of kisses. It is such a wonderful experience to watch them grow and develop distinct personalities. Who wouldn’t want a houseful of puppies?!

Training: The Hard Part

What is your way of thinking when it comes to racing and training?
We focus on having fun and making sure that everyone has positive experiences. We as leaders must maintain patience & control to gain our teams confidence & respect. Have fun and always use positive reinforcement. Do all this & just keep repeating invest the time.

Could you describe your yearly training program?
We work 7 days/week during the summer months which is a good thing! Our Sibes have thick coats & our summers can be quite hot so not much action happens around our dog yard! Our compound is large enough that they get exercise through play or they can choose to lounge in the puppy pool or loaf around in the shade. In the fall we go on Gee-Haw hikes with the pups in harness. The adults get hooked to the ATV for dryland training ASAP. We start everyone slowly but eventually get up to shorter, faster runs interspersed with longer, slower treks. By the time the snow starts and the nice, light sled comes out of the rafters, there is a resounding sigh of happiness it’s time to fly!

What tools are most important to you when training your sled dogs?
Everyone needs quality gear in good repair. We check everything over from top to bottom. Harnesses are checked for fit this is very important if you want happy sled dogs! Our ATV is an awesome tool & has more than doubled our dog driving season. The sleds & our dog truck, of course, are quite important. Let’s not forget Mother Nature lots of snow please.

What are your training goals each year?
To have happy, confident sled dogs.

Racing: Oh Glorious Racing!

Do you race? If so, what races?
We have been purely recreational, but are hoping to attend our first race this winter. Wish us luck!

What are your goals during the racing season?
No real race goals other than to finish with intact sled & ego!

Could you tell us about your first race?
We will have to get back to you on this one!

How do you decide which dogs make the race team?
Everyone will go to the races except for our old girls & young pups.

If you could, what are your racing strengths and weaknesses?
Too early to tell BUT a good guess would be:
Strength: our enthusiasm!
Weakness: our lack of experience!

How do you decide which races you will be entering during the racing season?
Whatever race(s) suits our limitations & location. Snow conditions & where our friends are going will also play a factor.

What has been your most memorable racing experience?
We weren’t racing but were helping the other mushers. I was holding back a 10 dog team by the leader line when, all of a sudden, they took off. I tried to head them toward the start line but they were too determined and knocked me off my feet. I was dragged a ways (on my butt) until the driver got them to stop. I was quite embarrassed and my rosy cheeks were glowing extra-bright red!

What Does the Future Hold?

What do you hope to accomplish with the dog sledding sport?
To win the Iditarod & Yukon Quest back to back..Just Kidding.
Seriously though, we just want to have fun and spend some quality time with our Sibes.

What changes do you hope dog sledding makes in the near future?
We would like to see more symposiums and seminars on the sport. It would be great if we could all get together, check out new equipment and share ideas. A non-competitive forum! We also wish that the general public would have greater tolerance when it comes to sled dog kennels. Too many great mushers are forced out of the sport because of out-dated opinions.

To the beginning musher, what advice would you give?
Be prepared to spend a great deal of time with your dogs. Quality time! It’s not fair to expect your dogs to respect your commands if you are not a team player. Find a mentor that treats you with respect and WANTS to share their insight. There are many out there so find one that you feel comfortable with. A good mentor can make all the difference. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions and make mistakes, we are only human (not dog) after all!

If mushers were to do something to perpetuate the dog sledding sport, what would that be?
Treat your dogs with love & kindness. The image of prevalent animal cruelty has done almost irreparable damage to the dog sledding sport! Don’t shun curious on-lookers who want to pet your dogs and know more about our sport encourage them! Answer questions and have tolerance with people who don’t know “musher etiquette. Get the kids involved and make it fun. They are the future of our sport and our dogs!

Anything else for the mushing community to hear?
Even though we are not what most would consider a competitive sled dog kennel, we still enjoy being apart of this great community. Hopefully in the future we can all get along and quit bickering about different breeds, training methods or kennel styles. Let’s all remember why we are here – for the dogs.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Calgary dog training May 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Thnaks for kind of information:-)

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Christian June 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm

You’re very welcome!

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