PEOPLE SEEM MOST CURIOUS ABOUT THE DOGS...so let's talk more about them! 🤓
SLED DOGS ARE A LOT LIKE OTHER DOGS...some are outgoing, some are shy. Some are silly, some are serious. Some are stubborn, some are compliant. Some are sweet, some are sassy. Some are big, some are little. Most of them like praise and affection, and tummy rubs, and ear (or butt) scratches. 👍 They ALL like treats 😋 and some of them like to sleep in bed with you at night. (Some don't, preferring to be outside.) And like all dogs, they need to be told when they are doing a good job. They key off of their humans. They learn and thrive with positive reinforcement. Relationship is key. 🐾❤️
BUT SLED DOGS HAVE SUPER-POWERS UNKNOWN TO MOST CANINES 💪They have been bred for many, many generations to love - to LIVE FOR - running and pulling in harness, and to have good attitudes and terrific appetites, tough feet, warm coats and a temperament that allows them to work well in a team. Most of them seem to average 45-65 pounds. They are not huge...they just have huge endurance, and attitudes and metabolisms to match.
AND THEY LOVE THE COLD...sled dogs in this region of Alaska are very well acclimated to COLD temps. In fact, mushing when it is above about 10 degrees F is a little TOO HOT for them. Ideal temps for them are about -10F to -15F 😮
THEY DON'T HAVE TO BE TAUGHT HOW TO RUN AND PULL...they do that automatically. They DO have to be taught things like Gee (go right) and Haw (go left), oh, and WHOA!!! 😂 They also have to learn good manners like how to be nice running next to their teammates, or how to behave in the house.
BECAUSE OF THE WORK THEY DO...they don't eat like average pet dogs. They get a special diet consisting of "performance" kibble, supplemented significantly with salmon caught (and then frozen) from the Yukon each fall, along with various other sources of fats, carbs and proteins. They often get snacks of raw meat and/or "fat balls" on the trail. They also get warm water "baited" with various flavorings (think stinky, yucky things that dogs would like :) ) to help keep them hydrated. Every musher seems to have a "formula" that works best for their dogs. The one thing they all have in common is they put a LOT of thought and effort into their dogs' diets!
MUSHERS ALSO TEND TO BE MORE IN TUNE WITH THEIR DOGS' OVERALL HEALTH THAN PROBABLY MOST PET OWNERS. Sled dogs' feet, appetite, weight and body condition are all monitored very closely. And of course any sign of soreness or lameness - just like with any athlete - is addressed right away. They even get their nails trimmed to prevent snagging anything on the trail, and the hair between their toes and pads is trimmed to prevent ice balls from forming.
MOST SLED DOGS SLEEP OUTSIDE IN THEIR DOG HOUSES MOST OF THE TIME. Retired dogs at Bush Alaska Expeditions have their choice of whether to spend nights indoors or outdoors...they each have their preference. Working dogs each have a dog house of their own with straw in it for bedding, but sometimes they get to sleep indoors too. I'll talk more about retired dogs in tomorrow's posts.