In this blog series we will take a little look at some of the basics of starting out in the sport from how, when, where etc through to more detailed analysis of equipment, training techniques and also detailed fitness plans and diets for working sled dogs.
What do I mean by Sleddog Sports? To many people the term sled dog sports conjures images of Iron Will, where teams of Fluffy Disney Huskies pull grizzled men wearing furs through Canadian wilderness in deep unbroken snow in a harsh man against man against nature and climate. In reality however, it can mean a wide variety of things for different people. For some, if it doesn’t involve an arctic adapted dog, a sled and snow it is not Sleddog Sports. However, given I sit writing this on the South Coast of England where a good winter may see 3 to 4 flakes of snow settle each year these days, I take the broader view that it’s aspirational. If you dream of being out there one day in the snow, running a team of dogs on a sled, then you have to start somewhere and for most of us that means 1 dog and something on wheels. For others they view Sleddog Sports as anything involving a dog pulling in a harness. This is the beauty of it, there is no right answer, it is for each person to take what they want from the sport and for them and their dogs to enjoy.
Very few people set out with the intention or desire to build a team to race the Iditarod (a famous 1000 mile race in Alaska) or to travel by dog team to the North Pole. In my experience, people tend to come in to the sport from 2 main angles, those with a love of arctic adapted dogs and who have a desire to provide them with an exercise form suited to their history and people with extremely active dogs who need an outlet for their energy and who desire to meet those needs through harness work. Both of these types often have something in common, they have dogs who cannot be trusted to be off lead and so need to exercise and tire their dogs through an activity where they are attached for control.
Whichever angle you are coming from, it is important to find the right guidance, to start with good habits and ensure your dog(s) are safe and enjoy themselves. While I can share ideas, thoughts and tips, nothing beats practical application and finding a good mentor. With social media it is easier than ever to find people, events and places where you can go watch, talk and learn. I attended several Sleddog events in the UK prior to getting my first Alaskan malamute puppy and this experience was invaluable to understand what I was entering in to.
In the next section I will look at the basics of team formation and starting equipment.
Always remember to keep it fun and keep your dogs safe.