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What are Sleddog Sports?

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.

Iron Will

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.

Invi and Ira my Canadian Eskimo Dogs

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.

Matt Hodgson

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Sleddog Sports – an Intro

I am delighted to have been asked by the Sporty Paws team to share some of my experiences in Sleddog sports over the last 17 or so years I have been competing. Let me introduce myself, my name is Matt Hodgson and in 2019 I became a World Sleddog Association Gold medalist in the 4 Dog 2 class which gained me the title of World Champion, I have also achieved silver medals in Bikejore and Bronze in scooter classes at World Championship level, these were all in Dryland Championships. On Snow I managed to secure Gold at Zuberec 2020 in Slovakia a feat I was told would not be possible for a British musher when I first started competing internationally due to lack of training opportunities.

This is isn’t to say I think I know all the answers, in fact the longer I do the sport and the more I travel and learn, the more I realise how much more there is to know, experience and understand, to me that is the beauty of the sport.

My

My love of the dogs of the far North was born in books such as The Call of the Wild by Jack London which I read as a boy, it fired my imagination and sparked a life long love of Husky type dogs. In 2004 I attended my first Sleddog rally in the New Forest and shortly afterwards got my first Sleddog an Alaskan Malamute called Ranger, from that point forward I slowly started to learn, attending events and finding local mentors to learn from. I have had 4 Alaskan malamutes which have all now sadly passed over rainbow bridge, they all taught me so much in their own ways. I currently have 2 Canadian Eskimo Dogs and 4 Greenland dogs, I feel I have finally found the dogs of my dreams in the Greenland Dog, a rare breed in the UK but one that for me truly encapsulates everything I love in the dogs of the far North.

Over the coming blogs I will be sharing thoughts, tips, tricks and general information I have picked up over the years in various disciplines within Sleddog sports from Bikejore to riding a sled, Ive been lucky enough to meet and train with multiple Champions from various disciplines across Europe and will be aiming to pass some of their knowledge on. I also regularly train a friends hound dog team so have some experience with non Arctic Breeds as well.

For those looking to start out in Sleddog sports the first thing I would say is keep it fun, and most of all make sure your dog finds it fun, happy dogs doing what they love is what it‘s truly all about, enjoy the adventures and if you get some success along the way, thats a bonus. You can find more about me on my website https://www.infurysleddogs.co.uk/

Please fee free to comment and ask questions which I will happily do my best to answer in upcoming articles