Digital Artist

Questions Most Frequently Asked Of A Dog Musher

"Sharing the spirit and exuberance of sled dogs has been part of our lives for over thirty years. We enjoy being asked about all aspects of this appealing, sometimes misunderstood, sport. Questions provide us rewarding opportunities to share our love and appreciation of this extraordinary athlete, the racing sled dog."

Why do you do this?
The sled dog's great generosity of spirit, focus on their task and faith in their driver and each other humbles me. They enhance, for me, what it is to be human. I am inspired as they hold nothing back- they live fully and completely in the moment. I love to feel my team's smooth exhilarating charge flying through a long turn. These dogs are incredible athletes - they run with abandonment - and display a wildness that a driver can only attempt to guide.

What kind of dogs do you run?
I raise and train Alaskan Huskies, bred purposely for sled dog racing since the Gold Rush Days of the early 1900s. Primary breeding stocks are from the Natives of the Yukon River area, Siberia and Canada.
How do you train them?
To train them is to nurture the instincts and desire to pull, which the dogs have been selected and bred for over generations. I try to earn their trust and build confidence. Young dogs must always have fun, older dogs need to feel respected. Pulling hard and fast is taught by holding the speed to just a little less than the dog would like it to be.

What do you feed your dogs?
Optimum nutrition is one of the absolute keys to successful sled dog racing. Efficiently utilized, nutritionally dense foods are essential. To facilitate maximum utilization I use a high fat, high protein formula balanced carefully with vitamins and minerals. I recommend Annamaet Dog Foods which I know have high quality formulation and proven performance.

I thought they'd be bigger!
That assumption has prevailed a long time. Alaskan Huskies are the thoroughbred of sled dogs, capable of covering 125 miles per day. Smaller, leaner athletes have more speed and endurance and are more efficient. Their power is cumulative and comes from working together as a team. 

How do I choose lead dogs?
Basically they choose themselves. Exceptional drive, consistency and a desire for responsibility displays itself in the dog's performance. I move dogs forward in the team as they excel. All good dogs have the opportunity to lead. Some blossom with opportunity, others show me that I am asking too much at that time.
Which are better, males or females?
Athletically and instinctively they are equal, however males tend to be larger and more aggressive pullers, and in my experience, females tend to be more enduring. I believe a more spirited team will have both males and females because running as a team is a social experience. The team dynamics, though we cannot fully understand them, are clearly enhanced by including both sexes.
What are the strategies of running a long distance race?
There are two basic strategies. The first is to run long and steady with a minimum of rest. The other is to run fast and out rest the competition. Training and dog selection are the integral part of race strategy. Either select dogs to fit your strategy or select your strategy based on your dog's strength. In any case, train your dogs to do what you expect. "Don't cheat your dogs." 

When do you retire them?

I don't. On the other hand, I do not ask more of a dog than he or she has to give. Older dogs love it the most. Running is so completely a part of a sled dog's identity and dignity, that it seems unfair or even cruel to not run an older dog. What an older dog may have lost in speed is made up for by the trail wisdom to pace expension of energy and focus on the task. They are great teachers of young dogs and are a source of great joy and satisfaction to any dog musher.

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