Ready. Set. Let’s Go! – Call Me Rudolph

Does your dog love to pull you around when you take it for walks?  Have you tried walking him on a harness, only to have him pull harder?  Then the sport of sled dog racing may be for you.  That is, of course, provided your dog isn’t a toy breed.  Sled dog racing is a sport in which a group of dogs pull a sled with a person on it, called a musher.  The team with the quickest time wins.  A lot of breeds are suitable for sled dog racing, but most serious sled dogs today are Alaskan Huskies.  This breed was bred from Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds, Border Collies, and other breeds in an effort to create fast, driven, hardy, energetic sled dogs.  The modern-day sled dog averages 40 to 60 pounds, though some are as small as 35 pounds and others as large as 70 pounds.  Whatever their size, not surprisingly, a good sled dog must possess a good appetite.  According to National Geographic, “a healthy appetite is essential…Long-distance sled dogs—those competing in events over 300 miles (483 kilometers) long—or freight-haulers like Sultana are out for days or weeks at a time. They can’t be finicky about their meals or prone to digestive issues…Sled dogs also need tough feet, says Charlotte Mooney. a racer and breeder in West Yellowstone, Montana. Racers can use booties to protect a dog’s paws, but the footwear slows the animals down…Not ideal for sprint races—events less than 30 miles (48 kilometers) long—where dogs run full blast for the duration.”

Race categories are separated by the length of the race and by the maximum number of dogs that are on each team. Besides the musher, a sled dog team can consist of four, six, eight, ten or even an unlimited number of dogs.  The dogs will run in sets of two behind each other – think of Santa’s reindeer, minus a single dog in front with a flashing red nose.  Each two dogs have specific jobs.  As an example, in the case of a team of eight dogs, the front two dogs are the lead dogs.  These two are in charge of the musher’s steering commands and they set the pace.  Dogs three and four, called the swing dogs, make sure the rest of the team turns as instructed by the pace dogs.  The team dogs are dogs five and six.  These two pull the sled and maintain the speed.  The final two dogs, known as the wheel dogs, are just as important as the other six.  The wheel dogs are crucial in pulling and steering the sled. A fairly good temperament is one of the multiple qualities dogs must possess, aggressive tendencies are not tolerated.  These dogs must be able to work as a team and also be able to interact with the human fans and tourists who want to meet them. 

Sled dog races consist of three types; short distances of 4 to 25 miles, mid-distances of 28 to 200 miles, and long-distances of 200 to more than 1,000 miles.  Organized races can be found pretty much all over the world.  In the U.S. you can enjoy them in Alaska, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Minnesota, etc.  These races can also be seen in such places as Canada, Russia, Norway, New Zealand, Australia,  and others.  For a more comprehensive list of races, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sled_dog_races.  Sled dog racing is not for the faint of heart, nor does it come without risks.  It is important to take into account all the risks associated with sled dog racing before starting this or any sport with your dog.  If you want more information on getting started in this invigorating pastime, you can go to https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/meet-todays-sled-dogs/.