The Working Sled Dog
They offers much in the way of companionship. they can be
trained to work with his owner as a pack dog, sled dog or weight
puller. Sharing these activities with your sled dog will give
them the opportunity to prove themself as an eager worker as
well as providing help and companionship for the actively
The most important attribute of a
working sled dog is attitude. A dog may possess all the physical
attributes needed to be a good sled dog, but without the desire
to pull, he has nothing.
Even the best dog must have
proper feed when he is working or he will lose weight and
muscle. Nutritional requirements for a hard-working dog are
several times more than that of a maintenance diet and the onset
of cold weather will make them greater yet. Sled dogs working
long hard days in colder weather conditions rquire a diet high
in fat and protein. Adequate water is necessary to prevent
dehydration especially in cold, dry climates.
Sledding or Mushing
Sledding is the various sled dogs original job. They helped move camp for
their nomadic owners
as they moved between their hunting and fishing grounds. Because
a dog team consists of several dogs it is essential that dogs
have good temperaments and be well disciplined. You can start
sledding with your sled dog for short distances when about
twelve months old.
Remember that the young dogs cannot cover the distance or pull
the load that a well conditioned adult dog can from eighteen
months onwards. Start the
youngster or inexperienced dog off in a small team beside a well
mannered, hard working dog. Use a light cart and stick to trails
that are well packed and not too steep so that your junior can get
the feel of running with a tight tug line without being worked
too hard. Increase distances gradually and teach basic commands
such as hike, whoa, and stay. their first experiences in harness
should be positive as this is what he will have to build on as
his training progresses. Your youngster will be ready to run
with the experienced team his second winter.
Apart from Carting, various other mushing activities such as
Cani-walk, Canicross, Scootering and Bikejoring can be utilised
to train your sled dog to become a working dog.
A variety of mushing events are available across South Africa.
With the Siberian Husky being the racing type, some sled dogs
such as the Alaskan Malamute, Greenland dog and Samoyed, these events are
fun and social in participating in their own class. They provide the opportunity to run on some good
trails and learn from the experts.
A well trained and
conditioned team can often be place in the middle of
the pack. Sprint races are short, with the distances run being
dependent on the numbers of dogs on your team. Distances are
usually three to seven kilometers and up to
twelve kilometers at National events. Many of these events include a
one- or two-dog class for the mushers wanting to participate in
other activities such as Cani-walk, Canicross, Scootering and
Some of these classes are held for Juniors, Adults and Veterans.
For running dogs in warmer climates, many
people enjoy dryland mushing or sledding. A variety of carts are available and some
clubs host short cart races. When carting, people must be aware
that warmer weather can be hard on the northern breed sled dogs and even
dirt roads are harder on dogs' feet and joints than running o
Packing with your sled dog can be an excellent activity for both
of you and is ideally suited for the one-dog owner. It is easy
to train a sled dog to back pack. The equipment needs are
minimal, especially if you are already a hiker or backpacker.
Hiking trails can be found almost everywhere and most Mals love
to get out on the trail.
The dog should be obedience
trained in the basics of heeling (walking by your side). He
should know a command to walk in front of you or behind you in
the event that you come upon a narrow trail. He should behave in
camp and be able to be tied up in camp if needed.
There are a number of back packs
available, or you can construct your own. Make sure that the
pack goes over the dog's head easily and test the pack fully
loaded to see that the dog can move freely, with no binding or
chafing anywhere. Your leash can be attached to the dog's collar
or a D ring on the pack. If possible have quick release buckles
on the pack as they are a big asset when encountering streams or
At about six to eight months of
age a dog can be lightly packed. Start out with about 1/8 of the
dog's own weight. Fill the packs with bulky, light items, giving
the dog the feel of a full load with a minimum of weight. As
your dog gets into good condition, slowly increase the load to
1/3 of his weight. Be sure that each side of the pack carries an
equal amount of weight or the load will shift and be hard on the
Before you head for the hills
your dog must be in condition and his feet must be hardened.
Conditioning trips can be short hikes, or jogging with your dog.
Before you do any serious backpacking, do some short hikes that
will take you on a variety of trails. When your Malamute is
mature he can carry about 30% of his own weight all day if he is
used to doing it and is in good condition. Don't expect a dog
who spends the day lying in the backyard to be in shape. When
the dog packs are loaded, check that all is in balance. Large
items such as tents may not be workable as they shift too much.
Don't pack any items that might poke through the pack, and pack
all perishable items in plastic bags in case the dog decides to
take a swim somewhere along the trail. Plan on extra rations for
your hard working dog when he is on the trail. Take a light
chain or rope to tie your dog up within in camp and make sure to
carry water if it will not be readily available along the trail.
Take a break every hour or so to rest your dog, give him a drink
and check his pack. Remember to watch that your dog does not
disturb other hikers, wildlife or livestock along the way. Clean
up after your dog on a trail or near camping areas.
The Alaskan Malamute is by nature and conformation a draft
animal. His very size and weight lend to heavy pulling. The
sport of weight pulling is popular, because it can be practiced
at home in the back yard or urban park, it is something even the
one-dog owner can participate in.
Weight pull competitions consist
of a dog pulling a given weight a given distance in a set amount
of time. Weights are increased for each round, with dogs
dropping out when they fail to make the pull. The competitions
are divided into weight classes. There are several sets of
weight pull rules used, the most common being those of the
International Weight Pull Association (IWPA) as applied by SAMA. These rules now call
for a dog to pull a load a distance of 5 meters in one minute and
give you the option of calling the dog from the far side of the
finish line or driving the dog from a position behind the dog.
Weight pulling may be done with sleds or carts. Rules do change
from time to time so it is best to become familiar with the
rules before you enter a competition.
You may begin training for weight
pulling when your dog is six months old; however, most
competitions require that dogs be a year old to participate.
Basic obedience training is helpful before getting started
because the dog will have learned some basic commands such as
stay and come. Start out with light weights on snow, dirt or
grass. Make sure the harness is properly fitted and that the
weight you are using does not make a lot of noise or that it is
not so light that it might hit the dog should the dog spook and
start running. A small tire makes a good weight to start with.
Where to Go
Join a affiliated Club in your area providing opportunities to work your dogs.