The Alaskan Husky is a northern breed dog and has a double coat suitable for the conditions in which they live. The dense fleecy or wooly under coat keeps them warm while the longer, thicker guard hairs on top protect the under layer and skin while repelling rain or snow. In the spring, they shed this under coat allowing them to be cool for the summer. As the seasons change, this thick under coat grows back in for the winter. The Alaskan Husky is a mixed breed dog and as a result the dogs’ coats also vary in thickness.
In general our dogs’ favourite temperature is -20C. Some have extremely thick coats keeping them happy as a clam in -40C and some have thinner coats that will need some extra layers in such temperatures. Most of the dogs here at Run Wild prefer to sleep outside. On the coldest of nights everyone goes to the doggy motel for a night beside the wood stove and a break from the elements. Though I believe this is more for my peace of mind than theirs. When I see them sunbathing in -40C or colder I’m once again reminded of just what amazing creatures these dogs are.
Our dogs get two meals a day at breakfast and dinner. Feeding varies between the seasons. We feed Inukshuk kibble year round. In the non-frozen months each dog will have freestanding water changed daily and dry kibble. In the frozen months where freestanding water isn’t available the water will be given as a soup mixed with raw meat and fat. The meat we feed will depend on what is available season to season but will vary from chicken, beef, turkey, horse, liver and fish while the fat is generally chicken or beef with the odd season of smelly tripe.
After a run they will get a meat soup to refuel. On longer training runs or adventure days they will get a snack every two hours on the trail. A snack is a bite-sized portion of fat, frozen meat, fish, soaked kibble or a meat soup. Due to the large number of dogs we keep the bones to a minimum to avoid confrontations but do give them out on special occasions for treats.
I have tried different styles of tethering in my kennel over the years. When I started mushing I had a full time tethered kennel. This just wasn’t how I wanted to live with my dogs. So I switched to a full time free kennel thinking this would be more fitting. What I witnessed was chaos. I found the dogs to be way higher in energy, almost anxious, and didn’t feel they were very balanced as a pack. So I switched again and found a system I use today that works both for my and the dog’s peace of mind. The dogs go on their tethers in the evening and they come off in the morning after breakfast spending the day loose.
Giving the dogs their own personal space of their very own is comforting to them. They all freely go to their houses to be clipped in and yip excitedly to come off. If a dog is injured or feeling below the weather they will naturally seek out their own house to rest in. I firmly believe it is a necessary skill for a sled dog to learn to be on a tether. A very important part of being a sled dog is having patience and it is essential that they are comfortable during down times. I believe it is equally important for the dogs to just be dogs away from work and tether free time is essential to their well being.
After a winter of running sleds the dogs get a brief down period while the snow is melting to relax and regroup after a winter of hard work. Once the trails dry up we train on an ATV with no motor with teams of 10-12. Due to the warmer temps of spring and summer these training sessions are short in length with water breaks. Back in the yard there is a little wading pool for those that prefer a post run dip. During the warmest dog days of summer we take a break from working and simply play in the yard.
As the temps cool in the fall the runs will become longer again until the snow flies and the cycle starts all over. A fence encloses our entire property so our dogs are free to be loose in the yard and are always with us as our house is in the enclosed area too! I’m a big fan of free running dogs in the off-season. It allows for a different kind of exercise, socializing and stretching of the body. Its also a good bonding exercise and brings you closer together as a pack.
Simply put, old timers are my favourite part of sled dogs. Run Wild is a small kennel with 20-25 dogs. When they retire they move inside and keep the couch warm. All of our dogs stay with us until the end. Retired sled dogs are great companions, well mannered, confident in themselves from a life of working and just generally awesome to be around. No kennel is complete without a small pack of old timers wandering around keeping watch! Being with them when their journey in this world ends is a privilege and I am grateful to have this beautiful experience with them at the end of their days.