Alaskan Sleigh Dogs

In this March 3, 2014 photo, Ramey Smyth drives his dog team into the Rainy Pass checkpoint during the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race near Puntilla Lake, Alaska. (AP Photo/The Anchorage Daily News, Bob Hallinen)

This past week I went on a cruise to Alaska with my family.  I really did not want to go because that meant I would be away from my dog and being on a boat for 9 days did not sound like fun at all.  The first couple of days were horrible like I thought because I got sea sick and then at one of our stops , which was Skagway there was dog sledding.  I did not actually go sledding with the dogs because there was not enough snow but just actually seeing dogs being put to work like that was awesome!

On the agenda of our cruise ship owners of Alaskan sleigh dogs came aboard to show us their three Alaskan puppies.  Of course I was there an hour before the even started so I could be in the front to touch and see the puppies.  They were so adorable and soft and they were some howlers.

The lady explained to the crowd what made a good sled dog, and she said just like a person they need to be honest, hardworking, friendly and positive and determination was key.  Lead dogs show signs of being leaders when they are puppies who are curious and spunky.


Of course physicality is important because a fat bulldog would obviously not be a good candidate for being a sled dog.  On top of that their attitude is important, they need to show that they will get the job done.

My question to the lady was don’t their poor paws freeze to death in that cold weather.  The lady said that they are used to it and actually perform better in cold weather, although, they do have to be careful that they don’t get frostbite.  They layer the dogs up with blankets and coats and make sure they are not too exposed.

Mushers have a very close relationship with their dogs just like humans do with their pet dogs.  They have to understand the dogs body language to give them the best care.  They are working their little booties off in freezing cold, so body language is key.  It is all about intuition and communication on a different level.  Certain things like bristling hair, arching back, ear movements show the mushers signs of what they are thinking.

The lady spoke about how dogs are the best thing that ever happened to the human race and I completely agree.  All they do is love and they don’t care who or what you are.  Dogs just give you a better outlook on life.


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