SLED DOGS FOR DUMMIES

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Our Commitment to Safety

Continue reading to learn a little bit more about dog sledding and how you might be able to get started with your dogs at home. We encourage everyone to speak to the mushers on race weekend and learn more about their dogs and their kennel practices for safety.

The safety, wellbeing, and happiness of the dogs you'll see over the course of the weekend is our first priority always. Our race marshal and on-site veterinarian have decades of sled dog knowledge and expertise that they bring to our event. Each team's equipment is inspected by our race marshal before they leave the start line. Our vet is present not only for emergencies but to ensure that all dogs are fit to race. We trust their judgement and respect all of their decisions during the race weekend fully. Our race officials are always monitoring the safety of every dog.

Above all else, dog care beyond the dog yard is a must. Unhealthy, unhappy dogs do not run well or at all. It is that simple. Sled dog sports is a 365 day a year endeavor. Everything from diet, enrichment and play time, housing, conditioning, practice travelling to and from a race, and everything in between is absolutely vital to any sled dog (any dog in general really) being healthy. Mushers love their dogs and pour their heart into their teams so that they can help their dogs run successfully.
The dogs you will see on race weekend are highly trained to compete in the sport they love but at their core they have a deep love to pull and run. It is in their nature. You can't push a rope.
Pet-a-Pup Pitstop will be open during the race weekend where multiple mushers will be free to answer any and all sled dog questions you might have as a spectator.

 

Our Rules and Regulations

Our race uses International Federation of Sled Dog Sports (IFSS) rules which outline extensive standards of care for dogs. Dogs need to be above 1 year old to compete and for some classes that age limit is raised to 18 months. Many mushers you'll meet are also members of Mush with Pride - an organization dedicated to the international dog care standards for sled dog kennels.

2015 Kearney Dog Sled Races by Desiree Nickerson Photography
2015 Kearney Dog Sled Races by Desiree Nickerson Photography

How to Start Mushing

Ontario has several organizations who accept new members looking to learn. The best path is to seek out a local club and get some support for you and your dog to start learning safely. You can begin on a bike, a scooter, or even running on your own two feet in canicross. You do not have to have a sled to start. You also need appropriate sled dog gear. The harnesses dogs wear are specifically designed to be safe for a dog to pull in.
A basic check list of things you need to start is:
  • A dog! (Of appropriate build and stature for pulling, i.e., medium to large breed)
  • A wheeled vehicle, a canicross belt, or a sled to be pulled by and a helmet for wheeled sports.
  • A bungee line
  • An x-back, h-back, freemotion, or other specialty sled dog harness
  • A dog-centered emergency medical kit
  • A trail to run on that is not paved
We recommend all beginners reach out to one of the many Ontario sled dog groups on Facebook for tips as well! There are groups from Timmins to Ottawa to Windsor who are a wealth of knowledge on all things sled dogs.
Caution: Dog sledding is addictive. Your dog will love it. Any time they even sense you touching their harness, they will freak out and want to run. You will love it and want more dogs. Soon, you will have more dogs than sense. You will be cursed to a life of snuggles, snow, and speed. You have been warned.
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Top 10 Tips for Training

It is impossible to go from couch to racecourse without appropriate training for human and dogs alike. Here is some great advice from the mushing community on how to start training your dog at home!
  1. GO SLOW in all respects. You need to build a solid physical and mental foundation for your dogs first.
  2. End every training session on a positive note no matter what. If you fall, have a tangle, make a wrong turn, etc. it's so important to make sure your dogs finish strong and positively. It adds to that mental foundation.
  3. Find a mentor. Sled dog sports have been around for a long time and there is no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. The mushing community is vast and knowledgeable. There is always someone ready to help.
  4. Build muscle and build a confident happy team. Going fast will come when the dogs are ready and have their endurance built up.
  5. Don't be a couch potato! A healthy and strong version of yourself only adds value to your healthy and strong canine athletes.
  6. Practice good animal husbandry 24/7. Health is not just about exercise. Unhappy, unhealthy dogs will not, cannot, and should not be asked to perform tasks they aren't capable or able to do safely.
  7. Establish a training vs. rest cycle that is realistic for you to maintain. This will help you and the dogs to make progress together.
  8. Monitor temperature. EVERY dog and every climate is different. As a general guideline, if the temperature and the humidity add up to more than 120 then you need to evaluate the safety of running at higher temperatures. Again, know your dogs and what they are acclimatized to running in. Dogs CAN over heat even in the winter.
  9. Remember your dog does not HAVE to do this, so keep that in mind when you are getting frustrated. They are in control and if you make it into a negative experience for them they can always just not run. This sport lays in their hands. Be kind.
  10. Reach out to your local club or fun run group to get started in sled dog sports with your pups. There are many out there!

A day in the life of dog sledding from our friends at North Ridge Ranch

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Links to Get Started

Ontario Mushing Community

 

Kearney Dog Sled Races

8 Main Street East Box 38
Kearney, Ontario P0A 1M0

Latest News

The Battle Against the Weather

February 6, 2024

Hello folks, The dog trails got a trial run this weekend on sleds and skis. A fantastic group of mushers […]