SLED DOGS FOR DUMMIES
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.
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.
How to Start Mushing
- 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
Top 10 Tips for Training
- GO SLOW in all respects. You need to build a solid physical and mental foundation for your dogs first.
- 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.
- 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.
- Build muscle and build a confident happy team. Going fast will come when the dogs are ready and have their endurance built up.
- Don't be a couch potato! A healthy and strong version of yourself only adds value to your healthy and strong canine athletes.
- 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.
- Establish a training vs. rest cycle that is realistic for you to maintain. This will help you and the dogs to make progress together.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Links to Get Started
- Sled Dog Central for general information about how to get started
- Ontario Canine Wellness Center is all about workshops to keep your dog active
- Humane Mushing Ontario facebook group for education and tips for beginners
- Mush with Pride is our international governing body for standards of care for sled dogs
- Husky Trails video on how to teach your dog mushing commands
- Dogster article all about how to start mushing.
- Skijoring Trails in parks across Ontario to visit with your dog
Ontario Mushing Community
- Sleddog Sports Association of Southern Ontario organizing races and clinics across the province.
- Ontario Federation of Sled Dog Sports is dedicated to helping new mushers start up all over Ontario.
- Timmins Dog-Powerd Sports Association and Run-a-Mutt are mushing organizations in the Timmins area.
- Sled Dogs of Windsor is a mushing group based in the Windsor/ Essex County area.
- The Seguin Mail Run is an invitation-based event for registered northern breed (RNB) dogs in Seguin, Ontario running yearly in February.
- Mush La Rose is a mushing group based in the Ottawa area. Here's their website!
- Northern Ontario Canine Pulling Sports is a mushing group based in the Kenora area.
- Skiplyn Kennels Dog Training supports mushers in the Sudbury area.
- Northrunner Education is a dog sports training/mentorship program based in Peterborough (but travels Ontario wide)
- Ontario Canine Wellness Center is a training organization based in Lakefield
- Red Barn Event Center hosts a variety of dog sporting events year round, including sled dog sports.
- Skijor Kenora Mushin'-for-Mutts is a sled dog group based in Kenora
- Thunder Bay Skijoring is a skijor group based in Thunder Bay.
- Avalon Ranch Dog Sport Training offers training support and clinics based in Renfrew
- Northbound Huskies teaches you to kicksled, skijor, canicross, and bikejor with your dog in the North Bay, Ontario area