Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sled Dogs as Pet Dogs: Why? (Part 1)

Did you know that in addition to being incredible athletes, Alaskan Huskies can also be fabulous pet dogs? It's true! If you've taken a tour with us perhaps you have even met our three "sled pets:" Critter, Rave and Koyuk. Interestingly, each of our pet dogs embodies one of the primary reasons that a sled dog may become a pet dog...



Critter
1. The dog is ready to retire. The age at which sled dogs are ready to retire varies widely from dog to dog as their attitudes and physical abilities change throughout their lives. The goals and specific activities of each dog kennel must also be a good fit for the individual dog. As in, a dog that might need to retire from the long miles and demanding schedule of a race kennel may not need to retire from the typically more flexible and less demanding needs of a tour kennel.  The age range for sled dog retirement is typically between 8 and 12 years old.





Rave
2. The dog doesn't like being a sled dog. A dog's love for running is the #1 most important characteristic we look for in our dogs. If a dog doesn't like being a sled dog - traveling long distances, working hard, and being part of the pack - you're not going to get very far. We can gauge our dog's level of enjoyment by watching how they behave at "hook up" time. We expect our dogs to be jumping, barking and wagging their tails when we hook them up in the team. On the trail we want to see the dog is looking forward and engaged with the activity. If your dog is looking back at you something is wrong. 


Koyuk
3. The dog wasn't made to be a sled dog. Occasionally dogs are born as "ultra-runts" - super small, low muscle mass, can't regulate their body temperature, and/or won't nurse. These dogs often require lots of human assistance for survival, and that special care typically takes place away from mom and the siblings. This creates a dynamic that is outside of the pack and can make it more difficult for the dog to fully rejoin the pack even after they become physically able to do so. Moreover, these ultra-runts don't usually ever get up to the same size as their normally developed counterparts.


For each of these reasons, we end up transitioning a few sled dogs every year to the wonderful world of petdom. Sometimes the dogs stay here with us as one of our pets, while other times we look outside the kennel for new homes. Most of our dogs were born here and it is always hard to say good-bye to them. However, we know that there are lots of great homes out there and loving families who make excellent parents for our fur babies. Check back with us soon to read "Sled Dogs as Pet Dogs: Adoption Stories! (Part 2)" to discover first hand accounts of sled dog adoption and see some adorable family photos!