sled dogs?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by cashcrop, Jul 15, 2004.

  1. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    I have been reading the living off the land and Alaska threads. A fellow locally raises sled dogs and races them during the winter. While I was down at my cabin 1.2 miles into the woods this weekend I thought about how much fun it seemed (in my mind) would be to travel in and out of the cabin with a team of dogs and a sled. Has anybody had any experience with them or have any books to reccomend my reading about training them and their capabilities?

    Right now I'm in the 2 - 4 year research phase....I have a pretty full plate right now but, plan to do a lot of reading this winter! :yeeha: :haha:
     
  2. Cedar

    Cedar Well-Known Member

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    Getting together and maintaining a team of sled dogs is a huge burden and responsibility. However, what people are doing that do not posses the resources or time for such a large endeavor is buying 1, 2, or 3 dogs and then harnessing them to themselves while they cross-country ski. There are competitions for this and everything.
     

  3. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    I figure having sled dogs is a huge responsibility but, having 8 - 10 head of livestock is as well. Like I said 2 - 4 years till I attempt it as I have to empty my plate a fair amount first! Biggest thing though is the expense I suspect.
     
  4. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

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    most folks who have have a sled team have double to triple the number of dogs for one team, some start out with a couple dogs for pulling, but anyone who gets serious into the sport....or the dogs get into the blood, end up having a pile of dogs.... and a person also needs to understand culling out bad dogs and not just giving/selling them to a person who thinks they want a dog like that.....

    recently i was watching a program where they profiled one Alaskan breeder who fed 150 pounds of meat per day to her 50 plus grown dogs, and that didnt count the pups..... thats a little less than 2 beef a week and 91 total a year..... just for a sport...... ok they fed moose, caribou and such to their dogs but unless you are holding a Native american tribal number you cant subsistance hunt in the lower 48.

    takes alot of energy to raise even average sled dogs, but even more to raise competiative sporting dogs of a calibre you can depend on on the trail, and that anyone would purchase from you to support your disease, i mean hobby.

    I am not trying to disuade you, just promoting realism.

    William
     
  5. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    email me- I've got a couple people who can tell you LOTS about it. ^_^

    Cait the dog person ^_^
     
  6. LisaBug

    LisaBug Well-Known Member

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    Sled dogs are great fun most of the time. There's a huge amount of training that goes into them though, especially the leaders. We raise, train and race Siberian Huskies for the sprint racing circuit, have 18 right now. The best book I can think of is by sisters Mikki and Julie Collins called 'Dog Driver-A Guide for the Serious Musher'. Your best bet would be to sign on as a handler for a kennel, get to see the real sled dog world. Some positions pay some don't and some are strictly volunteer.

    When you sled in and out of your cabin, where are you going? Are you going for a joy ride or are you going to have to picket them somewhere while you go into town or somesuch? Are you intending to get into racing one day (and if it is racing, is it distance or sprint), run a trapline or just use them for recreational purposes? There's a huge difference in dog qualities for each plus the equipment used. Our sprint dogs are high strung and have a lighter body structure than what would be used for purposes other than racing. A trapline or recreational dog should be more calm, able to stand in the lines while you're off the sled. We have some recreational quality dogs, they're used mostly to give kids their first taste of riding a sled.

    Keep in mind that you'll need kennels or tie outs because Huskies can't be left loose. They love to hunt my ducks and chickens and most will kill anything smaller than them including our inside cats. For the most part they're very loving dogs, can make great pets, aren't the terrible mean creatures you sometimes see them portrayed as. They can also be hard to train depending on temperment, easy to please makes the best leaders.

    As it is, I love our huskies, know their good points and bad and work with them. I won't be around for the weekend but if you have any more questions fire away.

    LisaBug
     
  7. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

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    One impossibly large malamute named Bear, one cargo sled and harness, one pair of cross country skis and poles, one tattered army rucksack casually strewn over the back, one bushy but well-manicured beard (preferably that blondish-red color), and one of those hats with the fur brim and ear flaps.

    It's a much sexier and more easily maintainable look. ;)
     
  8. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

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    Lots of work! Our Siberian Huskie (Taz) was part of a dog sled team (A friend of ours that raised and raced them was killed and his wife could not deal with all the dogs so she kept a few and placed the rest with friends/family).

    Taz can be aggressive with other dogs, especially males. This is part of the natural process of figuring out the alpha male and the pecking order. You need to be very careful. DW ended up with two bite wounds in her arm from Taz' father when the dogs (before the pack was seperated) decided to go at it. Several times he has snapped at me when he was trying to go down a hole to get at something and I was trying to pull him out (he was ignoring the choke collar so I reached down to grab his regular collar to haul him out...better leverage).

    I agree with Lisabug about Huskies killing animals. The only caveat is that you can train them (or at least we have) to some extent. Taz now leaves our cats alone. Anything else (generally) is fair game. When we are in the immediate vacinity we use the command "not food" to tell him not to go after something. But that only works when we are around.

    Huskies that are bred and trained as sled dogs are runners and they are climbers. Understand that when they can generate tremendous pulling power. Both DW and MIL have ended up in the emergency room because of Taz pulling on the leash while on walks (in both cases he saw a deer). The emergency room doctor said about MIL that if he didn't know what happened he would have thought she was in a motorcycle accident.

    I also agree with Lisabug that you should try and get some real experience before making a decision.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Mike
     
  9. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    Another thing to keep in mind is, what do you do with dogs when they get too old to pull?

    A friend of mine (That's who I was going to put you in touch with) does sled dog rescue. About 2/3 of the dogs she gets in are what I suspect would be recreational-quality dogs from people breeding for racing- dogs who do just fine for fun, but don't have the speed and drive to make it as racing dogs. She races recereationally and has a blast. Many of the dogs she gets are not socialized at all and about the only thing they have going for them over puppy mill dogs in temperment is that they've at least not been kept on wire or bred to death. On the other hand, once you have their trust, they're fantastic.

    Cait
     
  10. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    Lisabug & Corgitails-

    I'm interested in hearing more of what you have to say. I was soo impatient to findout info I went to amazon.com. In the book search I put sled dogs and there was a listing to the right by somebody who read a sled dog story and got seduced into sled dog racing because of it. He recommended that book about driving dog sleds one of you reccomended. Although it is out of print I suspect if I contact the local used book store The owner should be able to get it for me sooner or later! I plan to do some reading.

    The fellow I know who races sled dogs I'm not sure how knowledgable he is but, I do know he buys his dog food by the pallet and feeds them something so the feed adheres to their intestines (I think that's what he said) just a day or two before a race.

    I want the dogs for recreational use!! Sled dog racing does not interest me in the least.

    Thanks!
    Katie
     
  11. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    If it's just the idea, you don't even HAVE to have huskies. There are a LOT of other draft breeds that were used for carting in addition to sledding, many of which make MUCH easier pets.

    One of the things about Sibes (and other arctic breeds) is that they were bred to be independent thinkers. The lead dog on a sled is 25' or more in front of you, and can quite likely see/hear/sense problems (like going onto ice that is invisible under the snow) that you can't- and has been bred to NOT be stupid and go onto that ice! A lot of the racing dogs are more biddable, but they're still pretty independent. Before a rule restricting entries to arctic breeds was made, there was a team of standard poodles that raced in the iditarod- and finished! (although I think they were like 3rd to last, lol) Literally any breed can do it!

    Dogworks.com is my favorite carting equipment site (Carting, btw, will get you a LOT of links focusing on dogs pulling carts instead of sleds and non-arctic breeds.) They even have toy sized carts! I keep meaning to get one for the corgis so I can use them to move bags of stuff around the garden...

    Some of the breeds traditionally used for carting include (off the top of my head list- pardon if I miss anyone's favorite): Rottweiler, Bouvier, Giant Schnauzer, Bernese Mountain Dog, Greater Swiss Mountain Dog (and the otehr two Swiss mountain breeds- I can't remember their names..), Newfoundland. Big, solid dogs without exagerated conformation- ie a significant portion of the AKC working group. At dog events, I've seen carts pulled by boxers, labs, shepherds, bcs, ACDs, pit bulls (who tend to be great at it- VERY strong dogs!), american bulldogs, mastiff of various flavors, akitas, a BUNCH of standard poodles... ANY dog can do it! There's even a guy with Pembroke Corgis up in the PacNorthwest whose dogs were in a commercial for a tire company!

    You also don't need a TON of dogs if you're just moving you- or if you have them hitched to an ATV, which is what some folks do for training.

    I'd read up as much as I could, and contact the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America- they have a LOT of draft dog events, probably have literatuer they can sell you (which, although focusing on BMDs, obviously will have useful info for other breeds as well). Going to see an event would be a good idea. Some of the weight pull people migth also be useful, but weight pull isn't really the type of dog you want- you need dogs that can work together, not independently, and with stamina, not sheer muscle.


    Cait
     
  12. Anataq

    Anataq Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget there is quite a difference between an Alaskan Husky and a Siberian Husky. I have one Siberian and three Alaskan Malamutes right now, love the malamutes they are a lot of fun, great personalities and are very powerful. The husky is much faster than the Malamules, but the Malamutes can pull a very heavy load. My large female dog Lilly can pull me skijourning with my pack loaded for about 10 miles before she is tired. I will have Malamute puppies ready in December. These dogs are like great big teddy bears.

    -Anataq
     
  13. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Since you aren't ready to be a serious musher, you could probably find a nice northern breed type of dog and do skijorning. This is where the dog(s) pull you as you ski. We had a rescue that was possibly a shikoku inu (in between and akita and a shiba) who I think would have made a good skijorning dog. You have to like the temperment though. Northern breeds tend to be aloof and independent, but undemanding. If you get a dog bred for the pet market, you will get a calmer temperment than a mushing dog, but probably not a good working dog.

    You can train the dog to pull while in harness (get the right kind of harness), and walk nicely on leash with a buckle collar. Contact breed rescue.
     
  14. bare

    bare Head Muderator

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  15. BASIC

    BASIC Well-Known Member

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    Anataq,hi,my wife and I are considering a Malamute along with several other breeds(German Shepard,American Bulldog not to good in the snow and a Great Pyranees) for our familly.How are they?Are they protective both against people and animals(black bear,coyotes)?Thanks for any help,BASIC.
     
  16. Anataq

    Anataq Well-Known Member

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    Basic,
    Malamutes are wonderful dogs, but like any breed each has it's own very distinct personality. Huskies are by far the most aloof of the northern breeds and I don't care for them as much as pets, they are great indurance animals though. Malamutes have great temperments, are fantastic with family and small children. I have yet to encounter any dog with quite as much personality, and they are very vocal, they will literally tell you how they feel about everything. Malamutes can be very protective and sometimes this is not a good thing. I have not had this problem with people as much as I have had with other dogs, but then I have one malamute whom has never been a problem around any other dogs. As a breed malamutes tend to be very protective of home and family. Yes they will help to protect against just about anything that wonders onto your land. Huskies will not help you a bit here, I have a video where my husky took off after a brown bear, after an hour of trying to get that bear to play with her, she eventualy came back, but on her own terms.

    Have to ask where you live, because Malamutes do not do well in hot climates, they are the toughest and largest of the northern breeds, they can sleep in -40 temps. using their dense coat to protect them from the cold. If you live in a warm area you will need to keep the dog in an air conditioned area- the house.

    You will love a malamute and if you decide on one, it will be hard to own anything else. Not that there aren't a lot of great breeds out there too.

    -Anataq
     
  17. Corgitails

    Corgitails Well-Known Member

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    Basic, a word of caution. While Antaq probably has more experience than I do with the breed specifically, I used to work with northern-breed rescue and MANY of the mals we got were SERIOUSLY dog aggressive towards the same sex- and breaking up fights with an 85-120 pound dog is NOT fun. Maybe they're the exception and not the rule- all I know is that most of the ones we had were.

    The breeds you've got listed are REALLY different in personality.... GSDs will be the easiest by far to train and probably the most protective, but I haven't worked with the other breeds in anything beyond a puppy obedience class...

    Cait
     
  18. BASIC

    BASIC Well-Known Member

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    Thankyou both for your response.We live in nothwestern NJ,we do get some cold weather and the dog would be kept in an air conditioned house in the summer.What worries me with a GSD is the potential health problems in the breed.Thanks for the help,BASIC.
     
  19. Pigeon Lady

    Pigeon Lady Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Hi Katie,

    This is long, but ask yourself "do I want to live like this woman??"

    I'm no expert but I do have a Siberean Husky.

    This one of ours kept showing up here day after day and I had to keep calling the owner to come get her. He was at his wits end. They'd got her from the pound, spent $600 on fence and could not keep her contained.

    Then she showed up with no collar. I knew instantly that, in exhasperation, he must have tied her up and she'd slipped her collar. Sure enough that was the case and when I called he said they'd just had it with her and were going to take her back to the pound. Well, the thought of this poor dog going back there and being adopted again only to get loose and be running the roads was too much for me. I asked if they would mind if I took her in. They were overjoyed! And life as I knew it came to an end!

    When I looked at her paperwork from the pound I saw that the original owner had had her micro-chipped but never registered the chip. So there was quite a little paper-trail of her wanderings. At one point she'd been at a Husky rescue center about 50 miles north of here. She's about 4 or 5 years old and must have spent most of her life on the road, put in a pound, adopted, escaped, on the road, put in a pound.... Her teeth are worn down from gnawing her way out of fences!

    Well, after 18 months she's still here but I can honestly say staying one step ahead of this dog's mind has been one of the most challenging tasks ever! She fascinates the life out of me though. She has the ability to think, strategize and plan ahead! She understands how things work. She's extremely patient too. She'll go months not showing the least interest in getting out. You think she's given up. But all the time she's laying on top of her house ...she's thinking!

    She's a wonderful dog but I wouldn't recomend this breed for a homestead. Not if you plan on having other livestock such as chickens or rabbits. She also doesn't get along with our other female dog. As in "fight to the death"! They tolerated each other for 7 months then one day they happened to collide while runing back and forth along the fence line. It was all over!

    Since I got her she's escaped 4 times. Once she was gone 3 days before someone called me. -"Aloof" is an understatement. When I went to get her she acted like she'd never seen me before in her life!

    The second time she got loose was a bit of a breakthrough. She was gone all day and came back at dark.

    The third time she stayed on the property and came running with glee when I shouted for her. But she had killed one of our rabbits!

    She's also had a hold of the cat but luckily he escaped. And learned not to go in the back yard.

    The last time she got out was a couple weeks ago at 3am! The other dogs were barking so I knew somewthing was up. Sure enough she'd managed to get a rabbit! But she came running to me all excited when I went out there with the flash light and called her name,so I had to make a big fuss of her even though I suspected the dead rabbit. (both times the rabbit cage door was still closed!!! But that's another story.

    So, last week I erected one of those big chain link dog kennels on the back concrete porch. It was about 100 degrees and it took me all day. She can't dig out and it's 6 feet high. She watched me intently all day. Whenever I spoke to her "you wait, this time I'm going to fix your wagon!" she would "Woo ooo" and tell me such a tale.

    I finally put her in the pen with a sigh of relief. As I was leaving the yard with the tools she was right behind me! There was a gap of about 9 inches between two of the wire clips holding the fence to the frame and she'd pushed her way under the wire! Obviously she's been in one of these things before. That's probably what she'd been trying to tell me! I ended up having to take a roll of wire and "lace" every diamond along the top and bottom. The next step is to put a big "Lid" on it. Though there's no doubt in my mind she'll get out of it again before too long. She's already working on a theory.

    As for mushing. I spent much of the winter training her to pull. We started with a little log and then got a junior size a sled for our son for Christmas. She must have had some obedience training at some point because it was difficult to get her to move ahead of me. She wants to walk beside me and watch me all the time. But she caught on and learned the Haw and Gee pretty quilckly. Say Whoa! and she stops in her tracks and sits down! I still have to run besides her to get her to move out with Joshua on the sled. So we aren't mushing in the true sense but it is fun and we both get a good work out. It's now too hot to have her pulling anything.

    Now, I recently took in a huge golden retreiver stray. This dog can pull!!! She's going to be in training as soon as we are settled in a new homestead.

    So my advice Katie is go to the pound and pick a big friendly eager to please well socialized mutt that wants to drag you off your feet and go from there. But don't get a husky unless it's the only thing you want to occupy your mind for the next 10 years or so.

    Have fun,

    P.L.
     
  20. cashcrop

    cashcrop Well-Known Member

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    I'm not looking for one dog. I'm looking for at some point a team. Right now that malamute kinda dog is sounding most to my liking! I'm not looking for a racing breed...I'm looking for a working breed. Something that can carry gear down to my cabin for a weekend or week stay during the winter. As an inexperienced musher I don't want a rescue due to the fact that most rescue dogs no matter what breed are usually there due to their psychological "issues"...although some their owners wind up having unforseen problems that lead to the dogs going to rescue. Now, whenever I get some experience under my belt then maybe I'll try dealing w/ a rescued sled dog.

    Katie