Category Archives: sled dogs

Most Popular Dog Breeds by States

By Linda Cole

Many people who love dogs have one or two specific breeds they favor over other breeds. I’ve always loved the Siberian Husky and felt blessed to be owned by two of them at one time. My other preference would be a German Shepherd or Border Collie. I have a mixed Collie/Shepherd and a mixed Lab/Border Collie; both are rescued dogs, as are my other dogs, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’ve never been concerned with adopting a dog based on the popularity of a breed, especially when it comes to a dog that needs a home. The dog owners I know also aren’t concerned if their dog is on a “most popular dog breeds” list, but it’s still fun to read the various lists that come out every year. It’s interesting how the different breeds vary from state to state when it comes to which dog breed people prefer.

When you think of Siberian Huskies, you automatically associate that breed with Alaska. If it hadn’t been for dogs like the Husky and other sled dog breeds, the wilderness of Alaska might not have ever been settled. Without the sled dogs to deliver supplies and goods to the people living in remote villages, surviving in a frozen wilderness would have been more difficult. If it hadn’t been for the courage of the Siberian Husky, the town of Nome, Alaska may not have survived a diphtheria epidemic. In Denali National Park, sled dogs are used to patrol the vast areas of the park and help protect wildlife and the land. So it might be a bit of a surprise to know that the most popular dog breed in Alaska is the Labrador Retriever! The Siberian Husky comes in at number four.

The AKC has listed the Labrador Retriever as one of the most popular dog breeds in the country. The Lab has topped the most popular list for a long time, and that holds true for 42 states. In the states where the Lab didn’t rank first, the breed is still in the top three, except in Nevada where it falls to number four.

The Yorkshire Terrier and the German Shepherd are ranked in the top five in 37 states, and the cute little Chihuahua is among the top three favorite dog breeds in 34 states. Rhode Island dog lovers are partial to the American Pit Bull Terrier where the breed sits in the number one spot, and 28 states rank the Pit Bull in the top three.

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The Sled Dogs of Denali National Park

By Linda Cole

Photo by NPS

Sled dogs have always had a place in the wilds of Alaska. Snowmobiles may have replaced dogs in Alaska for the most part, but mushing is still a good way to get around in winter, and it’s the only mode of transportation allowed in Denali National Park’s inner two million acres of designated wilderness. The National Park Service maintains their own kennel and still uses sled dogs to patrol the wilds of one of the most awe inspiring national parks we have. And this year, the Park Service has installed a puppy cam so we can watch their newest pups as they grow!

The word Denali means “the high one” and comes from the Athabascan Indian vocabulary, Alaska’s largest native inhabitants. Mt. McKinley, located in the park and known as Denali by Alaskan residents, is 20,320 feet above sea level and is the highest mountain peak in North America. Denali National Park, which includes a preserve, was set aside as a national park in 1917 in an effort to protect wildlife. The park covers 9,492 square miles – six million acres of awesome and stunning wild lands that draw visitors from all over the world.

Dog sleds have always been the most reliable way to travel the wilderness of Alaska. Charles Sheldon was a naturalist who studied Dall sheep around Denali during the 1907-1908 winter, and he hired a dog musher by the name of Harry Karstens as a guide. Sheldon was so impressed with the beauty of the land and wildlife, that when he returned to his home on the east coast he began lobbying Congress to establish the land as a national park and preserve. Because of his efforts, Mount McKinley National Park was established in 1917. In 1921, Harry Karstens was named the first park ranger and was tasked with the job of getting pouching under control. Karstens understood the important role dogs played in the wilds of Alaska, and he was the person who built the first kennel to make sure he had healthy and well-trained dogs he could depend on to effectively do his job.

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Why Do Dogs Lick Us?

By Linda Cole

I have a dog who loves to lick legs and feet anytime she catches an unsuspecting bare foot or hand dangling from a chair. I also have one who will sit right beside me while I’m watching TV or working at the computer. Every now and then out of the blue, she’ll slurp me on the side of the face. Do dogs lick us because we taste like salt, are they giving us a kiss, or is it more complicated with no clear answers?

Puppies are groomed by their moms to keep them clean and help stimulate body functions. This is warm and gentle, and feels good to them. The pleasant feeling of their mother’s grooming leaves them with positive memories they carry into adulthood, and they may be trying to share those positive feelings with us.

We know wolf puppies and adolescents greet the adults returning from a hunt by eagerly gathering around them and licking them on the mouth and chin to induce a regurgitated meal from them. Licking is also considered a sign of respect, and is a submissive behavior of welcome given to the alpha and those who are higher in their social order.

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Do They Still Use Sled Dogs in Alaska?

By Linda Cole

Alaska is a land that has not changed a lot over the years. Since joining the union in 1959, it is still one of the states with the lowest population. It’s a land of beauty with mystery hidden in the landscape and behind every snowy hill. It’s a place where having survival skills and knowledge about the animals who share their home with the people make all the difference in the world. The heyday of the sled dogs is gone. They are no longer needed to move supplies and mail from village to village. So why do they still use sled dogs in Alaska?

For centuries, sled dogs were the best form of transportation available in Alaska. For many people living in the wild territory, the sled dog was their lifeline between villages or when out on the trail hunting. In the 1960s, the sled dog was largely retired from service and replaced with snowmobiles and airplanes to transport heavy loads and provide faster travel times between villages. However, just like someone who loves to saddle up a horse and ride the rich history of the old west, there are still those in Alaska who hitch their team up for a day of quiet and solitude with only their dogs for company.

Today, sled dogs are mainly used in Alaska to provide tours for recreational purposes. Visitors to Alaska have a chance to experience firsthand what it was like to travel by a sled pulled by a team of dogs. Gone are the days of requiring dogs to travel 80 miles a day hauling heavy shipments of gold or supplies. The mail route is silent as teams no longer need to deliver the day’s mail. The Inuit Indian tribes have replaced their dogs for the most part with the snowmobile, although sled dogs are still used to a lesser degree to transport them to their hunting grounds.

There’s no question that teams of sled dogs can be more valuable to those who have to travel large distances as compared to the snowmobile which requires gas to move. Dogs are quieter and can detect wild animals that may be lurking in the area. If any are around, the dogs can provide needed protection. A dog’s instinct cannot be overlooked when it comes to being able to stay on a trail and knowing how to avoid dangerous cracks on frozen lakes as well as knowing when it’s best to stay off the ice.

Sled dog racing has been around for centuries. Just as thoroughbred horse racing captivates people in the lower 48, dog racing draws spectators from around the world who come to watch and take part in the races. However, not everyone agrees with horse racing or dog racing. I know dogs used in sled dog races are bred to run and thoroughly enjoy it. I had the joy and honor of owning two Siberian Huskies and can attest that they loved to run any chance they got. Bred as working dogs, sled dogs are happy doing what they do best – just as herding dogs love to herd and search and rescue dogs love to use their exceptional nose to find someone who is in need.

My concern for any animal is how they are treated and cared for. Dogs can become injured while racing. Traditionally, northern dogs were the only breeds used in Alaska because they were able to withstand the harsh temperatures and climate of this arctic state, but today, a variety of breeds can be found among dog teams competing in sled dog racing and marathons.

The northern breeds and others that are trained as sled dogs love to run. Balancing safety and risk to the dogs cannot take a back seat to man’s desire to race. I believe the dogs are monitored to insure their health and well being, and are being attended to by the people who own the dogs.

Today’s role for the sled dogs in Alaska has changed from being a vital mode of transportation to recreational and sporting activities. Sled dogs will probably always be a part of the Alaskan landscape because it’s their extraordinary history that made life possible in Alaska.

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Are “Working Dogs” Harmed By Not Working?

By Linda Cole

Humans have used pack animals for centuries to move belongings and supplies across distances great and small. Without them, the expansion of America would have been a lot slower. “Working dogs” not only found a place at man’s side as efficient workers, they also found a place in our heart as companion dogs. Working dogs were bred to do specific jobs for us, from guarding and herding sheep, to search and rescue. Working dogs reside in a variety of homes nowadays, but are dogs that were bred to perform a specific task harmed if they’re not used for it? Can working dogs be happy just hanging out with us on the couch?

A working dog is defined as one that performs a task for us. Ranchers use Border Collies to help herd sheep. Service or assistance dogs help handicapped people deal with tasks that make it easier for them to live at home or navigate busy intersections and streets. And sled dogs continue to pull heavy loads to and from hunting grounds or to transport goods between villages.

A companion dog is a pet whose sole purpose is to keep us company. But all dogs, companion or working, have a dual role in protecting us and our property. Some do a better job than others though, and in some households, a cat is a better protector than the canine. Nevertheless, a dog has no sense of what being a purebred or mixed breed dog is, and each one is as individual as we are. Dogs will do anything to please those they trust, and a dog who was bred to work loves to do what he does best.

Even mixed breeds from the working dog group want to perform tasks. I had a beautiful Border Collie mix who believed her sole purpose in life was to herd my cats around the house. At least once a day, she would round up stunned cats that had been blissfully relaxing in a patch of sunshine on the floor or couch. I also quickly discovered that if we missed a game of Frisbee or tug of war, I would return home and find the remains of my dog’s boredom lying in tatters on my living room floor. My poor couch pillows were never the same! But, I learned about her need for exercise to curb pent up energy, and her love of herding. The cats weren’t too thrilled about the herding part, however.

Understanding breed characteristics before adopting any dog is part of being a responsible owner, because the right selection will mean a difference between a dog that fits well in your home and one that is disruptive or not what you expected. For example, even though a Beagle is small and might be fine in an apartment, they are sometimes yappers that don’t always know when to stop. Bred to hunt, a Beagle is always on the prowl for something to bark at. You might find a Jack Russell terrier appealing until you discover your flower garden has been dug up. They were bred to go after vermin underground and like to dig. A Siberian Husky, with those beautiful blue eyes and stunning coat, might be a good pick until you begin to find hair everywhere or discover that these dogs are masters at breaking out of their pen. Siberian Huskies were bred to pull sleds and love to run, and have a double coat that sheds heavily twice of year.

Dogs get into trouble in the home when they become bored, and they are experts at finding something to entertain themselves with while you are away. Many a couch has fallen prey to a bored pet who also lacks proper exercise. A working dog needs to be able to do what they were bred for in order to stay in good physical and mental shape. Like a well-trained athlete who gets up every morning to run 10 miles to stay in shape, working dogs also need the same type of stimulus.

Dogs that make up the working group are intelligent with lots of energy to burn, and when properly trained to do a job, they excel at their task. If you own a dog (mixed or purebred) from the working dog group, do them a favor by learning how to properly train them to do what they love and were born to do. Dogs can become depressed, overweight, insecure and anxious when they are bored and have a lack of exercise. It’s up to us to understand that working dogs are hard wired with a need to do a job, so rather than punish your best friend, give him an appropriate job. It will make all the difference in the world to him, and give you a happier and healthier dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Which Breeds Make the Best Sled Dogs?

By Linda Cole

The Siberian Husky is the breed most people associate with pulling a sled, but they aren’t the only breed to make up a dog team. Teams of dogs can be made up of 10 different breeds, but there are only 3 breeds considered to be true sled dogs.

Alaska is an unforgiving country where dogs have provided transportation for centuries. With few roads, the Inuit Indians still use sled dogs today to get to hunting grounds and to move goods between villages. It’s believed nomadic tribes in eastern Siberia were the first people to use dogs to pull sleds or sleighs, but it has never been determined exactly when dogs began pulling sleds for humans.

The term Husky at one time was used to define all northern sled dogs, and they were all considered as one group. The dogs were selected based on their performance rather than a specific breed characteristic. The northern dog of today, unlike other breeds, is considered to be most like their cousin, the wolf. Like the wolf, northern dogs can travel easily over large distances by utilizing powerful leg muscles and backs that enable them to trot at a steady pace for days if necessary. Plus, they are well suited for harsh winter conditions. These dogs are social, but they do have an independent spirit.

There are three breeds considered to be the true sled dogs, selected based on their performance, endurance and the task at hand: Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and the Eskimo Dog.

The Alaskan Malamute is a hardy dog that is a descendant of the Arctic wolf. Its name comes from the Alaskan tribe called Mahlemut who began raising this breed 2000 to 3000 years ago for transportation. Malamutes are cousins to the Siberian Husky, American Eskimo Dog and Samoyed. Of the three true breeds of sled dogs, the Malamute has the most power, but is slower than the other two.

The Siberian Husky is believed to have been bred centuries ago in Siberia off the eastern peninsula by a tribe called the Chukchi Tribe. The Husky was used as a guard dog, to herd reindeer and pull sleds. Because the Husky is the fastest of the three true sled dogs, they found their way to Alaska by way of fur traders who brought them from Siberia for dog racing.

It was teams of Siberian Huskies who pulled the sleds and musher carrying vials of life saving serum being transported to Nome, Alaska during the 1925 diphtheria epidemic. They also made up a special Arctic Search and Rescue Unit for the Army during World War II because of their sense of smell. The Husky is a strong, surefooted and determined dog. Strong, quick and lightweight, the Husky has the endurance to go long distances and loves to run, as do all three of the true sled dogs.

The Eskimo Dog (Canadian Eskimo Dog) is a true native of Canada. Their early history was aiding Inuit tribes in hunting, guarding and pulling sleds 2,000 years ago. They are an extremely hardy dog and, like the Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute, are well suited for living and working in the harsh climate of the north. This true sled dog can pull up to twice his weight and still cover up to 70 plus miles a day. However, the Eskimo Dog is considered to be a rare dog these days and not as well known as their counterparts. This hardy work horse is extremely intelligent and once he learns a command, he never forgets it.

With a muscular, toned body accustomed to pulling heavy loads and running for miles at a time, the Eskimo Dog is playful, submissive, easy to train, not as stubborn as a Husky or Malamute, not as apt to wander away, very alert and curious. This fearless dog was once used for protection from polar bears and musk ox, and was quite capable of holding the wild animal at bay or attacking it, whichever was needed. Compared to the other true sled dogs, the Eskimo dog is moderate in speed and the middleweight of the group.

Most sled dogs are quiet and rarely bark. However, they do howl like wolves which can be a beautiful, eerie sound on a cold winter night. They make excellent family dogs for the most part. I know from experience that the Siberian Husky loves to run, and if they get away from you, they will come back home when they are good and ready.

Other breeds used as sled dogs are: Alaskan Husky, Alusky, Chinook, Eurohound, Greenland Dog, Mackenzie River Husky and Samoyed.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.