Sled Dogs Challenge the Mushers

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2006

 

  Northwest Territories participant Rebecca Baxter loading a dog Photo By Dawn Fitzpatrick

Northwest Territories participant Rebecca Baxter loading a dog

Photo By Dawn Fitzpatrick

The mushers of sled dog racing have unique challenges that other winter game participants won’t encounter. Each dog driver has four to seven dogs they have to care for. In other events, the participants only deal with their own personal gear and equipment.

The dog equipment includes a sled, dog bag, (attached to the sled bed for injured dogs), a snow hook, (the team’s emergency brake), harnesses and lines, bowls and dog food. The dog drivers also need proof of the dogs’ vaccinations.

“There will be teams participating from the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alaska,” said Michaud, “and they’re all driving here.” Needing special transportation, most mushers have a dog truck—a modified pick-up with the bed built to contain separate sleeping compartments for each dog.

It is important to keep the same diet for the dogs. If the diet gets changed, they can get sick and not perform as well, if at all. Many teams are fed extra meat or fish for protein for the hard training and for keeping warm. Along with the food, the dogs need lots of water and insulated water coolers are often used to carry water and to keep it from freezing. The dogs need to be kept hydrated and are usually watered well after their race is over.

While sharpening ice skates and waxing skis may seem like a lot of work, caring for a dog team poses many more challenges for Arctic Winter Games mushers.



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