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Sled dog conditioning and care...

1168 Views 2 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Andres Martin
Your dogs pull sleds, then?
If so, how do you condition them? How do you care for their pads during the season/off season? How do adjust their feed according to work? How short do you keep their nails?

If you could give schedules and details, it would be very valuable info...
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SD Conditioning...

Hello Andres - Well, right now the sled dog conditioning going on is digging holes in the shade and sleeping in them- very hot here right now.
I have two large fenced areas where I can free-run the dogs and they will play pursuit games for hours when it is cooler. I also have a "play structure" that the dogs like to get up on, climb, dig under and use a base for pursuit games. We get the odd run in with the bike or scooter for leader training or just fun, but summer time is kind of down time for sled-dogs - lots of goofing off and playing, a little bit of obedience training, manners training, grooming and fixing stuff in the kennel and repairing whatever the dogs have managed to destroy since last summer. More serious conditioning starts with cooler temperatures. I have an engineless ATV or "rig" and we start with shorter distances and build up mileage gradually. Training regimens and schedules are going to vary depending on the type of mushing - sprint, mid-distance, distance and work or recreational teams, but in most disciplines fall training puts an emphasis on control and manners and getting a base of conditioning. You have alot more control and it is easier to stop and anchor a team in fall rig training versus snow, so this is when most mushers are going to spend alot of time getting the dogs to learn to "line-out", to pass (other teams and distractions) cleanly,team manners, follow commands, run thru water, get used to travelling in the truck, etc. When there is enough snow to switch from the rig to a sled generally you can double the distance that you were running on dirt as the sled has much less resistance. Sometimes early snow conditions are such that snow hooks (what you anchor the team with) do not hold well in the snow, so alot of people cut down the number of dogs on the team until you can "hook down" safely. This is a pretty simplistic explanation as to conditioning but if you want more specifics you might want to check out the forum at as there is lots of training and conditioning info that is more specific. We just go on and on and on about it there.... :lol:
Feet - every musher wants a dog with good feet,a good build, good "attitude"(drive) and good appetite. Most of this is genetic - and are all things that are considered in anyones breeding program. I do absolutley nothing to their pads in the off season other than nutrition(bad feet can be a sign of low zinc - common in northern breeds). When we are fall training I don't have to do much other than keep a good eye on their feet and check pads - some surfaces (frozen gravel) can be more abrasive and wear down pads and some dogs might require "booties". In the winter snow conditions dictate bootie use more than anything - some types of snow are abrasive and at some temperatures some dogs are prone to "snowball" - which leads to fissures which is a crack betwwen the toes in the webbing. You try and avoid that at all costs - so more booties as needed. There are also various ointments and foot dressings used depending on the problem at hand(paw?). I don't have to do too much toenail trimming usually as the large pits that my dogs dig usuallly keep there toenails in pretty nice trim, but occasionally I have to trim toenails as a too long nail can break. The dogyards look like grenade ranges right about now and everyones nails look pretty short - Nature's Dremel tool :roll:
Feeding - that is one that is really is going to vary depending on the discipline involved, but I can genaralize in that most people feed a pretty high quality diet year round and increase calories, etc as distances increase and temperatures decrease.
I don't know if I have provided enough info to answer your questions so ask away if I have missed anything and I will try and source out the info for you if you have any questions.
Miki and Julie Collins book "Dog Driver" and Jim Welch's "The Speed Mushing Manual" are really good sources of info. The "Dog Driver" book provides a table of sprint, mid-distance distance training regimens that provides good comparison.
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Lynn, thanks. Very interesting.
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