What do the dogs eat?
Lots! A hardworking tour dog can consume up to 12 thousand calories a day. These calories are contained in a high powered kibble designed specifically for working sleddogs. It contains up to 32% protein and 32% fat. In addition the dogs receive about 2 pounds of raw meat a day… Chicken, beef, salmon, pork, and lamb. At the end of your tour you will have the opportunity to “feed the crocodiles” by tossing chunks of raw meat to the dogs , which they will snap out of the air with an accuracy that would put Chad Johnson to shame! We also add joint mobility and gut health formulas to their meals.
Just like people, dog’s metabolisms vary. Silver and Iskra gain weight by just looking at food. Conversely, Lorax and Raptor eat like teenage boys and are still skinny. We tailor each dog’s caloric intake to meet their individual needs.
In general, the dogs, as marathon runners, must maintain a sleek, lean physique. And the guides are all working on being as sleek and lean as the dogs. If we suddenly go silent on the Divide Hill, it is because we are running behind the sled and slipping into a state of hypoxia.
What do the dogs do in the summertime?
The off season is their summer vacation. By the time the spring rolls around most of them will have put in up to 3000 miles in harness so it’s time to play! We have a summer kennel in central BC which is surrounded by crown land, loaded with trails and lakes and not many people to disturb! A glorious dog paradise. We take them on daily free runs, in compatable groups, with the quad. They run like the wind, dodge trees thru the woods and jump in and out of lakes. And roll in cow poo! Dogs doing what dogs love to do. On hot days they we let them just putter. They follow us around and “help” with the chores.
What makes a lead dog?
Lead dogs are born, not made. A lead dog could be compared to a CEO of a company. They love their job, take it very seriously and can handle a great deal of responsibility. A lead dog must be particularly tuned into the musher in order to work together and take directional commands. It can be a somewhat stressful situation having eight or 12 screaming athletes at your heels, and so the lead dog must be confident of his or her abilities up there. We see lead dog-potential in pups at a very young age. At the same time, we never discount the “sleeper” dog, who may be a late bloomer and decides, at a later stage in life, that he or she wants to take the helm. Contrary to popular belief, the lead dog is not always the alpha dog in the kennel. You know that socially awkward CEO?… Silver would be a great example of this. She defers to everyone but is a dynamo in lead. Growler, on the other hand, has always been a quietly confident guy, who the other dogs never think to challenge on any level. He’s calm, confident, gentle, but dominant.
What are the little dog booties for?
We put booties on the dogs for a variety of reasons, but down south here, rarely for the cold. The main reason we boot is for web cracks. Because a dog’s feet is one of the main conduits to shed excess heat, the interface between their feet and the snow, is a warm damp environment which tends to create splits in their webs. We also also boot for abrasive conditions and snow balling. We do this preventatively. In conjunction with the boots we use our own special foot cream formula with tea tree oil, lanolin, almond oil, beeswax and some other secret ingredients.
More rarely, in theses southern climes, do we have to boot for the cold. Dogs have a unique foot physiology, with venuoles and arterioles spaced closely together for heat exchange, plus a large percentage of fatty tissue in their paws enables their feet to remain warm when ours would freeze. In addition, dogs only shed excess body heat thru their mouths and their paws and thus when they are working, their paws become little hot pads. They cannot shed heat by sweating, such as a horse does. Every dog is different and we recognize this. Some of our crew, both human and dog, get cold feet more easily. They get extra protection to keep them comfy.
Why are these dogs so skinny?
Sleddogs are the decathletes of the canine world. Any superstar athlete cannot carry any excess body fat as it can be injurious to their joints, and it also greatly impedes performance. For those of you who do run, you know when you are packing even an extra pound or two. In the end, we like to see a lean and athletic condition in all of our poochies. Well muscled with a few ribs showing, and a glossy coat.
Where do the dogs live?
The dogs go home each night to their kennel, which is 45 minutes drive from Lake Louise. At the kennel they all have their own house, which is a cozy den packed with straw. For the most part, we tether them individually for this enables us to monitor their individual health. Eating, pooping, drinking. The dogs are close enough to play with each other and interact, but after a long day of work they usually eat their dinner and go to bed after a rousing group howl. While we do not offer kennel tours specifically due to the long drive from Lake Louise, we welcome anyone who would like to visit the dogs at their home.
How old are they when they retire?
Just like people, different dogs request to be retired at different ages. Some like to work well into their golden years, and on occasion, some want to retire in middle age. As long as they are still barking to go, and are not too stiff, we like to include them. As elders, they may only go out in harness once a week, but it fosters that pride that is so important to a working dog. When they let us know that they are not interested in jumping into their harness anymore, they are retired. These dogs are sometimes placed in adoption homes, or remain with us to grace the couches or snooze under a shady tree. Enki, at 14, is our kennel patriarch, and he just out ran Megan on 5 km trot.