CARING FOR OUR DOGS
Above all else, our dogs come first. Always.
That is why we will stop at nothing less than exceptional care for them.
An incredible amount of time and care goes into loving and caring for our dogs and it doesn't end when the snow melts away - it goes on 365 days a year.
We bring in food, water, shavings and straw. We shovel snow off houses and clear it from the doorways and make sure the bedding inside is dry and cozy. There are vaccinations, vet care, grooming, toenail trimming, massaging and training all to be taken care of. And, lets's not forget the biggest job in the kennel - CLEANING!
Here's a closer look at everything that goes into caring for our amazing dogs
OUR DOGS ARE OUR FAMILY!
You will find dog sledding kennels that range from as few as 20 dogs, to as many as 200 or more dogs. Over the years, we have easily determined that for us, smaller is better and we are considered to be one of the smallest commercial sled dog kennels in Canada with just 28 working dogs.
Having a smaller number of dogs enables us to devote more time to each dog, develop deeper relationships with each of them and gain a better understanding of each of their individual needs. We know each of their unique personalities inside and out. We are able to put our hands on each and every dog every day feeling for any aches or pains, rubbing bellies, stroking ears and spreading love. We are able to easily see who needs more food, who needs their toenails trimmed and who needs an extra day off. In short, keeping our furry family small allows us to spend more time on each one individually. It ensures that there is always enough time to do it right, and do it better. Quite simply, if the dogs are not happy - we're not happy!
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of keeping our kennel to a responsible and manageable size is the fact that it means we are never pressed for space. At no time would ever be caught in a position where a dog who could no longer run, or didn't enjoy running didn't have a home with us for life.
SOCIALIZATION & ENRICHMENT
It's no secret that well socialized dogs are happy, well balanced dogs!
Because our kennel is small, we are able to safely and easily free run our dogs daily so they can socialize with, and learn from each other. Young dogs can learn from the older ones and timid dogs get the chance to build confidence. Like people, every dog has a different personality and needs to learn how to get along with others. Allowing the dogs to socialize within the different areas of the kennel ensures that there is no fighting amongst the group and allows the dogs to exercise both their bodies, and their minds.
Guests will often be surprised when we loose drop the dogs at the trailhead. It's because of socialization and trust that we are able to do this. And when the trip is over and we head back to the kennel, we simply let the dogs out of their boxes in the trailer a few at a time and they race down the lane back into the kennel, leaping and playing like kids at recess while we run around wrangling them to their houses. Fun for us, and them!.
It takes truck loads of food to keep our dogs happy, healthy and well fed! Working dogs are no different from athletes, so we feed them like athletes and care for them the same way.
WINTER FEEDING - You will see while out on a trip that the dogs are fed high quality kibble designed specifically for working dogs and raw meat and they thrive on it. They also get a nutritional supplement to help with digestion, replenish electrolytes, provide Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids as well as vitamins and anti-oxidants. While our dogs are working we need to watch them closely to ensure that they are getting everything they need nutritionally as some dogs might have specific needs outside of everything else provided..
SUMMER FEEDING - During the summer months when their caloric needs drop, the dogs eat high quality kibble designed to keep them in the best of health without adding a lot of unnecessary weight. We also supplement their diet with raw meat, vitamins and electrolytes as needed. Throughout the summer, the most fun and exciting days at the kennel are the days the dogs get their raw chicken.
Each dog has two bowls affixed to the side of their house. This means they are not eating off the ground where bowls can get knocked around and covered in dirt, feces or urine. It also means that they have access to plenty of fresh water daily as they can not be spilled.
Having each dog's bowls raised also provides ease of access to food and water which helps facilitate movement of food when traveling from the mouth to the stomach. Studies have also shown that consuming food from elevated dog bowls places less strain on the dog's neck, hips, shoulders and joints, which promotes better posture.
Each of our dogs has their own wooden insulated house that is lined with cozy straw in the winter. This keeps them warm, dry and happy. The straw is changed regularly to ensure it is dry and lofty and keeping them as comfortable as possible.
In the late spring we often find the dogs will dig out their straw as it's too warm, so at that point we completely clean out each house and replace the straw with wood shavings. Each house is elevated off the ground to keep the dogs warmer, dryer and more comfortable in all seasons.
Our kennel a good amount of shade, but in the heat of the summer each dog gets a tarp over their area to provide protection from the sun and to allow them to lie out comfortably even on rainy days.
Each of their houses are spaced out enough to allow adequate personal space for each dog, but close enough that each of the dogs has up to 4 others they can reach to play and interact with at any given time.
We are sometimes asked why we don't keep all of our dogs in pens and there is good reason behind it. We have found that our dogs prefer having their own space, but also having free, open access to more loving, touching, interaction and time spent with us when we are working and moving through the kennel. It also allows us to keep a close eye on food intake - and output! When dogs have their individual space, it's much easier to ensure each dog is eating all of their meals, as well as monitor poop which often is our first sign that something might not be right.
HEALTHY LIVING CONDITIONS
Without a meticulously clean kennel, it's impossible to have healthy dogs!
Cleaning is the biggest job in the kennel because it is ongoing. Each dog's living area must be kept free of feces, old/wet straw and sticks or leaves that can hide tiny poop balls. A thorough raking of each dog's area ensures that there are no contaminates left behind that can make a dog sick. It also helps us see if dogs are having trouble digesting food, or if they are not feeling well.
Proper cleaning techniques are the very first thing our guides are taught when they join us and these practices carry over to the trails and camps as well.
It's in no way a glamorous job - but there is no doubt that it's by far one of the most important!
With over 50 years combined experience with dogs and dog care, things like cuts, scrapes and regular deworming are easily taken care of by us. But, for the bigger things, we are very proud to have a wonderful working relationship with our vet who takes great care of our dogs both at the clinic and at the kennel. Each spring they will come to the kennel for any necessary annual vaccines as well as physical evaluations of our dogs. They are also available to us, most times on a moments notice, for emergencies and for the needs of individual dogs. At the end of a dog's life, euthanasia is always performed by a veterinarian, while surrounded by our love, support and of course, many tears.
We routinely spay and neuter dogs that we are not planning to breed to avoid any unwanted breedings and to extend their lives.
When on the trail, there is always a fully stocked dog first aid kit should any problems arise and although it's extremely rare, should a dog need to see the vet while on trail they will be picked up by snowmobile and then taken to the clinic straight away.
It's the quiet time that we spend with our dogs, caring for them, that really solidifies our bonds with them and it shows when you meet these special creatures on trail. They love people and seek affection and acceptance from everyone they meet.
Some dogs like to be stroked and whispered to, others want you to get right down own the ground and roll around with them. Some absolutely adore being groomed while others could take it or leave it.
Each dog has their own quirks and their own little routines that they have come to expect from us. We often laugh thinking that if a non-dog person were to watch us move around the kennel, interacting with the dogs in the ways they have come to love, they'd probably think we were crazy! (but that's ok with us). Yes, our dogs are working dogs - but they are still very much our pets and are most definitely family.
We never put our dogs in a position where they are expected to pull an overloaded sled. Our trips go out with no more than two people per sled carrying only their personal gear. And, of course, you are expected to help your dogs along! That's all part of the magic of working together as a team!
On our longer Northern trips where all gear is carried, all sleds are single driven and dog teams are larger.
We watch our dogs carefully on trip and take lots of breaks as temperatures and snow conditions deem necessary. Older dogs may need more days off and younger dogs might need more training or a new running mate. We allow the dogs to set the pace each day - it is not governed by our schedules.
Should we find that a dog is not enjoying their time on the trails due to age, personality or physical limitations we never force them to run - we simply move them into our adoption program! We regularly get adoption applications from guests who have been on a trip with us and fallen madly in love with one of our dogs.
Having snowmobile support on our trips means that heavy items such as food barrels, firewood and bedding for dogs are transported to our camps by snowmobile eliminating any unnecessary weight for the dogs to pull
It also means that should a dog get hurt, or not be up to finishing a trip, we are able to bring them home quickly and easily and get them the care they need.
It's extremely rare that we need to bring a dog off trail, but if we do it's only fair to them that we are able to do it with the same speed and ease that we would offer our guests.
THE LITTLE EXTRAS
We know that our dogs are bred for the cold but we also know that based on weather conditions, they need, and so richly deserve the little extras!
On very cold days, or wet days we put coats on our dogs to help keep them warm or dry. Their dense, thick fur is a fabulous insulator, but if they are wet, it's harder for them to keep warm.
We also know that their feet need extra attention and you will see booties on some dogs or see us using a product such as Mushers Secret to protect the pads of their feet.
At the end of a long day on the trail, we love nothing more than to massage the dogs to ensure they don't wake up stiff and sore the next day. This is extremely important and is part of the program for all of our guests. Our dogs and guests love this equally as is it not only builds love and trust, it's a wonderful way to end a day with the dogs.
All of these little extras go a long way toward happy, healthy dogs!
We respect the abilities and needs of all of our dogs and if they aren’t as happy as they can be working with us, they will never be forced. Instead, they will be retired and we will work to find them more suitable homes (and couches!).
Of course, we are often asked what happens to the dogs if they are not adopted. Because our relationships with each and every dog have been built on love, trust and kindness, they will stay with us to live out their golden years with their friends if we are not able to find them the perfect home. We never euthanize dogs simply because they can no longer want to pull or because we need to make space in the kennel. At the end of a dog's life, euthanasia is always performed by our veterinarian, while surrounded by our love and support. A family member deserves nothing less.
Because our kennel is small, we are never in a position where we need to place a dog in a home we don’t think will be an absolutely perfect fit. Each time we add a new dog to the pack it's with the understanding and promise that they have a home with us for the duration of their lives. Because they are family members, we most definitely owe them that.
Click here to see our adoptable dogs!
If you have read all the way to the bottom of this page, THANK YOU!
We urge anyone planning a dogsled trip to look into the level of care being given to the dogs, not just during the sledding season, but year round. Do your research and don't be afraid to ask questions!
Without our dogs, none of what we do would be possible and we take that very seriously. Our relationships with each and every one of our dogs are built on love, trust and kindness and their health, happiness and well being is our primary goal, without compromise.
Our dogs, are our family - and family always comes first.