During the summer months, the most common question that I get asked is ‘What do you do with them in the summer?’
First off, I typically don’t train the team unless it’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with a few exceptions concerning the weather (i.e. Wind, humidity, clouds, rain, etc.), which means the dogs typically don’t run from late April to the beginning of September. So what on earth do we do with them?
Sled Dogs are still dogs and just like any other dog, they (mainly) need 3 things (other than, food, water, and sleep) to stay happy.
• Mental Stimulation
• and Attention
And if you’re Steampunk, you also need hugs.
Now count in the fact that these are dogs specifically born, bred and trained to run and love it.
Luckily, these hooligans are mellowed out by the fact that the sun in eastern Washington shines from 9-5 and they don’t like the heat, so they mostly sleep during the day. If that were not the case, I can assure you they would be getting into all kinds of trouble. Which they do anyways.
One common assumption is that Sled Dogs, being working dogs, don’t like toys. Well, I can tell you right off the bat that some of my guys would adamantly disagree. The reality is, or seems to be from my perspective, that sled dogs are not bred to ‘fetch’. They are not Labrador Retrievers, or Golden Retrievers, so it is not intentionally in their genetic nature.
However, they most certainly do have prey drive, and most, (though not all) of my dogs love to chase a toy.
I find that Kong brand toys stand up fairly well against sled dog jaws, so they partake in various keep-away games with each other, as well as chasing it and bringing it back, which I do in short intervals so they don’t get too hot.
The crew is also trained to do something called free running, where they all run loose and socialize with each other while exploring the world around them.
All my dogs have recall training, which means they know how to come when called. Some are better at listening than others, I’ll admit, but I trust them all reasonably well depending on the situation.
Swimming is another great exercise, but not all the dogs like the water. However the few that do, have great fun wading in their horse trough in hot weather, and I’ve even taken a few dogs up to Black Pine Lake to see how they handled actually swimming. My lead dog promptly panicked and leapt off the dock to ‘save me’ because she thought I couldn’t swim.
We try to get the dogs away from the kennel as much as possible by taking a dog for a car ride, wether it’s to go socialize in town, or get out on a hike.
Socialization is really important for Sled Dogs, and that’s one of the main things on our mind during the summer months.
In the grand scale of things, with the amount of time they spend sleeping, and the amount of time they spend playing, we try to minimize the time they are bored to as little as we can, but by the end of Summer, we all start to get antsy for what we know is around the corner.