Sunday, June 2, 2013

Artic Adventure #1 - Husky Sledding

I was recently in Finland and had the opportunity to go on a husky sled expedition. Those who know me well would know of my love for dogs and this is one adventure on my bucket list (checked!).

Some may and some have asked me if dog sledding is considered as animal cruelty. The answer is no and yes. No in the sense that the dogs actually enjoy the run and exercise of pulling the sleds. They are bred for that and they love it. Yes would apply only to husky farm owners who mistreat their dogs and deprive them of care, rest and love. That is why it is important to choose the right kennel for your expedition.

The next important thing I learned is the difference between Alaskan Husky and Siberian Husky. At most (if not all) of the kennels in Finland, Alaskan Husky is preferred for dogsled racing. They are leaner, faster, and have longer endurance as compared to their Siberian counterparts. Siberian Husky is used mainly for photo taking with tourists, shows and shorter races.

Alaskan Husky (left) and Siberian Husky (right)

Before we start our expedition, we were given outer suits to be worn over our winter gear to provide additional warmth. We were then given a short brief on how to "drive" the sled. How to brake, when to tilt to the side when taking a turn, and some basic safety measures. It may sound intimidating at first, but it comes naturally once you start driving. Do pay attention to the key points, such as always put your foot on the brake when stopping and do not touch any of the ropes or harness.

All strapped up and ready to run...

If you are in a pair, you will take turns to drive.

 Enjoying the view from the sled

Enjoying the view from the sled

Time flies when you having fun. We took a 2-hour ride and it was over before we felt too exhausted. We found Alba Husky in Ivalo by chance as we did not plan ahead with the booking of the husky sled expedition.

Scottish by origin, owner Alister Dunlop is a musher and has won several races. What we like about him is his passion for the sport and the love for his dogs. He is even trying to change the dog welfare system in the industry, by promoting good housing standard and care for the dogs. In line with what we advocate at D.O.G.S.

At his kennel, Alister adopts the method of tethering the dogs to their respective kennels when they are at rest. Done appropriately, it is a safe and humane method of keeping sled dogs. It allows healthy social interaction, minimises risk of injury and facilitate kennel hygiene. Tethering is necessary as the dogs have a very strong flight instinct.

These dogs are given good care and daily exercise. They are not chained up 24/7. How you can know for sure is by looking at the snow. If a dog is chained up for too long, it will be pacing in circles and you will see deep circles of snow tracks.

The dogs taking a nap after our sled run.

After our sled run, we had the chance to play with the dogs.

We also got to see the puppies that were the latest addition to the kennel family.

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