Fact: Did you know that there are no rules or regulations ensuring ethical dog care and proper kennel management for the sport of dog sledding? In fact, there are only guidelines which promote very substandard care for the sled dogs subjecting them to unethical care and treatment. Many mushers provide only the best care to their dogs however; sadly some provide very low and unethical care. At Snowy Owl we aim for the highest standards in all aspects of our company! Our goal as a responsible dog sled touring company is to provide our readers with the honest truth and information for the greater success of the sport. We hope that by reading this, you will be able to distinguish between humane and in humane and why it is so important. Our company does whatever it takes to give our huskies the best life! This said, make sure you do some thorough research if you are considering getting involved in either the sled dog sport or hiring a touring company such as ours. We encourage you to always question the claims of any company or person very carefully! Read the truth…
The Snowy Owl Kennel:
Operating a large kennel facility like ours is very labour intensive. As owners, we have a huge responsibility to provide a safe, clean, positive and healthy environment for all our huskies. Managing an efficient and humane kennel set up is very important. Our kennel is protected by an extremely durable 8 foot chain link fence, professionally installed. This keeps our 4-legged family of husky heroes safe from un-welcomed visitors who may try to make their way into the kennel. The foundation of our kennel is finely crushed limestone which allows drainage in the kennel. Lime is also an effective mineral used in controlling harmful bacteria. Very importantly, our kennel is set up on an incline, allowing the rain and melting snow to naturally drain off the foundation. This eliminates the chance for puddles to develop in the dogs living areas and will keep the kennel area dry, clean and healthier over all.
Each of our huskies has his/her own 8ft. long which offers a 16 foot living space. Every dog is provided with a nicely painted and well built wooden house, bowl holders and 4 neighboring pack members for them to play with and interact with. In our facility we also have six medium sized pens situated in the kennel. The pens are used for expectant females, puppies, recovering dogs or any dog who does not like to be tethered. We also have a large free run pen for our older sled dogs to live in. Our kennel is divided into two specific areas. In one area we house all the non-neutered males (intact males) and in the other we house all the neutered males, females and spayed females. We keep a controlled number of huskies in our kennel as it is not our intention to overpopulate. Kennels that do not control their population in breeding programs are considered very unprofessional. Financially it is very difficult to care for a larger number of dogs with the high standards we insist upon however, we never compromise the care of our huskies to simply to be known as the “largest kennel” – for us it is quality that matters not quantity! We breed our huskies only for our needs and plan to keep our dogs for the duration of their life. You can read more about our breeding program here! In addition, we do have an adoption program for our retired sled dogs which allows our beloved husky heroes to hit the couch instead of the trail!
Why have we chosen to tether our dogs?
There are many different methods of kennel set up. Some mushers choose to use pens and others may tether depending on their dogs likes and dislikes. Whether you keep your dog in a house, in a yard, in a pen or on a tether – all can be inhumane if done incorrectly. In our kennel our dogs can reach each other allowing them to play with their pack mates, visit our guests, and receive lots of love and attention all day every day! It is also important to remember that since we provide high quality care to our husky heroes, we need to keep track of what is going in our 4-legged team and also what is coming out! We offer our huskies beef neck bones, whole sardines, hard boiled eggs and fresh chicken carcasses as some of their daily/weekly snacks. As one can imagine, no matter how well trained our sled dogs may be it is their natural instinct to protect their “treats”.
This also means that our dogs like to have time to themselves in order to rest, chew on their bones or snooze…just like people (well minus the bone chewing part!) This is not easily done when one has all their dogs loose in pens all the time.
During the winter months our “furkids” have a very important run/rest ratio. Since we document the terrain, mileage and distance that each of our sled dogs cover in a day we know how important it is when one of our wonderful husky heroes are on a “day off”. They must recover just like any human athlete and usually require special stretching and messaging from our kennel managers. Sadly, things aren’t like this in all sled dog kennels. These facilities who tether and restrict their dogs from touching their neighbouring pack members can cause serious neurotic and aggressive behavior in their dogs. Also, in kennels that do not allow much human interaction, the dogs can also then become fearful and shy of humans. Those who use pens need to be mindful that fence fighting is a destructive and negative environment for all dogs. We find that once the barriers of the pen are removed and the dogs can physically touch and sniff each other then the dogs become more social rather than aggressive. Always remember when visiting a professional sled dog kennel facility that the dogs should be friendly to other dogs and humans, well-mannered, healthy and happy be it in a pen or tethered.
Read more about our dog care!
When most people are imagining their dog sledding adventure it’s rare that they will think about where the sled dogs reside and what it should look like. With this information our goal is to educate our guests and readers that the care of the sled dogs, from what they eat, where they live and what they sleep in is just as important as how much the tour itself will cost! In fact, this is exactly why we do not offer discounts on our tours! Our prices reflect the bare minimum in what is costs to look after our sled dogs properly! This is certainly something to take into consideration when going dogsledding as well. The houses we have designed and built for our husky heroes are made with high quality spruce and pine. We use wood because it’s a natural, breathable product which allows a cool shaded sleeping area in the summer and a warm insulated sleeping area in the winter. Our huskies comfort, health and safety are incredibly important to us so using run down wooden houses full of holes or only a plastic rain barrel placed on it`s side is not considered humane housing in our professional opinion.
Some mushers use only a plastic rain barrel as housing? That is not humane!
You’re right! Although many ethical mushers have improved the plastic rain barrel house by building wonderful wooden platforms for them along with a nice wooden roof above the barrel, there are still some who only use a plastic rain barrel. Huskies and dogs in general love to lounge in the sun…with a wooden house or barrel with a well built roof they have a large area to snooze on off the ground…this is not possible with a round barrel on it`s side. Sled dogs work hard whether it be racing, touring or recreational so they deserve top notch care!!
Snowy Owl’s Summer Housing:
The Design: Our houses are designed to also be cool during the summer months. The large roof which over hangs on all 4 corners of the house allows for ample amounts of shade no matter where the sun is. The roof also shades the four sides of the house which allows for a cooler temperature inside for the dogs. In addition, the overhanging roof creates protections from rain so the dogs stay cozy and dry. The snug entrance allows refuge from wind and rain keeping the dogs comfortable and safe from all elements. Because wood is natural and breathable it allows air to aerate through in case any moisture was to get inside it would quickly be able to dry. In the spring we clear out all the straw from their houses and wash them out thoroughly so they are clean and fresh for the summer months.
Is their bedding for the huskies during summer?
Unlike the winter months we are not concerned about the dogs staying warm but more keeping them cool. The cool temperatures in the evenings are welcomed by the dogs; this is finally the time where they can be the most comfortable. If we place straw in our huskies houses during the summer they tend to push it outside their house making a nice mess for us to clean in the morning!
Traditional husky breeds are capable of withstanding temperatures as cold as -40 degrees Celsius so a mere 5 degrees during the evening is still considered warm for the huskies! In saying this we do offer Pine, Spruce and Cedar shavings to our husky family for additional comfort and warmth if the temperatures cool down. Only once the temperatures get cooler during the fall will we start providing straw to our huskies again. Keeping the huskies cool is very important! During hot summer days sometimes the huskies need help cooling off. Some of our huskies enjoy a swim in the Bow River near our kennel, and others will lie on top of their house while the sprinkler comes around and cools them off. The sprinkler is an important element in cooling off the dogs as well as the foundation for them to lie on.
Snowy Owl’s Winter Housing:
The Design: Our houses are specifically made to be comfortable, easy to access and spacious but within reason. A really large space is more difficult for the dogs to keep warm during the winter. Inside the house
the bottom is raised off the ground creating a sleeping area
which is not directly sitting on the foundation. The foundation is cold during the winter months so having the house raised allows for a more comfortable and warm sleep for the dogs! The roof hangs over all 4 corners of the house creating shelter from the cold wind, and protection from falling snow. We also take
the time to clear away the snow around each of our sled dog’s houses to ensure no snow falls inside! Our dog’s houses have a fairly snug entrance for few reasons:
- Protection from cold blowing wind and falling snow.
- Allowing our employees to give each dog a generous amount of straw. This way each husky will be able to move around to their desire in order to create a comfortable “nest” without the straw falling out of the house.
- Large lip at the bottom and side to avoid the males “marking” their straw inside their house, to keep snow out and to ensure a lot of the straw stays in the house where it is needed!
Why do we use straw for our huskies bedding?
We always choose the finest, most sanitary straw for our huskies. Soiled musky straw which has become damp and continued to dry can cause serious respiratory illness as well as eye and ear infections. To ensure our straw stays dry and free of any small animals we keep it off the ground and completely enclosed at all times. For bedding, straw is the best given that hay is still full or nutritional value making it heavier which means less air flow. Straw does not consist of any nutritional value making it light, fluffy and most importantly warm! The straw works off of the dog’s body heat creating a warm “blanket” for them to curl up in! We supply all our huskies with a plentiful amount of straw to keep them cozy and warm during the winter months! Of course the straw is checked daily to ensure proper sleeping and living areas for the dogs. Huskies are known to be territorial so in order for them to “claim” an object the males will generally “mark “it. It is not uncommon for them to mark the entrance of their house as well as their straw to inform the other huskies who it belongs to!
This, in turn keeps our kennel managers very busy! Is there are reason the dog’s are house outside? From our experience we have found that a husky will not grow a proper winter coat if kept indoors regularly. Because the temperature is warm it affects the thickness of their fur growth. Huskies, like wolves are very sensitive to temperature (temperatures is what will trigger a husky to shed or to re-grow its winter coat.) This is why they will shed their insulation (their down layer closest to the skin) during the spring/summer months and then re-grow it in the fall. Because our huskies spend most of their time outside enjoying the snow and cold it is vital that they grow a thick fur coat to keep them warm over the winter.
Fact: Did you know that some kennel facilities feed their dogs on the tops of their houses with no bowls! This very unsanitary method of feeding
is inexcusable and creates an environment for scavengers such as ravens and crows to enter the kennel facility. Scavenger birds are very dirty animals that carry diseases as they feed on dead animals and garbage which can then spread to the dogs. In addition to this, some mushers do not provide fresh clean water to their dogs full time and if they do some will use rusty coffee cans. These methods are very out dated and unfortunately there is no organization or program created in these kennels for what each dog is to eat based on their very individual needs – they just feed them all the same amount.
Snowy Owl’s Summer Feed:
During the summer months our huskies are not as energetic due to the heat. They still get out for a short, relaxed run in the mornings and evenings however, they are not burning nearly the amount of calories they do in the winter. It’s very important that the huskies begin the winter season with some extra fat to burn, as without it their body would burn muscle within a week of high exercise levels. Here are the ingredients we use for the summer feed:
- Taste of the Wild - the highest quality Canine Cereal also known as kibble. This “kibble” is grain free yet it is high in fat, protein, vitamins, oils and minerals. We provide 4 different formulas to our husky heroes through out the week! Monday to Wednesday is the venison, chicken and bison formula, Thursday is beef and wild boar formula, Friday is actually the dog’s favourite (raw chicken carcass day), Saturday and Sunday is salmon formula.
- We keep lots grain free of canned food for older huskies with sensitive teeth or huskies recovering from being spayed or neutered are also put on a soft food formula. This food formula is also used for dogs who may feel a little under the weather or don’t have an appetite for their regular “kibble” meal.
- Our huskies are offered beef neck bones, whole sardines, hard boiled eggs and fresh chicken carcasses as some of their weekly snacks!
Snowy Owl’s Winter Feed:
Just like people, all dogs are individuals. Each has his/her own personality and eating habits. Understanding this we recognize that not all the dogs are going to eat the same amount of food. To guarantee that our dogs get what they need, we feed them top quality ingredients and vitamin supplements. Whatever it takes…we do it! Keeping track of what each dog eats is very important. We implemented a system called the “feed board” which lists all the dogs’ names in the order of their rows and what they eat in the morning and evening. Each portion of food is represented with a different colour on the board, for example; the black marker is used for H which is a heavy portion. We use different colors to make certain there is no confusion for our staff. We also have a kennel log which is used by the kennel managers to document food and water intake or any abnormalities a dog may be displaying. It is very important to know how much a dog is eating and drinking or if it isn’t finishing its meals. This detailed information allows us to quickly recognize potential illness, fatigue or allergies which need to be addressed ASAP.
We feed our huskies many times in a day; the morning and afternoon feed is more for hydration for the dogs since we can’t leave water out for them all day long. In five gallon buckets we our grain free kibble and canned food with hot water. This is served within the hour to all the dogs so they receive a nice hot drink on a cold morning. Some dogs that have high metabolisms may require additional food in the morning such as pork fat or chicken fat. In the evening when the dogs who have been working arrive back to their houses they receive a large meal. Some dogs will eat up to 6lbs of food in one day! The largest meal is fed at night so it’s not burned off right away. Each dog has 2 bowl holders on the side of its house. This ensures that they do not spill their food by accident. It also allows them to eat comfortably. One bowl is for food and one bowl is for water. We use stainless steel bowls and serving utensils to guarantee that no rust gets into the dogs’ feed. Here is the list of ingredients we use for the feed during the winter months:
- Artisan Raw Dog Food has created a specialty raw feed for our husky heroes which brings them their required calories and nutrients each and every day. On average our dogs burn any where from 2000-7000 calories a day and therefore require a very high quality diet. This raw dog food in delivered to us fresh twice a week and is our main source of feed during the winter months. Our mixture contains for protein, fats and omegas: ground beef liver, beef spleen, beef lung, whole ground chickens, whole ground sardines, whole eggs (shell included) and for vitamins, minerals and fibre: apples, carrot, leafy greens.
- Taste of the Wild kibble is used for our all our breakfast and post run “soup mixtures.”
- For all our dogs who have been on site working, GlycoCharge is added to their final “soup mixture” of the day. This tasty powder is added and mixed into their water which also contains their grain free kibble and grain free canned food in order to help replenish the electrolytes lost when exercising as well as helping prevent injuries and tired muscles.
- We use hot water in all the dogs’ feed, morning, afternoon and night as well as in between their tours and training. We monitor each husky’s drinking and eating. If we notice abnormalities in a dog’s eating habits we are quick to offer canned food. All our huskies love canned food and when offered they will always eat it. If the dog is offered canned food and does not seem interested it is an indication that the husky may not be feeling well. At this point we will bring the dog to one of the owner’s homes for the night to be monitored and medicated.
- Snowy Owl has come up with an innovative way of keeping our huskies drinking water hot while at our dog sledding site! We use large thermoses to keep their “Doggie Gatorade” warm and fresh throughout the day! Here’s why: Just like us, eating the cold snow dehydrates the dogs, as they spend too much energy warming up again, so watering the dogs with cold water is not serving any purpose other than dehydrating them further. We care about our huskies health and in order for them to stay happy and eager to perform we serve all their meals warm in the winter…after all what would you rather drink, hot tea or cold tea. This “Doggie Gatorade” is made up of a few key elements:
- Hot water which is refreshing, comforting and hydrating.
- Grain free kibble and grain free canned food for additional nutrients and flavour
- GlycoCharge is added to this mix after the last tour of the day to replenish our husky heroes properly!
- On average each dog drinks 5.6 liters per day!
We also offer delicious treats to our huskies once they have finished drinking their water and are enjoy their rest. Variety is the spice of life so you will see our dogs snacking on raw chicken wings, tripe, sardines, hard boiled eggs, MilkBones and pork fat.