Our visitors often wonder if we have a vet on staff or if our sled dogs even see a vet. These are all really good questions and we think it is so wonderful that our guests care as much as we do about our husky heroes! Our core group of managers, directors and presidents are very skilled in dealing with most issues that come up in our facility. However,we feel very fortunate to have amazing veterinarians working with us! Dr. David Brace and his entire team from the Bow River Veterinary Center in Canmore, AB., provide excellence care to all of our husky heroes! Our vet will come out to our facility as often as needed which is usually once a month to address any concerns pertaining to our husky family. Every year in September Dr.Dave comes out to our kennel facility to perform our annual vaccinations and physical evaluations. Vaccinations are done by Dr. Dave with cooperative assistance from members of his and our teams of professional dog care specialists. This event generally takes the whole day however, it is so important that our dogs are seen by a veterinary expert. Our 4-legged family are considered to be working pets and as such receive the same care a normal house pet would…if not more!
Our visitors also wonder how we are able to keep our husky heroes so well groomed and clean! Well, like most people do with their pets, we groom our huskies regularly to keep their coats clean and healthy. Our very dear friend who assists in the grooming on a regular basis is Akiko Iwata. Thanks Akiko! Our huskies are rarely bathed since they have natural oils in their coats that help keep them water resistant. Bathing them would strip the oils from their coats and make their coats less effective against the winter elements. However, this is not to say that we do not bath some of our huskies at times! Naturally some dogs like to play and muck around in the dirt on walks and training runs so of course – there are times when we need to bath them!
The foundation of crushed limestone used in our kennel helps keep the huskies claws a safe and comfortable length. From time to time we need to clip some huskies claws in the summer however, this is more of a winter job! Once the snow is on the ground there is nothing to keep their claw filed down to a good length – this is why we must clip them more rgularly during the winter months! It is no uncommon to see some of our 2-legged team giving some on site “spa treatments” to our husky heroes - especially if they do carry any greyhound blood lines. Massage treatments are also part of their daily and weekly grooming sessions! This hands on treatment for our huskies allows us to find any lumps or injuries on our huskies that may not be very visible.
We collect and dispose of each huskies fecal matter six times a day, every day without exception. Upon beginning our day at the kennel, we do the 1st cleaning, after this we will feed and water each of the huskies. Once all their feed bowls have been picked up for washing, we do the 2nd cleaning. We then load the dogs in the trucks to be transferred to the trail head for the tours. Once they have left the kennel we do the 3rd cleaning. The 4th cleaning is done around 12-1 p.m. in the afternoon. The kennel managers will do a 5th cleaning before the evening feed. Again, the bowls are picked up and the 6th cleaning is done before tucking all the huskies in for the night.
We keep each husky’s area 100% clean, as this is crucial in maintaining a healthy kennel. All the straw outside each house is raked up and disposed of daily. The straw inside their houses is checked daily to ensure it is clean and dry. Their stainless steel feed bowls are washed and sanitized every day in winter when feeding fresh, raw meat and every 2 days in the summer when not feeding meat. All buckets, bins and feeding utensils are cleaned and sanitized after every use. As well, the entire feed station is sanitized regularly as are all the utensils used in every aspect of dog care.
A common comment from our visitors is that our kennel or dogs do not have a smell. This is very positive feedback and it also tells us that we are doing our job by keeping everything clean! In the summer months we even pressure wash all the houses…inside and out before putting a fresh coat of paint on the houses.
Since the beginning of Snowy Owl, the owners have developed a routine to which all the dogs have become accustomed. In fact, the huskies here are expecting our support to begin at the kennel at the same time every day. The Arsenaults understand that if they were ever to change this routine; it could compromise the trust and respect they share with their dogs. “When a kennel routine is established it becomes the foundation of trust with the huskies. We clean, feed, groom, work with and pet all the huskies all day every day. They are used to lots of love and care from us. We often have volunteer dog groomers and visitors in our kennel. In our business there is no “I’m too tired to care for the dogs or any assumption made that the dogs will be ok without our one-on-one care.” says Jereme Arsenault. “You’re either in it, or you’re not and if you’re not it will show in the appearance and behaviour of your dogs.”
When we walk into our kennel, all our dogs are excited that we have arrived and will all be barking with enthusiasm. All we need to say is a “quiet!” and the huskies will be quiet …although a few may have one last bark just to make their point! All our huskies are relaxed, lying in the sun, sleeping in their house or staring at us attentively as we prepare breakfast, lunch or dinner. None of our dogs run in circles, bark, stress or whine excessively. Because we have established a regular and respectful routine they are comfortable and content. It’s important for them to be at ease and responsive to us. A common misconception is that sled dogs are loud, obnoxious and hyperactive. This can indeed be the case in huskies that do have regular routines and attention. However, because we spend so much time with them, our huskies know when it’s acceptable to be excited and when it’s time to be quiet, calm and composed. Achieving this demeanour in them is imperative for their safety as well as ours. Again, our huskies are a lot like children and when handled and taught with respect, they are very well mannered and a very happy 4-legged bunch! Learning the skill of quiet control, prepares our huskies for future training on other more important levels”, say the Arsenaults. “It’s really not rocket science, just love, respect and consistency”.
We have been in the dog sledding industry for over 29 years, naturally over time we have heard a lot of interesting questions from our guests. A common question asked is: “Aren’t sled dogs wild and aggressive?” Is this question fact or fiction? Dog sledding has been a part of North American culture for decades, originally used for transportation by many of our first nation’s people. Like cars, dog sledding is very different then it was back then…it has evolved much like everything else in the world! In some places it was imperative that not only did their sled dogs pull but were also aggressive. Back then it was survival of the fittest and for some huskies they weren’t just used to pull sleighs but to also “hold polar bear at bay”! These huskies had to maintain a crucial territorial instinct in order to survive, breeds like the Canadian Inuit husky and Alaskan Malamute were known for their aggressive nature however, they would also curl up with the village’s children to keep them warm! So yes, a long time ago it wouldn’t be uncommon to see many dog fights breaking out within the kennel environment and teams however, this aggressiveness is no more prominent in huskies then it is in little Chiwawas!
Our motto is this: It’s not the 1960’s anymore and we must move forward with the times! Going dog sledding today it would be very rare to see dog fights; kennels that do not control their dogs and allow aggression or simply do not train their huskies properly are considered very unprofessional. Dogs are a very social pack animal and since huskies are the closest decedents from wolves they tend to carry traits similar to their wild counterparts. It is of the up most importance to keep the peace when having so many husky breeds of different origins. We do not allow or condone any fighting in our kennel, our huskies are taught this very important and crucial rule when they are puppies. Each and every husky we own sets an example for the youngsters so we want to be certain it is a good example. When we set up our teams, the majority of the time our top trainers run males together side by side, as well as running females side by side. Ninety-five percent of our dogs are successfully taught to get along with the same sex, which is a sought after condition. We do have a small percentage that do not get along with the same sex due to their specific breed, yet fighting in our pack is very rare and certainly more the exception than the rule. We understand and respect the behavioural patterns of each of our huskies and by doing this we are renowned for our well socialized sled dogs!
There are many different concepts we must consider to guarantee our huskies are on the finest foundation that will provide the best for our husky family, this is why we have been using crush limestone in our kennel for 29 years! What do we look for in our foundation? First and foremost we have set our kennel up on an incline; drainage is very important and crucial to the overall cleanliness of the facility. When it rains it’s important that the water drains out of the kennel so that puddles do not develop in the dogs living areas. This simple yet effective method is one of reasons our kennel environment stays healthy and enjoyable for the dogs. Lime, which is found in limestone is a natural mineral used to control and fight bacteria. This foundation along with a very strict cleaning system is vital in creating and maintaining a healthy and enjoyable kennel facility. Crush limestone also allows a gentle and gradual approach for the dogs to develop tough feet. This is very crucial for sled dogs considering they spend most of their time playing and running! Like wolves, sled dogs travel mid distances on different terrain, if they’re feet are soft and vulnerable things like cold, ice and snow can cause discomfort for the huskies making it difficult to do what they love…running! 95% of our kennel fair very well during the winter months, never requiring any booties however some dogs by nature just as people have sensitive skin. These dogs require booties regularly during the winter season to keep them and their feet in top form. It wouldn’t be uncommon to experience many feet related issues during the winter if the foundation of a kennel was sand or dirt for example.
Elements like dirt also create a mucky and filthy living area for the dogs during the spring and summer months. It wouldn’t be uncommon to experience many feet related issues during the winter if the foundation of a kennel was sand or dirt for example. Are there any downfalls to using crush limestone? We don’t necessarily consider this a downfall however, many dog sledders may choose not to use this foundation because of the regular maintenance required. With the dogs regular movement a divit can form which will allow water to collect. We rake these divits as well as holes that the huskies dig regularly to ensure safety and health of all beings, two legged and four who enter our facility!