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Old 05-06-2013, 10:10 AM
 
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I'm currently watching the Discovery Channel show "Iditarod: The Toughest Race." I'm really enjoying it. There seems to be about 15 dogs on the running teams.

I have a few basic questions:
- It seems like they have more reserve dogs at their kennel (?). Does anyone know how they assemble a "team." Like, I assume there's team chemistry, and is it just lots and lots of rotating to figure out what works? Or do you just know your dogs so well that it takes few times to try what works?
- Does anyone know how (in a little more detail) they know which dog will be great for which kind of position?
- Like I said, they seem to have more reserve dogs in the kennel, who takes care of ALL the dog droppings???? I know, don't respond with something mean like, "are you stupid, the sledder, duh." What I was wondering was, do these kennels have apprentices or help that takes care of the dog droppings?? I doubt they would hire someone JUST to clean the poo (note: there are businesses that do this, they come and clean dog poop and charge per dog). But it's possible they may have apprentices or other workers that might adopt it as part of their responsibilities.
- How do they decide which dogs aren't "suitable" for sledding? I've heard they try to keep their friendliest, smartest, and most people-attached dogs for lead dogs. In general, is there a "general" reject-sled-dog? And are they most suited to a very active individual then that goes on crazy long runs with them?

Thanks for any responses Just curious!

Last edited by soci3tycat; 05-06-2013 at 11:34 AM..
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:03 AM
 
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It could take a book to answer your questions.

Most mushers have a kennel--that is, they raise thier own dogs. They breed for certain qualities.....leadership, strength, stamina, personaility, intellignce, etc.

The kennel might have 50 or more dogs in it at any one time. Each of the dogs literally leaps at the chance to go run. If they don't they are gone...to another home, as pets. The ones that are left train and train and train. They exhibit traits which are noted by the handler: strength, leadership, personality,endurance, etc.

When it comes time to put a team together, the musher will select based on what he needs. The 'team' must work as a a team, and get along with the musher. Through working with the dogs..and thousands of them over the years, a good dog person can spot the winners and losers pretty quickly. They also know which dogs can work together and not just go off on their own little tangent.

Many mushers will hire a 'handler' to work the kennel. The handler gets to do all of the dirty work, but also gets to run a team in training, and if they are really lucky (and good) will perhaps get to run a team in a race event.

A sled dog team is a dynamic process. It consists of dogs that exhibit certain characterisitcs, but can work as a team. Most of the teams that run the long distance events will have a least one veteran on the team--because that dog 'knows the way'., They rememebr; they can smell the trail; and they might be a leader. The wheel dogs...those back on the line closest to the sled are the strong ones. Powerful, they just want to pull and follow the leaders.

There is SO much more, but here is a snippet of information in response to your questions. You'll get a LOT more here over the next few days as people have time to care for their dogs and then get on the internet.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:20 AM
 
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If you're ever visiting Alaska during the spring, go take a look at the animal shelters in Fairbanks and Anchorage. You can find a great deal of the "reject sled dogs" there. You can also find dogs that overambitious mushers can't/won't feed. Some don't even bother taking them to shelters when they don't want them.

Not all mushers do this; but it's also not an isolated thing.

Last edited by Metlakatla; 05-06-2013 at 11:39 AM..
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:49 AM
 
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@TedBear - REALLY, really helpful and insightful answers!! Are you a dog musher? If so, you must let me know so I can visit your kennel if I visit Alaska!

I have more questions out of curiosity (for those who are new to the post, please add your knowledge to my first questions). I will preface this by saying NO, I am NOT looking to get into dog sledding. I am just very interested in learning more about the topic. If you would like to reference easy reads about it to me, please feel free to do so (not so technical, but one a newbie could read to learn about the lifestyle, with more focus on the dogs and/or the musher, more than mushing techniques per se).

1) How much do 'handlers' generally cost?
2) Generally speaking, is sledding lucrative? What about for the "top" mushers? It seems like an expensive sport- to buy a sled, buy dogs, maintain dogs and related costs/vet bills etc, and then to SHIP them when you race! When I fly my cat as a carry-on, it's $100; to have her shipped in cargo is ~$250 omg.
3) If it is lucrative, are these mushers making more money from marketing/advertising? I don't know if there are magazines or sled-dog brands they can represent or make deals with (like how NBA or NFL stars/etc do), and this would be a way to make money? I was really wondering because the Discovery Channel show said the Iditarod's winnings are in the upper $60,000. But I imagine maintaining a kennel and paying for flying your dogs places is expensive.
4) What are the annual costs like in dog sledding to a very successful musher? I'm wondering because from an economic perspective, I'm wondering how much money they must win just to keep the kennel afloat annually.
5) How can you tell when it is time to "retire" your dog(s)? And when they retire, do mushers generally keep them, or give them a new home?

In the show, I really liked DeeDee Jonrowe and Martin Buser for how they concentrated on their dogs. Everyone seemed to like and care for their dogs, but DeeDee seems to talk about them the most, think about their feelings, etc. Martin seems very professional and wise. He seems very logical and smart. I also like how he treats his dogs and for whatever reason, I got the feeling that his dogs respect him very, very much and listen to him very well.

I know the show tried to build conflict between Lance Mackey and Jeff King. I'm not sure what their real life relationship is, I know reality type shows try to build drama. I really liked Lance Mackey, though. He seems like a super hard worker that pushes and pushes to get through anything. I thought he was great because he won the 2008 race with so many obstacles and difficulties (had to drop a number of dogs). This is of course, just the perspective of someone who is operating exclusively off what is seen in the documentary.

Thanks again everyone for contributing your knowledge!
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:50 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metlakatla View Post
If you're ever visiting Alaska during the spring, go take a look at the animal shelters in Fairbanks and Anchorage. You can find a great deal of the "reject sled dogs" there. You can also find dogs that overambitious mushers can't/won't feed. Some don't even bother taking them to shelters when they don't want them.

Not all mushers do this; but it's also not an isolated thing.
Eep, I hope they send them to no-kill shelters. It's always sad when a pet is homeless, and I always hope it's temporary. I know it's not always true.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:56 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soci3tycat View Post
Eep, I hope they send them to no-kill shelters. It's always sad when a pet is homeless, and I always hope it's temporary. I know it's not always true.
Dream on.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metlakatla View Post
Dream on.
Do you think some mushers don't care for the dogs? I know it's probably not possible that EVERYONE loves their dogs first and foremost, but do do you see mushers not putting the dogs first enough in the industry? I'm just wondering because the way it is advertised is obviously in the best light, that dog mushers love their dogs first and foremost, putting the dogs first above all.
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soci3tycat View Post
Do you think some mushers don't care for the dogs? I know it's not true that EVERYONE loves their dogs first and foremost, but do you see this enough in the industry? I'm just wondering because the way it is advertised is obviously in the best light, that dog mushers love their dogs first and foremost, putting the dogs first above all.
LOL.

Yes, I think that some mushers "don't care for the dogs."

Sorry, but I lived among it too damned long to be blinded by what they tell you about it on television.

Like I said before, go visit local shelters in the spring and see just how much some of these mushers "care for the dogs." Of course, some don't even "care for them" enough to give them a one-percent chance of finding a home by taking them to a shelter; they just kill them themselves.

Some mushers practice something called "culling" with regards to new litters. Look it up.

Like I said before, these things aren't universal in mushing, but by the same token, they aren't isolated.
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:03 PM
 
117 posts, read 234,747 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metlakatla View Post
LOL.

Yes, I think that some mushers "don't care for the dogs."

Sorry, but I lived among it too damned long to be blinded by what they tell you about it on television.
So the dogs are just a vehicle to mush, but there's not really sort of love for the dogs
Why do they keep on mushing? There have to be easier ways of life/living, and if they don't care for the dogs which I would think are an integral part of dog sledding, do they just not change professions/jobs because they're afraid of change?
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:09 PM
 
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I don't know; why don't you ask them? Again, go visit any shelter in Fairbanks or Anchorage the spring for first hand example of what I'm typing about. Alaska's hardly known for having "no kill" shelters, by the way.

I'm not sure that you're getting that I'm not saying that these things are common to all mushers, and I'm not terribly interested in having my words twisted here. I've made it clear enough, and I'm not going to argue about it based on what you've seen on television or what your personal vision of what something you've never seen is.

There are plenty of good mushers out there, so do like the rest of those who romanticize them: Believe what you want. Hardly anyone ever see the other side anyway, and you'll hardly ever have to worry about seeing it on television.
Quote:
Alaska SPCA director says Iditarod magnifies cruelties:

Margery Glickman: "The dogs who can't meet the standard are killed."

Rob Moore: "They're just killed or possibly abandoned."

Margery Glickman: "From what I understand, normally the dogs are simply killed with a shot to the head or they're bludgeoned or even drowned. I've heard that the puppies, especially, are easy to drown. The mushers will tie a rope to their neck and a rock and throw them in the river. But they bred large numbers of dogs just to get a handful of good one. There was a TV documentary where a famous Iditarod musher said that she bred 300 dogs to get five good racers, and this is typical."

Last edited by Metlakatla; 05-06-2013 at 12:20 PM..
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