alaskan husky

Mushing History


Mushing means dog powered. In the Northern regions of the world, people used sled dogs for survival just as people in Southern regions used horses. During the gold mining days, dogs were used to pull freight sleds filled with supplies for mining camps. Freight dogs were much larger than today's racing sled dog. There are still freight dog competitions, but it is not as well known as mushing.

In the North, some people still rely on dogs for their lifestyle. Yes, you can use a snowmachine to get places in the arctic, but engines can break down. Leaving you stranded miles from help and in the freezing cold. Being stranded in the arctic is ALWAYS dangerous.

Click here for an indepth article on the origins of the sled dog.

Click here to learn about the origins of the Inuit and other Tribal Dogs.

Styles of harnesses, sleds, and even the disposition and conformation of the sled dog are often just a newer version of an old theme. Today the dog sleds are lighter, the harnesses are made from high tech fabric, and the dogs are more sleek.

If you are wondering, it is easier for a sleek dog to pull todays dog sled, and they burn calories more efficiently too. In the gold rush days the sleds were heavy and clunky and the dogs were big and heavy so they did not float over the snow. It was long hard work for the dogs and mushers.

A sled dog is not an AKC registered breed. Back in the day, whatever dog was brought to Alaska by explorers and gold miners mixed with dogs that already lived in Alaska were the make up of a sled dog. This trend continues with hounds being added to the mix.

The difference today is that in order for a husky to wear the title Alaskan Husky they must have a mushing/working dog background. It isn't enough to breed two husky type dogs together and call the puppies alaskan huskies. Not all Northern dogs have the conformation, drive, or stamina to pull a sled (even some racing bred dogs don't want to be mushing dogs). Don't fall for advertisements selling purebred alaskan husky puppies because they do not exist. That said, almost all huskies have some independent personality and this website can help you train your husky whether they are from a racing kennel or your neighbor with the husky mix puppies.

Click here to see some pictures of huskies.

All northern breed dogs have some variation of this working dog history. Genetics play a part in alaskan husky breeding, but gene specific breeding (such as color of fur) takes the back seat to athletic performance.

Huskies are known as high energy dogs. It is not so much that they have nervous energy. They have endurance. They need long and continuous interaction. They are also known for finding and staying on a trail in a whiteout blizzard. It is this characteristic that gives them the label smart.

They also adapt to moving from person to person or village to village without getting too upset by the change. This is why they roam for hours or days before having any interest in returning. Unfortunately, todays world is not set up for that type of behavior, even when you are a musher.

And what about the musher? Does she sit on her butt and let the dogs do all the work?


While this seems to be what is depicted in mushing pictures (like the one below), it simply is not true. Mushing is by far the most labor intensive job I have ever done (and I used to run a horse farm which is pretty labor intensive). You spend a great deal of time running behind the sled (and always on the uphill), breaking trail for your dogs (yes, you do that, wearing snow shoes), changing dog booties , feeding, cleaning up, fixing the sled, and bedding down the dogs (read about dog care here). And you do this in 20 below zero weather for 10 or more dogs, wearing enough clothes to be called the Michelin Man!

One important lesson I learned while mushing was how easily the dogs can overheat. Even in temperatures below zero (fahrenheit)! This is why huskies have such trouble in warm climates. This is also one reason they dig in summer. They are searching for the permafrost (always frozen dirt) below the surface which is much cooler ground! This is how a husky can stay comfortable in a warm summer in Alaska, as opposed to a warm summer in the South.

Articles on Mushing Training

Husky News




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