What's the breed of dog in this activity?
Here, we have Alaskan Huskies, which is not to be confused with Siberian Huskies.
Why are the dogs so small?
The dogs aren't small, they simply have a slim and muscular physique. You don't see an overweight human running in a marathon, and the same is true for our dogs! They're in great shape. And being muscular and having a slim physique is in their genes; it doesn't mean they're underfed; in fact, it's just the opposite.
The Alaskan Husky is a mixed breed dog and it first appeared during the time of the Gold Rush late in the 19th century. It's a dog breed that has changed over time, one that continues to evolve and adapt to the climate in which it lives.
Why did you choose Alaskan Huskies?
Alaskan Huskies are very resistant to variations in temperatures that we have in the province of Québec and they are especially adapted to moving around, which makes them ideal racing dogs.
They have an undercoat that keeps them warm in winter but they're also able to tolerate the summer heat. And, we give them special care so they are able to warm up or cool off when they need to.
What do you do to protect them when it's bitterly cold?
We have a trailer that is enclosed and heated. When it's extremely cold they go inside the trailer more often to warm up. We also make sure that we feed them more often with fatty foods to compensate for the loss of energy, and we give them something to drink more often to avoid dehydration.
For how long a period of time can a dog run?
The dogs are trained year-round, so they're in peak form when they get to the Fête des neiges. Along with their training, the distance they can cover depends on many factors, such as snow conditions, the weight of the sled, the equipment and their cruising speed.
We have to assess it every time, based on the conditions and provide specific care for each dog based on its anatomy. These dogs like the colder temperatures because they're made to withstand the cold!
How can you tell whether a dog is too tired to run?
We never wait until the dogs are tired; we do rotations based on the weather conditions, the dog's training and genetics. Some dogs are changed more often, and some less often, depending on their physique and capabilities.
How do you take care of the dogs during the year?
We make sure we provide them with quality food at all times, training, and we surround them with love and respect. It's important to remember that they're aren't any bad dogs, just bad mushers.
Our supplier, Expéditions Hautes-Laurentides, is well-known for properly treating the dogs, and it has excelled in this regard for the past 14 years.
Is there a certification or permit that is required to have a dog-sledding business?
Dog-sled ride businesses are regulated by the MAPAQ, which issues yearly permits after inspection checks on the site where the dogs live. Our supplier easily passes these MAPAQ inspections every year, without the MAPAQ issuing any recommendations; everything is deemed to be in order. In fact, they are even held up as an example in many of their practices.
What does the word "musher" mean?
The term "musher" comes from the first Franco-Manitoban settlers (Métis). When they were calling out to their dogs, they used the word "marche" (walk). Over time, the word became "musher" which means "marcheur" (walker). It's an old French-language term. What's different today is that the musher has to walk in front of the toboggan to be able to lead the dogs.
What do you do with the dogs in the summer months?
The dogs do all sorts of things throughout the summer : training, free-run races, walks. They get pampered treatment.
How old are the dogs when you start training them?
The first month, the dogs play among themselves and get to know the rest of the pack. Then they begin their apprenticeship as a sled dog by walking with their masters and their mother.
The knowledge conveyed by the mother is extremely important; the mother is at their side throughout the learning process. The age at which a dog starts training depends on several factors; every dog is different, so it's important to adjust to this fact.
What do the dogs eat, and how often do they eat?
The dogs eat a minimum three meals a day, always in liquid form to ensure they always stay hydrated. The meals are mainly made of different types of meat, top-grade stock feed, fats, carbohydrates and supplements. Then, depending on the amount of exertion, a dog usually gets a snack every two hours, in addition to its meal.
How old do these dogs live to?
Around the age of 10, or depending on their capability, the dogs take a well-deserved retirement, free to roam at their leisure in the kennel. They make a big contribution to teaching the younger ones and to the creation of a great dynamic within the pack. You quite often see these dogs live to 15 or 16 years of age.