Peace Pups Dogsledding; year two.
Aiko and Heron joined us in the spring. The woman we had purchased Misty from still had a few of her dogs left and hadn't moved away yet. We went back for another visit and brought Aiko home. I now had two dogs to skijor with and Lise had one. Aiko (full name Hey Now Aiko) turned out to be a great dog for skijoring. He was strong and listened well. Things were looking good. At this point in time we were keeping all three dogs in our 20'x 30' cabin. There was plenty of room for the three of us, two cats, and three dogs. We just had to be cautious when we got up in the dark that we didn't step on anyone. I think we saved some money on wood that winter with all the body heat generated by the dogs packed into out cabin. We were having so much fun with these three that we decided to get one more that spring. We had met some friends at a race and they just happened to have a decent "lead" dog for sale. I figured if I had one more dog I could actually get a sled and have a four dog sled team. I had never driven a dog sled but it looked like a lot of fun and four is a pretty safe sized team to start out with. We brought Heron home and I found a used sprint sled to buy. I really wanted to build my own sled being a woodworker but found there was not a lot of information available on how to build them. I scoured the internet but only came up with small bits of information on sled building. I figured if I actually had one here it would be much easier to build my own later.
If you have not driven a dogsled before it's amazing how many details there are to figure out. The sled has a snow hook which is basically your parking brake allowing you to step off the sled to untangle dogs or assist them in turning the right direction or any other unexpected situation you might encounter. The snow hook has to be attached directly to the dogs rather than the sled so the stress of the dogs pulling on it doesn't have to be absorbed by the sled. If the snow hook was only tied to the sled the dogs could actually pull the sled apart. At the front of the sled there is a carabineer where the snow hook and the line holding the dogs are connected. This carabineer is attached to the sled in different ways depending on the sled design. It does have to be a very solid attachment because if that ever let go your entire dog team would be off with out you. Not a good thing! Attaching multiple dogs to the gang line is a little different from one or two dogs on a skijor line. The gang line is the line in front of the sled which the dogs are attached to for pulling. It has two types of lines built into it, one is around 3' long and attaches to the back of the dog's harness, this is called a tug line and is what the dogs pull (tug) against. In front of this line is a neck line which is shorter at around 1' long and this line attaches to the dogs collar. They do not pull on this line; it's just to keep everyone in line so they don't move out of the trail and go around the wrong side of a tree or other objects. The two dogs at the front of the gang line are called lead dogs since they are leading the team. They are only attached with tug lines but typically have a short neck line keeping the two of them together. Confused yet? It was very confusing to me the first few times I hooked up my four dog team. There is one more line on the sled called a snub line. This should also be attached to that main carabineer in front of the sled and is attached with a quick release to an immovable object such as a tree or your truck. This allows you to put the dogs on the gang line and not have them take off before you are ready to go. Once all of the dogs are hooked up and you are ready you pull the quick release and yell "LETS GO!" or "MUSH!" or "OK!". You really don't need to say anything because they feel you release the snub line and they are off like a shot. It's all very exciting and more than a little scary when you're first learning.
Ten dog gang team
I was under way with my first dog team and had several nice spring runs with my four dog team. In fact I got enough runs in to decide that I really wanted to make the jump to a six dog team. Four is great but you have to do a fair amount of running up hills because four dogs (my dogs at least) just don't have enough power to pull you up. During the upcoming summer I began to explore options for adding two more dogs.