The life of a sled dog is centered around working – running with great enthusiasm down a trail while pulling a musher laden sled. Luckily, sled dogs, ours are Alaskan Huskys, have an innate desire to pull and do not need to be taught to do such. They are like Black Labs retrieving a ball when it comes to knowing their “job”. But, these dogs do need to be trained other sled dog necessities such as obedience, manners, pacing oneself and habits. As well, they are conditioned for endurance, speed and stamina. All of this training and conditioning start when dogs are still quite young. Many of our dogs are “in harness” prior to their first birthday. This does not mean that they are then full fledged athletes and ready to jump into the Iditarod, however.
PUPS (0 to 1 year) are happy-go-lucky and are constantly growing. Often they look out of proportion, with extremely long legs and lanky bodies. We do not expect them to be part of a racing team or endure any serious training. They run around a lot, cause trouble and generally have a good time!
YEARLINGS (1 year to 2 years) are still gangly and not physically mature. They are like human teenagers: scrawny and awkward. You really don’t want to leave them with a whole lot of mental responsibility either. But, we do expect them to exercise and be a part of the training teams. If they race at all, it will be on a younger “Junior varsity” squad.
RACING ADULTS (2 years until retirement) are full grown, mentally mature dogs. Male or female, we don’t have a preference. Males are generally bigger and stronger, but we do not need to move a mountain, we just need to trot across the state of Alaska. Our dogs may be on a competitive Iditarod team as early as 2 ½ years and have raced as old as 10 years.
RETIREES (age depends on individuals) are, once again, just like people. Dogs come to a point in their life when they slow down and might not want to race as hard as they used to race. At this point dogs at SP Kennel have 3 options. 1) They may be sold or given to lesser competitive sled dog kennels or mushers 2) They may be given to a home as a pet dog, often in the Lower 48 with a family that was a fan of the kennel. 3) They may retire with us and never leave the kennel. We have several “couch potatoes” and older dogs who wander around the dog yard.SP Kennel is really all about the dogs!