SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

YQ: What Are They Wearing?

The weather forecast shows cold temperatures and winds adding a big chill factor to the race. Actually, those of us here in Whitehorse don't need a forecast to tell us that! All the mushers and officials are keeping a close eye on the forecast and are hoping the "warming trend" arrives early.

At these temperatures and in this wind we need to take extra care of the dogs and, rest assured, we are well prepared with clothing and equipment to keep our dogs safe out there.

We can dress them in fleece jackets and/or wind jackets, we have plenty of fox-fur ruffs for the male "personal areas" to avoid frost-nip and T-shirts to cut the wind on the shoulders of those with shorter coats (pictured right). We also have more fleece jackets and throws out in the checkpoint bags for just this situation so they can rest more comfortably curled up together under their warm blankets.

Remember also that these dogs are Alaskan Huskies and are bred to thrive in colder temperatures. It's not like sending your pet labrador or poodle out into the weather. They have husky coats with the warm under-coat and long guard hairs to protect them. In cooler weather they sleep with their noses tucked into their bellies so their warm exhaling breath warms their underbelly, and their tail can curl over their nose. Of course, when they are running - just like when we exercise - their body temperature will rise.

Take a look at Aliy explaining how we dress the dogs for this weather and see a comparison between Waylon, who has a shorter coat and leaner physique, and Izzy who has a thick husky coat.

Nutrition is important in any race but with cooler temperatures the requirements change a little. Dogs will burn calories faster in the cold weather so we must do more to replace them. We continue to feed a warm meal of Eagle Pack kibble (which is already high in fat and protein) and we will add extra fat by way of poultry skins and other meats, soaked into the warm water. Snacks out on the trail will also be high fat skins and meat. You may remember posts during races where warmer than normal conditions were experienced and we described how the dogs prefer to eat more fish and leaner meats to help hydrate them, rather than fattier snacks. Its the other way around in these conditions so they instinctively know what their bodies need.

Our mushers are also well prepared with warm layers, fur ruffs and mitts and an extra wind-proof layer over the top. Hands become more of an issue as many of the tasks need some dexterity, such as bootie-ing and doing up harnesses and jackets, so a good stash of chemical hand warmers is imperative!


Patricia Lewis said...

Thank you, Moira and Aliy.

Nessmuk said...

Thanks for all the cold weather info...I was going to ask all those questions! The coldest I have ever experienced is minus 25 and I thought that was bad! Good for you all a warming trend is indeed forecasted! Way to take care....you folks are certainly pros at handling cold weather! Stay warm!

Lourdes, Vt said...

Great understanding of dog physiology Aliy!!! And again, your love for the dogs comes thru when you are with them. You always pet them and talk to them and they are so patient and pliant when they are with you!!!
Perfect unit musher and dogs!!!
Thank you Moira for the interview!!!

A-town's Becky said...

Fantastic "in depth coverage," of the Quest, all the way down to the ruff. Thank you Moira and Aliy for the this great informational video.
SPK dog outfits...functional and stylish :-)

Margaret said...

Wonderful illustration of the physiology of dogs (i.e. their normal temp much higher than humans).

Best of luck to all 4-legged SP Kennel athletes and to their intrepid 2-legged mushers!!!

Thanks so much for the interview!

Lauri Lenahan said...

Thank you for thinking of the gear video. I have always wondered why each dog wore what they did. I am also interested in what humans wear at -40 vs zero. How do you stay warm as a pit crew vs an active musher. Moria what do you wear vs what Aliy while racing. Go get em SP Kennel

Leanna said...

Aliy - thanks for taking time prior to the race to show the types of winter gear the dogs use. SP Kennels go out of their way to keep their fans informed and involved. You ROCK!

marilyn cozzens said...

Thanks for taking the time before you start down the trail. Informative info. Thanks Moira & ALIY.