By Lori E. Gordon, DVM
Veterinary Surgical Care, Inc.
MA Task Force 1 US&R Veterinary Officer, NVRT Veterinary Officer
The answer is maybe. It depends on the dog, both their physical as well as individual emotional state of mind. It is the combination of their natural personality and their environmental upbringing that can answer the question can a sled dog be an inside dog.
Dogs’ abilities and personalities result from a combination of both nature and nurture. The nature aspect is related to genetics, inherent traits in their genes when dogs come into the world. Some of these are obvious, like long hair or blue eyes; other traits come out as they grow, though they are there at birth, like being shy versus bold. The nurture aspect of their lives comes from their environment and is the shaping tool for their lives. For example, we may not be able to change their eye color, but we can encourage shyness or boldness by rewarding the behavior we desire and discouraging what is not wanted. And no matter how they are brought up, shy and more frightened dogs will resist change (it takes a lot of time and patience) while bolder more adventurous dogs embrace change.
One example of how the environment shapes a dog is training (or lack thereof). By combining a dog’s natural abilities with training, we create an amazing dog. This is done most notably for search and rescue dogs, shaped to searching in snow/avalanche search, rubble, wide area/forest, building, etc. They are shaped with reward for different target odors, for example people, animals, foods, drugs, ammunition, and accelerants that may have started a fire. In the sled dog world, one takes their natural athletic ability to run (strong heart, long legs) with their inherent joy of running (doing the ‘zoomies’ at the beach or field). Then by pairing that joy with a sled dog harness, each time they see the harness they know they get to run!
There are also traits for acclimation to varied weather conditions. Longer thicker hair coats do better in cold winter weather while shorter thinner hair coats are better suited for warmer conditions. Dogs will also acclimate by growing thicker coats and shedding as needed.
So what does all this have to do with sled dogs and being inside? Well, there is again both nature and nurture. Dogs unused to being inside may find it too scary if they are the shy type, while more extroverted dogs run inside and claim the couch! If they are brought inside and still are acclimated to the cold outside, they may become overheated and uncomfortable, so they may need a cool spot or a fan to go to as needed or the house kept cooler. Stress can also precipitate excessive panting and anxiety. If they have been brought up in a small housing kennel with their pack mates, they may not do well with a large roomy house or without their buddies, while the bolder ones may love to zoom around this bigger space and enjoy getting away from all the noise and competition for attention.
So that is why the answer is maybe. Understanding these dogs may be the road to helping out a sled dog that is uncomfortable at first being inside. Things like adding a cooling spot or fan, having a couple of buddies already in the house, lots of attention, walks and runs outside and rewards for coming inside, these may help, but mostly it is time and great patience. Other dogs take to it like they have been waiting all their lives to get inside and may not want to leave!
Disclaimer: The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition for your pet.