Most sled dogs are part of a kennel, with anywhere from 10 to over 100 huskies living in a dog yard. This is the environment that many people picture when they envision the living quarters of a typical sled dog. However, many people don’t know that sled dogs can be great indoor pets.
You might be thinking, how does a sled dog become an indoor pet? One point to consider is, not every husky is going to be a great sled dog. Some sled dogs may not have inherited the elite athletic genes or the instinctive drive to pull that their littermates have. Plus, dogs that become athletic competitors eventually retire and become more of a sled dog pet. Whatever the reason, it is important for these dogs to have been properly socialized and introduced to the indoors (even if intermittently) throughout their life in order to make a successful transition to an indoor pet.
The ability to become a good indoor pet starts with socialization/training at a young age. There is a period of a puppy’s life between six and sixteen weeks called the “fear period”, where exposure to normally fearful events/objects is very important. During this time, puppies should be handled by strangers and exposed to as many things as possible so they will be less likely to be fearful of these things as they age. Mushers are aware of this and will bring new additions to the kennel indoors to start making them feel comfortable inside. They will also socialize the puppies to as many people as possible during this time, sometimes by giving tours of their kennels or bringing them to public events. The more these puppies are exposed to at a young age, the better the transition when they are ready to live indoors.
As sled dogs mature, socialization and handling doesn’t stop. Mushers must be able to bootie and harness these dogs every day, so each dog must be comfortable with being handled. The dogs also need to be amenable to veterinary checks. These canine athletes are checked and rechecked by veterinarians throughout a racing event, which also includes pre-race checkups. Mushers strive to ensure their dogs have individual attention every day, which can be done during feeding, cleanup, regular nail trims, or harnessing. Handlers are a very important part of a kennel because they are usually the ones performing these tasks while the musher is focused on the overall care of the dogs and other aspects of kennel management. The more each dog is handled, the smoother a transition to being a house pet becomes.
Many mushers will rotate bringing dogs indoors to keep them used to having an indoor lifestyle. This is very important for a sled dog for a number of reasons. First of all, it allows proper house training of these dogs so they aren’t urinating and defecating inappropriately when they are brought indoors. Sled dogs are also not used to having access to household objects that they may want to chew or eat. By bringing dogs indoors throughout their life, they can be properly trained for more versatile living situations. Some mushers will even bring an entire team indoors after a long run or just for fun; this can mean up to 16 dogs inside at one time!
When these training measures are taken, sled dogs make great indoor pets. They can literally go from barking and pulling with excitement to cuddling on a couch in a matter of minutes. Most are also great with children and other pets (as long as they are socialized appropriately). Sled dogs can even make great running or ski-joring partners, which keeps them active and healthy through their elder years.
An indoor life is a likely transition for most sled dogs that takes preparation and training during their younger years. Proper planning can help make a sled dog’s retirement relaxing and carefree for these extraordinary athletes.
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.