Staying in Shape



Jodi Bailey’s team definitely was getting a winter workout at the 2017 Iditarod start in Fairbanks.

We all know that sled dogs stay in shape during the snowy, winter months when training for long distance runs.  But what happens now, in Alaska’s summer?  And yes, there is summer in America’s northernmost state.  

Summer exercise varies.  Some mushers work with their dogs guiding tourists on glaciers.  Others give trail rides to guests on wagons or ATVs as the dog teams pull.  Since these heavily furred dogs can easily overheat, mushers are very careful to stop the pulling dogs after short distances to give water.  

Long tongues help a dog keep cool.  Dogs pant to circulate air within their bodies; moist lung linings then cool the air.  Panting also causes moisture in the mouth to evaporate, cooling the blood flow from the mouth and nose on through the body.   Foot pads on a dog do contain sweat glands, so they  sometimes leave sweaty paw prints.  

Mushers are diligent even in winter to avoid hyperthermia, the overheating of their dogs.

Back to exercise in the summer.  These dog athletes cannot sit still, so mushers have varied methods for keeping them active.  The Stielstras and Laura Neese of Nature’s Kennel let their dogs pull in harness for 1-2 mile runs if the temps in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are below 50° F. They also allow free-run time along their trails if the temps are 65° or lower.

Of course, my favorite exercise feature is a giant hamster dog wheel, similar to a treadmill.

As you can see,  dogs who love to run still get their exercise in the summer months!