What Makes a Good Sled Dog? Part 3 of 3

Today I got to visit Iditarod Elementary (go Huskies!) and speak to the entire school body at once. I was impressed with their engagement, noticing, and remembering! I want to round out the “What Makes a Good Sled Dog?” series by highlighting some features of Alaskan husky dogs that I haven’t touched on yet and introduce you to a dog I met today at the Jr. Iditarod vet checks.  But as I was reading back over my notes, I noticed that I had a rhyme going:

           Joy, speed, endurance, eat

           Fur, tail, head and feet

I began thinking how much fun it is to teach and help students remember important  learning when we can make it fun, rhyming or make students laugh.  After I finish the rest of the important features of sled dogs, I’ll get back to this little song and see if we can finish it.

Today I met some amazing sled dogs at the Jr. Iditarod vet checks! All of the dogs came up at least to my knee. One dog wrapped its paws around my hand and stood up on its hind legs, searching for a treat. It was a good sized dog and weighed my arm down. After they were all done getting checked, the dogs were only too happy to get back into their warm, toasty dog boxes. 

I reminded the students this week that sled dogs have to be a certain size–with nice long legs, a lean body, and enough weight to really pull and run for a long time. The dog that veteran Jr. Iditarod musher Bristol Huffman is holding fits these qualities.  Most sled dogs are between 35 and 65 pounds, and they stand between 17 and 26 inches tall.  

Bristol Huffman’s dog is ready for the Jr. Iditarod. Photo: K. Newmyer

When the dogs were finished with final vet checks, mushers and handlers gently guided the dogs back into their warm dog boxes on the trucks. Sled dogs do like to sleep, and in fact, sled dogs must be good at sleeping.  In my presentation, I asked students, be honest, how many of you go to bed on time without any protest?  Each time, anywhere between all and no hands went up! The question helped me highlight this valuable quality sled dogs must have. Out on the trail, it is imperative that each dog get rest in between runs. Sled dogs must learn that stopping, being fed, and harnesses removed is a signal: time to sleep. 

Sled dogs ready for bed. Photo: Terrie Hanke

While I was at vet checks, I was reminded of one of the most important qualities of a sled dog, to be social. I described it to the students as being kind and caring.  These are words that students know from learning and practicing core values each day at school and at home.  They loved seeing this wonderful photo of a sled dog interacting with a vet by wrapping its paw around her leg. Sled dogs have to be social with everyone! This starts from the moment the puppies are born, and their lives are filled with positive experiences so that they build trust with people.  

Now that we’ve seen all the important characteristics of sled dogs, let’s create a poem to help remember.

           Joy, speed, endurance, eat

           Fur, tail, head and feet

           Height and weight, good at sleeping

          Caring sled dogs, in our safekeeping. 

I used a poignant ending because that’s the kind of song I like.  But you can choose a cute ending:

          Good at sleeping, weight and height

          Caring sled dogs say good night! 

Now it’s your turn. Using the characteristics of a good sled dog, can you and your students come up with a fun rhyming song to help remember them? Let me know how it goes! Email me at emailtheteacher@iditarod.com.