What is sled dog Racing?
Sled dog racing has originated from the Inuits and other native cultures which lived in areas where it snowed in winter. Sled dogs were their mode of transport over any distance. This mode of transport eventuated into a competitive sport which now occurs throughout most of the continents. Sled dog racing is where either one dog or a team pulls either a sled or for areas with no snow, a rig or scooter. The musher (the person who controls the team) stands on the back of the sled or rig or on the scooter.
Where in Australia does it occur?
At the present time, there are races in NSW, VIC, ACT, QLD, SA, and WA and in the future hopefully in TAS. Generally, the races are held at State Forest trail systems and also on personal properties. These are places where it is not too hot and access is allowed for dogs, cars and camping.
Is it all year around?
Unfortunately, sled dog racing is not all year around this is due to there being temperature restrictions for the health benefit of the dogs. Racing season starts in May and finishes in August sometimes September depending on the temperature and humidity. Even though the actual races are not all year around, this does not mean that you can not still enjoy the social aspect of sled dog racing. Many organisations have many events over the summer months which involve getting your dog fit, information seminars, training your dogs on commands, walks and many other activities.
Is there a specific type of dog to compete in sled dog racing?
No, it is generally thought that just northern breeds (e.g. Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Samoyeds) are allowed to be raced. Any dog that shows the desire to pull and run can do it. Harness up your dog a couple of times and you might be surprised what it can do .
Can anyone become a musher?
Of course, anyone of any age or sex can become a musher as long as you have a passion and enthusiasm to learn new things. There are separate classes for children under 15years of age, were the focus is on having fun and not the fastest time.
Is there are specific equipment which I need?
Yes, the dog has to wear a harness which attaches to a gangline. The gangline is simply a piece of bungie rope which attaches the dog to the scooter or rig. A scooter is used for one or two dog teams and a rig is used for teams larger than two dogs. At this stage in Australia the largest amount of dogs which are attached to a rig is six.
There are several pieces of safety equipment which is compulsory to compete in any race in Australia these are a helmet, a bum bag which contains a knife or pocket knife, booties ( these are ‘shoe like’ pieces of material which are placed on the dogs feet if they are injured) and it also contains a small first aid kit generally. If the race is at night then you must also have a head lamp.
Is there someone who I can ask any questions?
Although anyone will be more than happy to answer your question there is a national body which is there to help guide new comers into the sport and lead you in the right direction. The national body is called ASSA or the Australian Sleddog Sports Association.
How can ASSA help me?
ASSA can help you by providing you with valued information about the sport. This includes providing information about the rules, race dates, membership for ASSA, equipment and where to purchase it, breeders, vets etc.
ASSA has state reps who are all experienced musher’s who can help beginners by providing access to training days and advise on how to get going in the sport.
Source : Australian Sled Dog Club Association www.assa.asn.au