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Dog Sledding & Travel in Alaska

Summer Dog Sledding in Alaska - What to Know and Should You Go?

Many associate dog sledding with the frozen tundra of Alaska’s winter landscape, an image perpetuated by the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. However, the lesser-known practice of summer dog sledding in Alaska has rapidly gained popularity among tourists. Imagine being pulled by a team of robust, eager huskies through a thick Alaskan forest, under the magical midnight sun. 

Huskies running in the summer? Yes! Yet, as fascinating as this experience may sound, it raises many animal welfare questions, which we will address below. We've also curated our top recommendations for summer dog sledding tours and will help you decide if this experience is right for you.

Can you dog sled in Alaska in the Summer?

Yes! From around mid-May to mid-September, many kennels offer summer dog mushing experiences. 

You can choose from riding in a wheeled cart (like a sleigh on wheels), riding in a motorized side-by-side or ATV, flying via helicopter to a glacier to sled on the snow, or simply visiting a kennel to meet the dogs and learn about the mushing culture of Alaska. 

Is summer dog sledding cruel?

In short, no. Like all practices involving animals, summer dog sledding can indeed be a source of concern when it comes to animal welfare. That said, it's crucial to understand that the perceived cruelty often lies not in the activity itself, but in its execution.

Responsible operators are extremely conscious of their dogs' health, providing them with plenty of rest, hydration, and veterinary care. They operate in moderate to low summer temperatures, ensuring the dogs are not overexerted or exposed to dangerous heat. 

You will find these tours operating in mild, coastal climates, where temperatures rarely rise into the 60s, or tours in the Interior scheduled only during early morning and late evening when temperatures are coolest.

Ethical dog sledding hinges on the respect for, and understanding of, these magnificent animals. With a responsible approach, summer dog sledding can be a fulfilling and exciting experience for both dogs and humans.

Benefits of Keeping Dog Teams Active in Summer

Keeping sled dogs active during the summer provides numerous advantages, both for the dogs and the mushers.

For the dogs, summer sledding keeps them in top physical condition. Dogs are naturally active creatures, and sled dogs in particular are bred for strength and endurance. Regular exercise is vital for their overall health and well-being. Beyond the physical, running as a pack helps maintain the strong bonds within the group.

For the mushers and handlers, an active summer means they can continuously train their dogs, increasing the team's efficiency and performance. Training in the off-season also allows newer or younger dogs time to learn and adapt to the routines and commands, ensuring they are well-prepared when the winter season comes around.

Therefore, with proper care and attention to the dogs' needs, summer dog sledding can be a beneficial practice for all involved.

Dog Paws and Gravel Roads

Dog sled teams are impressively adaptable and sled dogs have robust, toughened paws that are well-suited to handle a variety of terrain. Their paw pads are equipped with a layer of fat, which acts like a built-in shock absorber, protecting them from the impact of pulling loads across hard surfaces like gravel. Furthermore, regular exercise on different surfaces naturally toughens the dogs' paws over time, making them more resilient to potential abrasions.

However, even with these natural protections, ethical mushers will always closely monitor their dogs' paws for any signs of wear or injury. They will often use protective booties or paw balms to ensure the dogs' comfort and safety at all times. It's yet another testament to the thoughtful and conscientious approach necessary for responsible summer dog sledding.

Best Ways to Go Dog Sledding in the Summer

Black Spruce Dog Sledding with ATV

Cart & ATV Rides

It's important to note that the carts and ATVs used in summer dog sledding are not overly heavy for the dogs to pull. The "weight of the cart: number of sled dogs" ratio is carefully calibrated to ensure it's appropriate for a team of trained sled dogs, and there are weight limits for the passengers as well. Materials used on carts are often lightweight and durable, ensuring longevity without adding unnecessary heaviness. Dog teams hooked up to ATVs or side-by-sides use the engine to assist the sled dogs, so the dogs are not actually pulling the weight of the machine and are under control, with the mushers able to safely set the pace and stop at will with the help of the machine. 

Experienced mushers will always ensure that no dog is overworked. This careful consideration for the welfare of the sled dogs is precisely why it's crucial to choose responsible and ethical tour operators when considering a summer dog sledding adventure.

Here are our top recommendations for summer cart experiences;

  1. Summer Dryland Mushing with Black Spruce Dog Sledding

  2. Summer Cart Rides with Trail Breaker Kennel

  3. Summer Dryland Mushing with The Mushing Co-op

  4. Summer Sled Dog Rides with Wildthingz Dog Sledding

  5. Summer Dryland Mushing with Alyeska Tours

  6. Summer Dog Cart Rides with Riley Dyche at Iditarod Headquarters

  7. Side-by-side Dog Sled Ride with Dream a Dream Sled Dog Tours

  8. Summer Dog Sled Tours with Alaska Dog Center

  9. Summer Dryland Mushing with AK Sled Dog Tours

  10. Summer Dryland Mushing with Hardcore Huskies

  11. ATV Mushing with Squid Acres

  12. Summer Dryland Mushing with Alaska X

  13. Dryland Summer Cart-mushing Adventure with Gold Rush Dog Tours

  14. Summer Dryland Mushing - Day Tours with Crazy Dog Kennel

Ididaride Glacier Dog Sled Tour

Fly to Snow: Mush on a Glacier

Imagine being whisked away in a helicopter, soaring over dramatically lush green landscapes, only to land on a pristine white and blue glacier where a team of eager sled dogs awaits. This type of tour offers a unique opportunity to sled across the snow while taking in the breathtaking scenery of blue-tinged ice and towering glacial formations.

The combination of an exhilarating helicopter ride, the enchanting beauty of the glacier, and the thrill of dog sledding make this an unforgettable experience. You'll be amazed by the strength of your canine companions as they navigate the glacial terrain, and the sheer wonder of your surroundings will leave you with lasting memories of the raw beauty of Alaska's wilderness.

Here are some great fly in-fly out dog sledding experiences;

  1. Helicopter Dog Sledding with Iditaride

  2. Godwin Glacier Dog Sled Turning Heads Kennel

  3. Denver Glacier Dog Sledding with Alaska Ice Field Expeditions

Husky Hike with Arctic Dog Adventure Co.

Kennel Tours: An Alternative for Dog Lovers

If you're more interested in meeting the sled dogs than taking a ride, a kennel tour could be the perfect option for you. This type of tour puts a spotlight on the dogs themselves, allowing visitors to learn about their breeds, personalities, and the important roles they play in a sled team.

You'll get a chance to pet, play and meet the dogs, and even watch them during their training sessions. It's a great way to learn about the bond between the mushers and their canine companions. It's an ideal choice for families with young children, folks on a budget, or those who prefer a more relaxed and educational approach to their Alaskan adventure.

This unique opportunity opens a window into the world of dog sledding, offering insights into their care, training and the vital role these wonderful animals play in Alaskan culture.

Here are some summer programs we recommend;

Have you been dog sledding in Alaska in the summer? Leave us a comment below to share your experience. 

Not sure what dog sledding adventure to pick? We can help.

Consider reading;

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