Did you know that the sport of dog sledding in a non-regulated activity? Shocking isn’t it! Most people do not realize that this is a very important factor in choosing a dog sled touring operator such as ourselves. Although there are “sled dog care guidelines” (which in our opinion promote very substandard care for sled dogs), the reality is that some sled dogs are at risk of or are being exploited for their love of pulling. For compassionate and humane mushers such as ourselves we have chosen to advocate a “working pet policy” in our kennel as we do not believe our pack to be simply “working dogs”. To us they are so much more! Our sled dogs are beloved family members and valued work colleagues. Every aspect of our company is operated under this basic value: We are a “dog first” sled dog kennel and each husky hero in our care is individual and unique. This is why you will find that at Snowy Owl, our dogs receive the exact same care a well-loved pet would and in fact, they receive even better upkeep than a household pet! We aim for the highest standards in all aspects of our company! We encourage you to also have high standards in your dog sledding experience and take part in humane mushing…after all it is all about the dogs!

AT SNOWY OWL IT’S ALL ABOUT THE DOGS!

The Snowy Owl Kennel:

Operating a large kennel facility like ours is very labour intensive. As owners, we have a huge responsibility to provide a safe, clean, positive and healthy environment for all our huskies.  Managing an efficient and humane kennel set up is very important.  Our kennel is protected by an extremely durable 8 foot chain link fence, professionally installed.  This keeps our 4-legged family of husky heroes safe when enjoying their daily free run as well as keeping any wildlife out of the kennel.  The foundation of our kennel is finely crushed limestone which allows drainage in the kennel. Lime is also an effective mineral used in controlling harmful bacteria. Very importantly, our kennel is set up on an incline, allowing the rain and melting snow to naturally drain off the foundation. This eliminates the chance for puddles to develop in the dogs living areas and will keep the kennel area dry, clean and healthier over all. Each of our huskies has his/her own 8ft. long tether which offers a 16 foot living space. Every dog is provided with a nicely painted and well-built, insulated wooden house, bowl holders and 4 neighboring pack members for them to play with and interact with when on “tie-out”. In our facility we also have six medium sized pens situated in the kennel. The pens are used for expectant females, puppies, recovering dogs or any dog who does not like to be tethered. We also have a large free run pen called “The Frisk Pen” for our older sled dogs to live in.

Our kennel is divided into two specific areas. In one area we house the majority of our males which are mostly all neutered. We do have some intact males in the mix in order to maintain our breeding program however, they need to be housed away for any intact females to ensure no accidental mating within our pack. The second section of our kennel houses all our spayed females, some intact females and a few neutered males as well. Our goal is to keep a controlled number of huskies in our kennel as it is not our intention to overpopulate. Our goal is not to be known as the “largest kennel” – for us it is quality that matters not quantity! We breed our huskies only for our needs and plan to keep our dogs for the duration of their entire life. Should the right person come along, we do allow our husky heroes an opportunity to be adopted and re-homed after their working career.

There are many different methods of kennel set up. Some mushers choose to use pens and others may tether depending on their dogs likes and dislikes. Whether you keep your dog in a house, in a yard, in a pen or on a tether – all can be inhumane if done incorrectly. In our kennel our dogs can reach each other allowing them to play with their pack mates, visit our guests, and receive lots of love and attention all day every day! It is also important to remember that since we provide high quality care to our husky heroes, we need to keep track of what is going in our 4-legged team and also what is coming out! We offer our huskies pork neck bones, whole sardines, hard boiled eggs and fresh chicken carcasses as some of their daily/weekly snacks. As one can imagine, no matter how well trained our sled dogs may be it is their natural instinct to protect their “treats”.

This also means that our dogs like to have time to themselves in order to rest, chew on their bones or snooze…just like people (well minus the bone chewing part!) This is not easily done when one has all their dogs loose in pens all the time.

From our experience we have found that a husky will not grow a proper winter coat if kept indoors regularly. Because the temperature is warmer it can affect the thickness of their fur growth. Huskies, like wolves are very sensitive to temperature (temperatures is what will trigger a husky to shed or to re-grow its winter coat.) This is why they will shed their insulation (their down layer closest to the skin) during the spring/summer months and then re-grow it in the fall. Because our huskies spend most of their time outside enjoying the snow and cold it is vital that they grow a thick fur coat to keep them warm over the winter. In saying this, our puppies are always born inside with us and stay indoors along with their mom until we are comfortable putting them outside in their pen. During the winter we are very careful with this and will bring the pups back in if the temperature is too cold. Also, many of our older dogs take turns in our cabin or at the homes of our staff. Although they are outside most of the time, we do allow many of them to come inside from time to time especially as they age!
During the winter months our “fur kids” have a very important run/rest ratio. Since we document the terrain, mileage and distance that each of our sled dogs cover in a day we know how important it is when one of our wonderful husky heroes are on a “day off”. They must recover just like any human athlete and usually require special stretching and messaging from our kennel managers. Sadly, things aren’t like this in all sled dog kennels. These facilities who tether and restrict their dogs from touching their neighbouring pack members can cause serious neurotic and aggressive behavior in their dogs. Also, in kennels that do not allow much human interaction, the dogs can also then become fearful and shy of humans. Those who use pens need to be mindful that fence fighting is a destructive and negative environment for all dogs. We find that once the barriers of the pen are removed and the dogs can physically touch and sniff each other, the dogs then become more social rather than aggressive. Always remember when visiting a professional sled dog kennel facility that the dogs should be friendly to other dogs and humans, well-mannered, healthy and happy be it in a pen or tethered.
Of course! We do not believe it is humane to leave any dog tethered their entire lives. To force sled dogs to live on a chain and only allow them off their tether to run tours for their mushers is simply unethical.

During the summer and winter months our dogs are let off their tethers for daily “free run time”. This is done in our enclosed kennel for obvious safety precautions as we will have up to 110 dogs loose at one time! Additionally, our kennel is split into 2 sections – one side houses all the intact females, spayed females along with some neutered males in the mix (known as the girl’s side), the other side houses a combination of intact and mostly neutered males (known as the boy’s side). This exercise program offers our sled dogs daily socialization and play time when they are not doing tours in the winter or dry land training in the fall. During free run in the summer our dogs run, play and cool off in the doggie pools for 1-3 hours depending on the temperature outside. The cooler it is the longer they can run around however, on really warm days we restrict their play run time to 1 or 1.5 hours. During the winter months the dogs who are on a day off can run loose most of the day as the temperatures are quite cool. The dogs generally follow us around all day as we do our daily kennel chores!

Housing:
Our husky heroes enjoy insulated dog houses which are designed and hand built by us and are made with high quality spruce and pine. We use wood because it’s a natural, breathable product which allows a cool shaded sleeping area in the summer and a warm insulated sleeping area in the winter. It is crucial that each husky hero is staying comfortable and enjoying restful sleeps in all elements be it rain, snow, heat or cold

Snowy Owl’s Summer Housing:

The Design: Our houses are designed to also be cool during the summer months. The large roof which over hangs on all 4 corners of the house allows for ample amounts of shade no matter where the sun is. The roof also shades the four sides of the house which allows for a cooler temperature inside for the dogs. In addition, the overhanging roof creates protections from rain so the dogs stay cozy and dry. The snug entrance allows refuge from wind and rain keeping the dogs comfortable and safe from all elements. Because wood is natural and breathable it allows air to aerate through in case any moisture was to get inside it would quickly be able to dry. In the spring we clear out all the straw from their houses and wash them out thoroughly so they are clean and fresh for the summer months.

Is their bedding for the huskies during summer?

Absolutely! Our dogs enjoy Pine, Spruce and Cedar shavings for additional comfort and warmth if the temperatures cool down during the evenings. However, unlike the winter months we are not concerned about the dogs staying warm but most about keeping them cool. The cool temperatures in the evenings are welcomed by the dogs; this is finally the time where they can be the most comfortable. If we place straw in our huskies houses during the summer they tend to push it outside their house making a nice mess for us to clean in the morning!

Traditional husky breeds are capable of withstanding temperatures as cold as -40 degrees Celsius so a mere 5 degrees during the evening is still considered warm for the huskies! Only once the temperatures get cooler during the fall will we start providing straw to our huskies again. Keeping the huskies cool is very important! During hot summer days sometimes the huskies need help cooling off. Some of our huskies enjoy cooling down in our doggie pools during free run or a swim in the Bow River near our kennel! Many others will lie on top of their house while the sprinkler comes around and cools them off. The sprinkler is an important element in cooling off the dogs as well as the foundation for them to lie on.

Snowy Owl’s Winter Housing:

The Design: Our insulated dog houses are specifically made to be comfortable, easy to access and spacious but within reason. A really large space is more difficult for the dogs to keep warm during the winter. Inside the house
the bottom is raised off the ground creating a sleeping area which is not directly sitting on the foundation. The foundation is cold during the winter months so having the house raised allows for a more comfortable and warm sleep for the dogs! When temperatures are around -30 degrees Celsius outside our dogs can keep their houses hovering around The roof hangs over all 4 corners of the house creating shelter from the cold wind, and protection from falling snow. We also take the time to clear away the snow around each of our sled dog’s houses to ensure no snow falls inside! Our dog’s houses have a fairly snug entrance for few reasons:
>Protection from cold blowing wind and falling snow.
>Allowing our employees to give each dog a generous amount of straw. This way each husky will be able to move around to their desire in order to create a comfortable “nest” without the straw falling out of the house.
>Large lip at the bottom and side to avoid the males “marking” their straw inside their house, to keep snow out and to ensure a lot of the straw stays in the house where it is needed!

Why do we use straw for our huskies bedding?

We always choose the finest, most sanitary straw for our huskies. Soiled musky straw which has become damp and continued to dry can cause serious respiratory illness as well as eye and ear infections. To ensure our straw stays dry and free of any small animals we keep it off the ground and completely enclosed at all times. For bedding, straw is the best given that hay is still full or nutritional value making it heavier which means less air flow. Straw does not consist of any nutritional value making it light, fluffy and most importantly warm! The straw works off of the dog’s body heat creating a warm “blanket” for them to curl up in! We supply all our huskies with a plentiful amount of straw to keep them cozy and warm during the winter months! Of course the straw is checked daily to ensure proper sleeping and living areas for the dogs. Huskies are known to be territorial so in order for them to “claim” an object the males will generally “mark “it. It is not uncommon for them to mark the entrance of their house as well as their straw to inform the other huskies who it belongs to!

This, in turn keeps our kennel managers very busy!

Feeding program:

Fact: Did you know that some kennel facilities feed their dogs on the tops of their houses with no bowls! This very unsanitary method of feeding
is inexcusable and creates an environment for scavengers such as ravens and crows to enter the kennel facility. Scavenger birds are very dirty animals that carry diseases as they feed on dead animals and garbage which can then spread to the dogs. In addition to this, some mushers do not provide fresh clean water to their dogs full time and if they do some will use rusty coffee cans. These methods are very out dated and unfortunately there is no organization or program created in these kennels for what each dog is to eat based on their very individual needs – they just feed them all the same amount.

Just like people, all dogs are individuals. Each has his/her own personality and eating habits. Understanding this we recognize that not all the dogs are going to eat the same amount of food. To guarantee that our dogs get what they need, we feed them top quality ingredients and vitamin supplements. Whatever it takes…we do it! Keeping track of what each dog eats is very important. We implemented a system called the “feed board” which lists all the dogs’ names in the order of their rows and what they eat in the morning and evening. Each portion of food is represented with a different colour on the board, for example; the black marker is used for H which is a heavy portion. We use different colors to make certain there is no confusion for our staff. We also have a kennel log which is used by the kennel managers to document food and water intake or any abnormalities a dog may be displaying. It is very important to know how much a dog is eating and drinking or if it isn’t finishing its meals. This detailed information allows us to quickly recognize potential illness, fatigue or allergies which need to be addressed ASAP.

During the summer months our huskies are not as energetic due to the heat however, they still get plenty of exercise although it doesn’t compare to the 40kms they can run per day in the winter months! Although they aren’t burning nearly the amount of calories they do in the winter, we still continue to provide them with high quality feed. Here are the ingredients we use for the summer feed: On average our dogs are burning around 500-1000 calories per day give or take compared to the 2000-700 calories they burn during the winter.

Red Paw – the highest quality Canine Cereal also known as kibble. This “kibble” is high in fat, protein, vitamins, oils and minerals.
Red Paw Balanced Fat to assist with our picky eaters who are also working very hard over the winter
Every Friday is “chicken carcass day” – this is our dog’s favourite day! Each dog receives a chicken carcass with a lighter portion of their regular kibble dinner. This carcass is fed raw and the high bone content helps keep our dogs intestinal health top notch – not to mention it is great for cleaning their teeth!
Every Wednesday is “egg day”! Each dog receives a whole raw egg in their supper – shell and all! Eggs are a great nutritional supplement and are high in protein, fat and omegas!
Every Sunday is “pork bone day”! Each dog receives a pork neck bone which assists in keep their teeth clean – the dogs LOVE them!
We keep lots canned food on hand for older huskies with sensitive teeth or huskies recovering from being spayed or neutered are also put on a soft food formula. This food formula is also used for dogs who may feel a little under the weather or don’t have an appetite for their regular “kibble” meal.
Our huskies of course have full access to fresh clean water all day every day until the temperatures become too cold to keep water out as it freezes. At this time we get into our winter feeding schedule which means we have to water the dogs regularly throughout the day.

We feed our huskies many times in a day; the morning and afternoon feed is more for hydrating our dogs since we can’t leave water out for them all day long as it will freeze. In five gallon buckets we mix high quality ground chicken backs with warm water which is served within the hour to all the dogs. This warming chicken soup drink is a nice way for our husky team to start off the day. Some dogs that have high metabolisms may require additional kibble in their water. In the evening, once all the dogs who have been working arrive back home to the kennel, we feed them their largest meal. Most of our dogs will consume up to 6lbs of food during a working day (6:30am – 8:30pm). This is including their breakfast, snacks, chicken soups (4 waterings a day) and final meal. The largest meal is fed at night so it’s not burnt off right away. Feeding working dogs a heavy amount of food before working can cause them to get sick on the trail or even twist their stomach which is why we prefer to feed lighter portions many times throughout the day. Each dog has 2 bowl holders on the side of their house which ensures that they do not spill their food by accident. It also allows them to eat comfortably and go back over to their food if they didn’t finish it all right away. We use stainless steel bowls and serving utensils to guarantee that no rust gets into the dogs’ feed. Here is the list of ingredients we use for the feed during the winter months:

Red Paw the highest quality Canine Cereal also known as kibble. This “kibble” is high in fat, protein, vitamins, oils and minerals.
Red Paw Balanced Fat to assist with our picky eaters who are also working very hard over the winter
Every Friday is “chicken carcass day” – this is our dog’s favourite day! Each dog receives a chicken carcass with a lighter portion of their regular kibble dinner. This carcass is fed raw and the high bone content helps keep our dogs intestinal health top notch – not to mention it is great for cleaning their teeth!
Every Wednesday is “egg day”! Each dog receives a whole raw egg in their supper – shell and all! Eggs are a great nutritional supplement and are high in protein, fat and omegas!
Every Sunday is “pork bone day”! Each dog receives a pork neck bone which assists in keep their teeth clean – the dogs LOVE them!
For all our dogs who have been working on site, we add Revive to their first “chicken soup mixture” of the day as well as their final soup of the day. This tasty powder is added and mixed into their water in order to help replenish the electrolytes lost when exercising as well as helping prevent injuries and tired muscles by also replenishing the glycogen in their muscles.
We monitor each husky’s drinking and eating. If we notice abnormalities in a dog’s eating habits we are quick to offer canned food. All our huskies love canned food and when offered they will always eat it. If the dog is offered canned food and does not seem interested it is an indication that the husky may not be feeling well. At this point we will bring the dog to one of the owner’s homes for the night to be monitored.
Snowy Owl has come up with a great way of keeping our huskies drinking water hot while at our dog sledding site! We use large thermoses to keep their water warm over the course of the day! Each watering on site is made fresh as we are using raw chicken. Warm water is an asset for the dogs because like humans, eating the cold snow can dehydrate the dogs, as they spend too much energy warming up again, so watering the dogs with cold water and snow is not ideal to keep working sled dogs hydrated. On average each dogs drinks 12 cups of water per day which is 2.83906 Litres per working day.
We also perform regular health and body condition check ups for our dogs. Once a week we go over all our dogs to ensure they are not loosing or gaining too much weight.
We also offer delicious treats to 0ur huskies once they have finished drinking their water and are enjoy their rest. Variety is the spice of life so you will see our dogs snacking on raw chicken wings, tripe, sardines, hard boiled eggs, Milk Bones and pork fat.