The biggest musher race in the world, La Grande Odyssée, took place a few weeks ago from January 11 to 22, 2020. During this race hundreds of canidae accompanied by the best international mushers, set off on the toughest dog sled race in the world. In order to share with you this exceptional way of life, we have looked into the lives of these dogs and the fusional relationship with their master.
What breeds are predisposed to be sled dogs?
Hunters, the sled dogs have a behavior similar to that of the wolf. Among these breeds, the best known is that of the siberian husky, pack dog and active, it adapts to all climates and all situations. Harnessed, he shows unfailing devotion and discipline. It has many northern cousins such as the Samoyedrobust, the Greenlandersmuscular but requiring a good education, or the Malamute d’Alaska which is part of dogs most powerful and vigorous. They all have one thing in common: they are part of the races primitives and require a education strict but very gentle in order to avoid the appearance of behavioral problems as is’aggressiveness.
Dogs considered top athletes?
The dogs sleds are selected for their aptitude and their physique.
However, all mushers (sled drivers) know it: a dog sled only runs if he wants to.
The place and role of each of the dogs in the team (4 to 8 on average) is determined by the musher according to size, character and affinity.
The musher never uses reindeer or a whip, alone his relationship with his dogs allows him to move wherever he wants. Mainly two commands are used: “Dji” to go right and “Yop” to go left.
In order to cover tens of kilometers a day, in extreme temperatures, specific care is necessary. Indeed, their diet must be adaptedthey must be equipped with tailor-made anti-injury harnesses, their pads greased regularly and a veterinary follow-up is paramount. Anthony, dog trainer at Canibest Hauts-de-Seine (92) and Yvelines (78), which has notably taken part in expeditions with Nicolas Vanier, the greatest musher in the world, explains to us that: “The living conditions are extreme, the days start early in the morning and end very late. The dogs are nourished mainly in a natural way with the least possible croquettes and lots of meats and carcasses. »
In the arid lands of Canada or Alaska it is not easy to find local shops. Thus, during an expedition of several months, the mushers are obliged to find a solution to feed themselves, to feed their dog and take care of them, this is what Anthony explains to us: “The mushers have their food delivered and that of their dogs every 2 or 3 weeks by helicopter or plane when they are in the Nordic countries. He further adds, “Being accompanied by a osteopathic veterinarian is very important because dogs’ joints can become sore and, like an athlete, the sled dogs must be supervised by professionals ».
How to become a musher?
Be passionate about dogs and not being afraid of the cold are among the qualities required to become a musher.
It is also fundamental to be a professional breeder Nordic dog for at least 5 years and owning 4 dogs able to practice this sport.
In France, the DEJEPS CA training (State Diploma for Youth, Popular Education and Sport, mention “Dog Driving”) is necessary, combining theory and practice.
A professional musher starts with 4 dogs, this number may increase depending on the gain of experience and the acquisition of titles acquired during competitions. The musher must apply for approval in order to have more dog to his hitch.
Today, a professional musher can create his own harnessing brand in order to provide lessons and offer sled travel services. The salary of the musher is thus relative, because it depends enormously on his company and the loyalty of his customers. As it is a seasonal profession, at the end of winter, the musher can diversify his activity by organizing dog walks.
If you have Nordic dogs too, please feel free to contact a special educator in these breeds in order to get help during his education.