The Top Ten Things You Should Know Before Adopting a Sled Dog

10. Just like people, every sled dog is different.
Many breeds have been selectively bred to the point where they all look similar. But the sled dog is not a formally recognized breed and is known specifically for it's hybrid vigor. Mushers have crossed all sorts of other breeds into their sled dog lines, including: sporting dogs (pointers, setters, labs), hounds (saluki, greyhound, coonhound) and others.

9. Size, coat, speed and temperament are all variable features.
There are 30 pound sled dogs and there are 100 pound sled dogs - although these are both the extremes. There are long-coated dogs and short-coated dogs. Some mushers shave their hairy dogs in the spring to keep them cooler. Others have to put coats on their dogs to keep them warm in the dead of winter.

8. Conformity helps performance.
For a smooth running team, it helps to have similarly skilled dogs. One fast dog in a slow team can get frustrated, and one slow dog in a fast team can get hurt. The 30 pound dog will likely have a different speed and agility than the 100 pound dog. The bigger the team, the more important it is to match your dogs well.

7. Sled dogs are a working breed.
If you don't give them a job, they will think up one on their own, and you will probably not like their choices! Sled dogs can and do get bored. They have been bred to be hardy dogs, good eaters, with a strong desire to run. These are great traits if you're planning to have a full-time companion and you're an active person who likes to hike and ski. But if you like to sit in front of the fire more than walk in the woods, choose another breed!

6. Safe sex?
Just because you like a female sled dog and a male sled dog, doesn't mean you will necessarily like all the offspring should you choose to mate them. Genetics is a complicated thing. Get a Second Chance League or a shelter dog and don't worry about it!

5. It costs just as much to feed a fast dog as a slow one.
But you get to see more scenery going slowly!

4. Training can improve any dog's performance.
You can make up for a lack of natural ability with practice and a trusting bond between dog and human.
If the dog can't do what you want, maybe you should change your goals?

3. You learn your best lessons from the "problem dogs."
If every sled dog were an easy keeper that had good feet, ran hard, ate well and listened, mushers would be driving snow machines. It is the diversity and the interaction during unexpected situations that shows us who we are and what the dogs are capable of.

2. You'll get more out of your dog than you ever put in.
This is true both biologically and spiritually. Quantity versus quality is a whole other debate!

1. You'll never know it all.
But a sled dog might!