December 2, 2019
For us, family holidays are an opportunity to relax and see beautiful places, but they are also a chance to experience new things together and to learn about other cultures and traditions. Most importantly, they are a time to reconnect, strengthen our bond and have fun. Our dog sledding excursion last spring not only ticked all those boxes but it remains a highlight of our year.
Here are a few reasons why it is such a special family experience, as well as a few things to consider before booking.
Step back in time and imagine a world where this form of transportation was commonplace. Using dogs to pull sleds dates back to about 2000 BC, when Siberian and Native American cultures used dogs to pull heavy loads. By the time of the First World War, mushing had spread to European countries, where dog sleds were used to bring supplies for soldiers and acted as ambulances in the forests and mountains. Eventually, the practice caught on as a sport and also for tourism.
Tip: It’s important to remind kids that they need to be respectful of the dogs, just as they would be with any new dog they meet.
Most kids love playing in the snow and also love animals, so it’s no wonder they find this activity to be a winning combination. My kids were definitely inspired by the crazy enthusiasm of the dogs, as they rolled around eating snow and barked in delirious anticipation of pulling the sleds.
Tip: Ask if snowsuits, boots and gloves are provided as these may well not be items you’d normally own/pack!
It’s important to do your research before booking a dog sledding tour, and this is a good time to teach kids (especially older ones) about responsible animal tourism. Make sure to contact the company and ask a lot of questions about the facilities and the experience. If guests (including kids!) can cuddle and interact with the dogs, this says a lot about how well-socialised they are. If the dogs look healthy and happy this is a good indication that they are well cared for and not experiencing trauma. Huskies are a strong, agile and determined breed, with a warm winter coat, ideal for an outdoor lifestyle, but they do need to be cared for properly to experience a good quality of life as a sled dog.
Tip: Check out the company on social media and make sure it is sharing authentic photos and videos of the dogs and the experience of being on a sledding trip with them.
Mushing a sled involves teamwork – and not just from the dogs. We had two people to each sled – one of the kids sitting in the sled and a parent standing up controlling the sled. If you have older kids, it might be possible for them to stand in front of you to have a go at controlling the sled with you – this mostly involves working a brake mechanism, so you don’t go too fast. Either way, there is a lot of balance and teamwork involved in making sure it is a smooth, upright ride! It can be hard work, but it’s mostly just good fun.
Tip: Make sure the kids know in advance that they need to listen carefully to the guide’s instructions to make it a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Contact Activities Abroad to find out how you can book a dog sledding experience or other fun-filled family adventures in the snow.
Written by: Mandy Haakenson