In my childhood, I was obsessed with Balto, a sled dog who led the final leg of a serum run in Alaska to combat an outbreak – and thus deemed a hero. I thought he was the coolest thing ever and dreamed of being pulled around in a toboggan by my own very Balto.
Last month I realized my dog sledding dreams with Toronto Adventures. Their location was about 1.5 hours away, a bit north of Mt. St. Louis and the day included about an hour of dog sledding and an hour of optional snow shoeing.
We were able to take turns sitting on the sled as well as being the musher; so about a half hour of mushing each. And in free time we were able to visit some of the other sled dogs and newborn puppies or sit by the fireplace to enjoy some marshmallows.
While the actual mushing of the dog sled was quite enjoyable, I left the experience with a bitter taste in my mouth because I just don’t agree with the living and working conditions of the dogs there. Not to say that they were being abused or mistreated or anything of that sort – but on a personal level, I’m used to seeing dogs as ‘pets’ to be spoiled more so than animals for work.
I didn’t like how they were working throughout the day pulling the sled in the cold (yes, I’m aware that these types of dogs do generally enjoy being outside AND running, but still, I imagine they aren’t checked upon until end of the day or they make a huge fuss). I didn’t like how the dogs who weren’t working were just chained up individually at various posts outside and that their only “bed” was a hollowed out barrel or crate stuffed with hay. What I disliked the most was the fact that these dogs were being bred to have and live this sort of lifestyle for our entertainment’s sake. And I feel upset that I partook in it.
Speaking with a friend who also recently experienced dog sledding at Mt. Tremblant (different operating company) it seems like mine may have been more negative of an experience due to Toronto Adventures gearing their experience to rope in higher quantities of customers vs. providing the best quality. He said in his experience the organizers/workers seemed to know each and every dog personally (they also had half of the number of working dogs) and they would only pick dogs who were eager and excited to partake per run. In contrast for my experience, the dogs worked for at least 3 hours straight because the dogs did not rotate between the shift before my turn, at my turn, nor after my turn. Most of the dogs were also not pure Husky breeds so I’m not too certain regarding their preference on cold weather.
I suppose my conclusion is that I had a bad experience and that I am a bit bias as I tend to treat my own pets (cats, though) like royalty so if you have a different opinion on the matter I totally understand.
I loved being able to meet and play with of the dogs (honestly despite being a cat person I probably interacted with them more than most of the other customers there even). But I hope that you can take my experience into consideration before booking your own dog sledding trip or to do further research in the operating company.