Dogs, snow and outdoors adventure. What is it like to go dog sledding in Norway and other countries? Where to go for a husky tour to make sure you work with happy and loved dogs? Can you find dog sledding near Oslo? And… Is dog sledding ethical? Find out below!
Dog sledding in Norway
I am totally a dog person. Every time I see a dog I want to cuddle it. When I was a teenager, together with my friends we opened an Animals Rescue Club, where we were helping homeless cats and dogs. The local vet knew us well after we were bringing different animals to him every couple of weeks to for checks and vaccinations. That’s where our pocket money was going into. Yes, animal welfare has always been important to me.
Animals and tourist activities
This also extends to any activities involving animals. The wildlife tours with any type of close animal interaction always make me very cautious, because I am aware of the bad sides of those industries. I haven’t seen the elephants in Asia, I haven’t cuddled the koala. I could only do it when I find the place, that is truly caring about the well-being of the animals and not trying to keep those wild beautiful creatures in captivity for business. When I admire wild animals, it’s just there – in the wild, like watching African Safari animals in Masai Mara Park in Kenya or looking for polar bears in Svalbard. The same goes for domestic animals, like dogs. They can get hurt too.
On our recent road trip in Norway in winter, me and my boyfriend tried traditional Scandinavian dog sledding in Norway. And I want to tell you more about it – so you can choose wisely for yourself and for the happiness of those dogs in the future.
Read more: The best things to do in Oslo in winter
What is dog sledding?
Dog sledding is a practice involving a few dogs pulling together a sled to travel through the ice or snow. This way of transport was used for over a thousand years and have contributed to the human culture since well before 1000 B.C. Initially, operated for transport and carrying goods, dog sleds were later used by the explorers in the Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. Now, it’s one of the popular outdoor activities offered to tourists visiting the Scandinavian countries.
Is dog sledding ethical?
To be totally honest with you, initially, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I was concerned about the well being of the animals and wondering if dog sledding is cruel. Even though the concept sounds similar to horse drawn sleigh rides, that I’ve tried before, I felt unsure about the dogs. It was simply because I wasn’t knowledgeable about the subject.
So I did my research. I found information from organization Mush with P.R.I.D.E. very helpful. The abbreviation stands for “Providing Responsible Information on a Dog’s Environment“. They describe themselves as an organization that “supports the responsible care and humane treatment of all dogs and is dedicated to enhancing the care and treatment of sled dogs in their traditional and modern uses.”
Human & dog bond
I’ve learned that the relationship between humans and the husky sled dogs is one of the oldest of this kind. This activity creates a special bond between a person and an animal. Everyone who has ever owned a dog understands what I mean. Those animals just become a part of your family. The modern sled dog owners are proud of their dogs and they care about them the best way they can, so the dogs can do what they love – run as part of a team. The Huskies love to please people and just frankly pull anything. It comes from the long history of the breed when their purpose was to live close to people and work with them in harsh Arctic climates.
It feels great to see how excited and happy those dogs are to be able to run!
Two sides of the coin
As in any business, which can bring in money, there will be people misusing it. That’s why it’s so important to properly check the company that you use for dog sledding and make sure that the dogs are well cared for. While most of the dogs are treated well, there are still, unfortunately, some documented cases of the sled dog abuse.
During my research, I found some disturbing information about the misbehaviour of the huge dog sledding companies, mainly in the USA. Hundreds of dogs are left to themselves after the season, chained in their kennels and not being properly looked after. This is, what no part of me is willing to support. That’s why I believe, that it’s crucial to always do the research and find the best company.
How to find a good dog sledding company?
There are a lot of places offering dog sledding in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Canada or Alaska. Before going for the cheapest or a random one, do your research first. Check the company’s website, the reviews describing the animals, look at the posted pictures, follow social media channels and check how much information is out there. If you are still in doubt – ask more questions. You can find some more information on how to make sure you deal with reputable sled dog company here.
Dog sledding near Oslo
We had a chance to try dog sledding for the first time in Geilo with Geilo Husky.
Geilo is a beautiful mountainous town and ski resort, located not too far from Oslo. I was happy to find the husky tours there, as you don’t have to travel to the far north to try dog sledding in Norway. The dogs, that we met on the spot were so beautiful, eager to run, jumping out of joy and loving the cuddles. The mushers were also very knowledgeable and caring for the dogs. The company doesn’t have a huge number of dogs, which means, that they can take care of their dogs better. They also work with several private mushers, who have small teams of their own dogs, that they know and can work well with.
In fact, we happened to be in an unexpected situation that showed it very well.
Dog sledding in Norway
When you take part in the dog sledding, there are two people in one sled. One person is sitting inside, and the other one acts as a musher, controlling the dogs and the sled.
During our trip, we needed to stop at some point to change the dogs’ harnesses. One of the girls holding the sled in front of ours, accidentally let the break come off and jumped off the sled, leaving it empty. It was enough for the dogs to start running. You can really see how much they love it as they use every opportunity to run more. However, as it turned out, this could have been dangerous for the dogs if they went too far by themselves. The main musher quickly jumped on the next sled which happened to be ours and rushed to catch the running dogs.
But… I was still inside the sled.
So there we were – speeding through the snow with one sled trying to catch another one pulled by the dogs running far away in the distance. Luckily, when we got closer to them, the dog leaders in the front heard their owner and stopped. Then, we needed to bring the sleds back to the group. I took control of the second group of dogs and we ran through the snow to join the rest. I really felt like we are on a big adventure! We safely got back and the dogs were all so proud of themselves 😉
Apart from Geilo, a popular dog sledding destination is also Tromso or Svalbard. There you can go dog sledding with lunch or even under the Northern Lights. The tours are organized through the tour operator with local providers, but if you choose one, don’t forget to ask about the treatment of the dogs.
Find places to stay in Geilo:
Have a happy Husky tour!
I think it’s important to understand the whole picture of the dog sledding before trying it yourself. I was like this before – concerned if dog sledding is ethical for animals. Now I understand how much the Husky dogs love and need to run! It feels amazing to be a part of the special animal-human relationship and see those strong fluffy dogs in their favourite environment. However, we all have to make sure that the Huskies are treated as living animals, well appreciated for being such great athletes and having proper rights, coming from their capacity to love and be an intelligent partner to humans. If you have a chance, go dog sledding in Norway. When it’s done properly, it can benefit everyone, however, the education, understanding, and the research is the key.
Here is a little taster of our tour:
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Geilo Husky, but, as always, all the opinions are my own.
Read more about Norway:
What do you think about dog sledding? Would you try it or have you done it? Let me know in the comments!
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