Everything You Need to Know About Dog Sledding

Discover everything you need to know about dog sledding in this question-and-answer guide! There are very few people who wouldn’t admit they would love to try dog sledding. After all, what sounds like more fun than navigating snow-covered valleys on a sled pulled by dogs?

Dog sledding excursions are quite magical. Whether they travel through large icy valleys or on snowy roadsides, a ride on a dogsled always promises a memorable experience.

Let the sound of the sleigh sliding on the snow, the lightweight padding of dogs running, and their heavy breathing be music to your ears as you explore the mountainous landscapes. During the excursion, you can just sit back and relax while admiring the spectacular views. Let yourself be carried away by the beauty around you and, of course, the adorable husky dogs.

While this adventure packs a lot of adrenaline and fun, like any other activity, there are a few common questions people have before they go. One of our favourite sledding companies, D’Oumiak Aventure, was kind enough to sit down and answer all of your questions. So read on to learn everything you’ve ever wondered about dog sledding!

How long has dog sledding existed?

The origin of dog sledding dates as far back as 6000 BC, when the practice of dog sledding was used as a means of transport. While some northern populations still use dog sledding as a means to travel across icy tundra, today it is primarily used for entertainment and competitive sport.

Who drives the sled?

The sled is usually driven by a professional musher. Mushers know the area like the back of their hand and take great care of the animals.

Some activities do offer the chance for participants to perform supervised drives as well. Driving the sled yourself is a chance to experience what it’s like to be a real musher. It’s a more interactive way to enjoy dog sledding and bit more athletic as well. The instructor will explain how to manage the sled, how to stop and how to give the right commands to the dogs.

What clothes should be worn for this activity?

Warm clothes are a necessity. Thermal wool under layers, winter jackets or warm snowsuits, and waterproof hiking boots are required to stay warm. You should also consider wearing or bringing overshoes, gloves and a hat.

How old do you need to be to ride on the sled?

The minimum age required to ride on a dog sled is 2 years, of age. Children this young must, of course, be accompanied by a parent. In some centres, children over the age of 8 are permitted to join the guide in driving the sled.

dog sledding finland in the snow

What is the maximum weight or number of people?

The dogs can pull a maximum weight of 200 kg per sled. Therefore, one sled can accommodate two to three people maximum. Some sleds, do permit extra riders. These sleds are, however, bigger and pulled by more dogs.

Do you need to know how to ski?

There will be no skiing involved in a dog sledding adventure, and therefore no skiing skills are needed.

Doumiak Aventures

What’s the maximum speed you can reach?

Sled dogs travel at an average of 25 to 30 km/h on journeys of around 40 km long. On longer trips, the average speed drops to 16 to 22 km/h. Even in bad conditions, however, the sled dogs can still maintain an impressive average speed of 10 km/h.

Racing sleds weigh a mere 9-13.5 kg, so the lighter the load the faster the dogs can pull. Speed can also be dependant on how recently it has snowed. The soft, fresh snows make it harder to pull the sled, while the rails can slide easily and quickly over icy roads.

How long does a dog sledding adventure last?

Everything depends on the package you decide to choose. The excursions vary according to the length of the route, so it can last anywhere between 20 minutes to 5 hours. Some guides even offer multiple day-long tours through the arctic tundra, like this 3-day, 2-night sledding adventure in Finnmark, Norway.

What breed of dogs pull sleds?

Dogs of various breeds from all over the world are bred specifically for sledding. Alaskan Huskies, for example, are a mixture of Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamutes. They weigh 18-34kg. Alaskan Malamutes are heavier, and stronger, weighing up to 54 kg. The Canadian Eskimo dog is another kind of sled dog, used mostly for pulling in Arctic Canadian regions.

The Chinook is a rare breed of sled dog with great endurance. Then there are Greenland dogs, who are slow but can pull for long distances.

Lastly, Siberian Huskies, are used commonly to pull sleds. They are smaller than a malamute but stronger. Samoyeds are also used occasionally but are historically prized more for their beauty. Some sled dogs can travel long distances, from 8 to 130 km or more, in a single day!

How many dogs are there per sled?

Depending on the weather conditions, the team is composed of 6 to 20 dogs. Each dog has a specific place in the line and specific function within the pack. The leaders of the pack, of course, take their places at the front of the sled.

dog sledding northern lights

Which destinations can you see the Northern Lights /Aurora Borealis?

This spectacular natural phenomenon, known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis is visible in six Nordic countries. These include Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Northern Canada and Scotland. They can also be seen in Northern Japan, Russia and Alaska.

With appropriate timing, you’ll be able to combine the pleasures of admiring the Northern Lights while on a thrilling dog sled ride. For example, you can check out this Northern Lights and Husky dog sledding activity in Rovaniemi, Finland.

What should you bring for the ride?

It is recommended that you bring a backpack with the following items:

  • Sunglasses
  • A very warm blanket
  • Hand and foot warmers
  • You can also bring a thermal flask, snacks, and bottled water
  • High-protection sunscreen
  • In addition, it is recommended that you bring a change of clothes for after the trip.
  • Don’t forget a swimsuit for the sauna!
dog sledding at night

Can you go sledding at night?

Yes, there are night options. Most who book night activities have the goal of catching the Aurora Borealis. For this type of trip, you are required to bring a long-range head torch.

Night dog sledding is an incredibly beautiful experience! This is also the best time to see the Northern lights. Northern Lights Mushing Excursions in Svalbard, for instance, are very quiet and calm, and nocturnal wildlife can be spotted. Night sledding is a rare opportunity to experience snowy forests with cool fresh air on your face not possible during the day!

Can you still ride on a dog sled without snow?

Yes, it is possible. When there is no snow, the blades can be replaced by wheels. The sled then becomes a cart which the dogs can pull- called a Cani-Kart. There is even a derivative of this called Cani-Scooter!

Dogsledding Iceland

What weather conditions could prevent my trip?

Some weather conditions can prevent sledding activities from happening on a given day. Heavy rain or storms can cause cancellation. In the case of heavy snowfall, the trip can actually be more magical!

If the weather is too warm and there isn’t much snow, you will have the option to ride in the Cani-Kart.

Do you get to feed the dogs?

In most cases, you do not. Some activities do offer this option, so if you’re looking to feed the dogs make sure to ask. It is not a good idea to give them anything if not specifically directed to do so by the mushers. This is because if you give them something they aren’t used to it, can upset their stomachs.

mushing excursion in Koppera near Trondheim

Are you allowed to take photos with the dogs?

Yes of course, and you can even go see the dogs before the hike and take a selfie with them to get better acquainted! So, don’t forget to take your smartphone or a camera with you.

How much does a dog sled trip cost?

Everything depends on the destination and the duration of the trip. Dog sledding can be fairly expensive because it costs a lot to properly feed and care for these dogs. They are athletes and need to be treated as such. Therefore, prices reflect this.

Prices average around €180 per person for a half-day adventure in Tromso, Norway. Some activity options reach over €2000 for a 6-day expedition through the snowy Taiga in Tromsø, Norway for example.

Can the dogs get hurt?

The dogs can get hurt if they get into scraps, and the pads on their paws can get injured on the ice. The guides are very experienced and know how to deal with these kinds of rare problems. With regard to a possible passenger accident, you’re already insured for this activity and once you’re sitting in the sled, there’s very little that could happen to you.

Is there anyone you wouldn’t encourage to go dog sledding?

If you suffer from a back pain or are pregnant, it’s probably better to avoid going on the dog sled.

If you want to discover more about dog sledding, check out the Best Destinations in Europe for Dog Sledding. You can also read about how dog sledding is one of the 3 Activities on Manawa with Surprising Stress- Relief and Health Benefits. Also, be sure to browse through all of our dog sledding activities on our website!