Part of the pack: Pet dog sledding in the Sierra Nevada


( Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal/ AP In this March 23, 2017, picture, author Sarah Litz signs up with the Wilderness Adventures Pet Dog Sled Tours at Squaw Valley in California. Litz travelled to Squaw Valley to experience something she had actually ever done before, canine sledding

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018|2 a.m.

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Jason Bean/The Reno Gazette-Journal/ AP In this March 23, 2017 photo, writer Sarah Litz joins the Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours at Squaw Valley in California. Litz travelled to Squaw Valley to experience something she had ever done previously, pet dog sledding.

RENO– Necklace led the pack.

Her difficult, lean muscles rippled under her dark coat as she began to run. With each cadenced action she took, her tail swung to the rhythm of her paws striking the snow. Her deep brown eyes remained pinpoint concentrated on the method ahead just briefly breaking to scan the white landscape around her.

Behind her, 10 Alaskan Huskies followed her as she followed the musher’s vigorous commands. The movements– so succinct– cohesively clashed together as they slid through the valley floor between the Sierra Nevada.

The 11 dogs, sled and musher combined into one.


During the record-breaking 2016-17 snow season, a Reno Gazette-Journal photographer and I travelled to Squaw Valley to experience something neither people had actually ever done before– pet dog sledding. Nuzzled between the mountains, we met with the Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours crew which operates on the valley flooring behind the Resort at Squaw Creek.

The excited whines of 2 packs of Alaskan huskies greeted us as we strolled from the resort’s parking lot down an available path to the valley flooring. We were able to hear the canines before we could see them. But, as we rounded among the snowbanks, we could lastly see the teams– numerous mushers and more than 20 canines– prepared for an enjoyable day of running the courses.

The mushers had actually already begun hooking the 22 canines into harnesses attached to two sleds.

Matt Byers, our musher, stated that they have enough pet dogs to run four sleds at a time with an optimum weight of 450 pounds per sled.

The front harness was scheduled for the lead pet that would be at the forefront position in the front of the pack. Behind the lead pet dog were 10 harnesses established in rows of 2 for 2 swing pets, six group dogs and, last but not least, 2 wheel canines.

Prepared to go, the groups would attempt to begin running as soon as they were hooked into the harnesses, but systematically positioned spikes prevented the pets from taking off until we were prepared to ride.


You do not need unique gear or clothes to head out on a pet sledding trip.

Not knowing exactly what to expect, I overdressed. I wore a pair of leggings, a light running jacket a long sleeve shirt, wool socks and boots. I also brought a snowboarding coat and trousers, gloves and a hat.

I wound up ditching the much heavier gear since it was an unseasonably warm day. I also brought a pair of sneakers, but at the recommendation of our musher, I kept my boots on to assist keep my feet dry.

Throughout our time with the pet dog sledding crews, other groups of individuals infiltrated wearing whatever from ski clothes to jeans and sweat suits. The mushers stated any clothes that would keep you dry, warm and versatile would be ideal. However, you do not have to go out and purchase any special gear or clothing to be able to go on these kinds of expeditions.

It comes down to this: Wear whatever makes you the most comfy.


Alaskan huskies are a high-bred pet with one purpose: to be an efficient sled canine. The Alaskan husky isn’t really considered a pure type, Byers stated discussing the sled dogs have a wide variety of breeds in them– from Siberian husky, German shorthairs, greyhound and other different Northern breeds to “produce the ideal sled pet.”

“They’re not the Siberians individuals are getting out of a Disney motion picture,” Byers said. “This is a breed that’s made to do this.”

The pets are thought about “endurance canines” that can run about 100 miles daily, Byers stated. Each dog in the pack was bred to sport a little, lean frame that would decrease the chances of joint concerns in the future in life.

“We’re not going for weight pull,” Byers said. “We desire endurance out of these pets– type of like a marathon runner. We want them lean.”

Many hours enter into training and caring for the packs. Byers said running the dog sleds was “the most convenient part of the day.” As soon as the tour’s hours are over, the day does not pick up the musher or for the pets.

The canines are housed in a kennel where it is the musher’s duty to look after the dogs. On top of a full day of work, there is pet dog upkeep, home clean-up and nutrition that goes into keeping the group healthy and delighted.

Training never stops– neither for the dogs nor for the musher. Byers said that not only does a musher need to work on training the pet dogs, she or he also has to get to know the pet dog’s personality. The dog’s character plays into what position they would work best in on the group. Frequently, musher’s will train several dogs for several positions on the sled team, but often, Byers stated, pets work better in one position over another.

“For canines, it’s their heart and drive to want to dogsled,” Byers said. “Inherently, it’s currently in the breed to do it, and it’s simply a will to wish to do it. It’s the same for the musher. It’s enjoyable, but there’s a great deal of work to it.”


We were all set to ride.

The sled we remained in was positioned for two adults to sit conveniently with the musher standing at the back to manage the pet dogs and the sled’s brakes.

“Let’s go!” screamed Byers, and we were off.

For the next hour, we glided through the Squaw Valley landscape. Byers would command ‘gee’ for right turns and ‘haw’ for lefts. Necklace would obediently listen, thrilled at her opportunity to run. We quickly slid around turns, floating on top of a fresh layer of snow.

Byers then shouted, “Whoa!”

The pets stopped, and it was my rely on discover ways to mush.

Prior to taking the reins, Byers showed me ways to deal with the sled– the best ways to remain limber and transfer to the sled’s movements rather of versus it. Byers stated among the most essential tips was where to stand. He showed me where to appropriately position my feet on the rails and platform to be in a prime position to jump on the brakes.

Then, it was my turn.

I took the reins– and with Byers’ assistance– we were off once again.

I could feel every bump in the snow and clearly feel the grooves of formerly run routes. I stood with my knees bent– like a skier– so I might easily adapt and move to the pet dogs’ motions. I hung on firmly as we sped through the path, enjoying it all: from feeling the bounces in the sled and the wind rushing around us to the trouble of jumping on the breaks to the joy of belonging of the pack.

It was thrilling, and a trip that could be delighted in by all. Byers said trips can be scheduled any ages: from a 1-month-old infant to 102.

“Running a group of canines? Maybe that’s not for everybody,” Byers stated. “But, enjoying it? That can be for everybody.”

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