Friday, November 18, 2011

Cold Snap

  The last couple of days have been very cold with temperatures as low as -40f at night and -30f during the warmest part of the day. During cold weather like this we feed the dogs a little more food than normal and also add a bunch of fat to their diet. Adding fat to their diet is a really good way of making sure they have the calories they need to stay warm.
  We add fat to the dogs food several different ways, one being melting 2-3 cups of poultry fat into the water bucket for each group of 10 dogs. Or we will give them chunks of pork or lamb fat, we also melt beef or poultry fat and then poor it into ice cube trays and then freeze it which makes the perfect size fat  balls to pass out to the dogs. We will also buy 40# blocks of frozen poultry skins and feed it to the dogs in small chunks about 2"x2" There isn't much the dogs like more than a big piece of frozen poultry fat.
  Sled dogs need a lot of calories, their body can process huge amounts of fat and protein every day with out upsetting their digestive tract.  These amazing animals can process up to 10,000 calories a day when working hard, and 60% of those calories need to come from fat.
   I once had a dog get loose when I wasn't home and he got the top off the bucket of chopped up poultry skins and ate about two gallons, he looked pregnant he ate so many. While this would have been enough to make most dogs sick for a week it didn't even seem to faze him, also he didn't get  runny stool either, I was and still am very impressed, Summit definitely has an iron stomach.
  So in addition to extra fat in their food we also make sure the dogs have extra straw in their houses to help keep them warm. They handle the cold extremely well and hardly seem fazed by it at all. -10f is the ideal temperature for sled dogs, but they also thrive in weather much colder than that.
  Over the last few days as a treat I have been letting some of the dogs into the cabin for a few hours to help take the edge off and also spend some quality time with me. The  dogs all enjoy coming into the cabin and hanging out on the couch and bringing them inside for some bonding and relaxation time does not hurt their desire to be sled dogs at all.

Here Chupa relaxes on the couch with her toy. 

  Today finally brought a little break to the cold, it got as warm as  -20f today so I celebrated by taking some of the dogs out on a run to open up a new section of trail we haven't used yet this year.  We ended up doing about a twelve mile run with only about 5 miles being difficult and previously untraveled. Much to my delight a snow machine also known as a snow go had already gone over a section of the trail several miles from home so we did not have to break trail the whole way.
We had a relatively uneventful run, we did see two moose on a large pond at the turn around point. While moose can some times be a threat to dog teams running into the team and trampling dogs and even the musher, these two were not a problem and left the immediate area after spotting us, which thankfully is the usual reaction we get.
  I like to put coats on the dogs at -15f to -20f and colder, especially on the thinner furred ones. The coats are mostly to protect against the wind chill while running and help prevent the dogs from getting frost bitten on some of their more sensitive less furred areas.
Sierra and summit show off their coats during a break near
the half way point.

At -20f I frosted up rather quickly but was cozy
inside of my winter gear.

It was -20f when we left the house and -26f when we got
home, I expect to see -30f to -35f or so tonight.
A nice section of trail that a snow machine had
previously been over.

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