Why Iditarod Dogs Wear Dog Boots

It’s a frigid race across 1000 miles of frozen tundra. Approximately 50 “mushers” and about 1000 dogs come from all over the world for a chance to compete in the annual race known as the Iditarod.

Iditarod dogs

Iditarod dogs wear dog boots to protect their paws

The name comes from a Native American Athabascan name of a nearby river and was started in 1973 to save sled dog culture.

Traditionally, dog sleds were used to deliver everything from mail to medicines but by the late 20th century, more modern means such as helicopters were replacing them.

The Make Up of an Iditarod Dog Sled

Each team has between 12-16 dogs. One dog is always the “lead dog” who steers the rest of the pack according to the commands given by the driver.

Some of those commands sound kind of funny to untrained ears, such as “haw” means turn right and “hike!” means get going.

Every dog is required to wear dog boots to protect their paws from snow and cuts by ice. The landscape is harsh and every measure of protection is taken.

If a dog does get injured or is tired, it rides on the sled. Mushers refer to this scenario as “dog in a basket” as the main part of the sled is termed a “basket”.

They train year round with their sled dogs. If there’s no snow, they use alternate means such as “carting” (dragging a cart over grass). Everyone must be ready.

An Alaskan Highlight

Volunteers line the 1000 mile trail staffing various rest points to help feed and shelter the racers and their dog teams. It’s highlight of the long Alaskan winter.

Every care is taken for protection because to get lost in a blizzard in the Alaskan wilderness would likely spell death.

Though the official race doesn’t begin this year until March 7, the Iditarod mushers are in Alaska now, running preliminary races. You can follow along at Sebastian Schuelle’s blog here.





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