Get a Job as a Dog Handler

Working as a handler can mean waking up early, working long days with little sleep and hard or boring work. Generally a handler isn’t a paid position. Usually you work for free room and board on your mushers property. However there are some larger name mushers that have large kennels and large budgets. So if you shop around and have some experience you may find a paying handler job but don’t count on it.

People that work as dog handlers are the ones who really enjoy dogs and want to learn more about the sport. You learn everything from how to feed dogs to the different gates (ways the dig runs) a dog has. Generally this job is more exciting but has more work. You will go on long 50 mile runs that may take anywhere from 5 hours to 7 hours. Standing on the back of a sled for that long may not seem like hard work but you are definitely tired by the end of the day. Sometimes you may even go on camping runs. This is not as exciting as it sounds. Camping runs are where you run dogs for 6 hours, rest for 4 hours, then run dogs for 6 hours, rest for 4 hours?..you get the idea. It’s very enduring work and if you have trouble working with little sleep this may not be the job for you.
On the plus side, when working as a musher you get to go on much more exciting runs. Your trails will very in length and location. I have seen some of the most amazing things in my life on these dog runs. Wild animals, northern lights, and amazing landscapes. On a day with a run your typical schedule may look something like this:

Prepare broth water buckets at 7a.m.
Add water to bins of dog food
Water dogs 20-40 dogs per guide/ carry one or two five gallon buckets
Scoop dog yard 20- 40 dogs/guide / carry on or two five gallon buckets
Get sleds, harnesses, ganglines from barn to yard prepared for run
Harness and hook up dogs to sled
Bottie Dogs feet
Leave dog yard or trail head for run
Return from run ,water, un – harness and un -hook dogs.
Feed dogs
Re-organize and put away gear.
8p.m. night time feeding of dogs
Scoop dog yard 20- 40 dogs/guide / carry on or two five gallon buckets

Sled Dog Tours
Tour of the Iditarod Trail and has summer and winter positions:jhsleddog.com.

Sled tour job listings in over 20 states and in several different countries:www.dogsledrides.com.

Classified board with openings a kennels of racers and recreational mushers:www.sleddogcentral.com.

Questions to Ask a Musher

It is important to get to know the musher you will be working with as well as possible before you accept the job. After all, you will be working and living with them for months on end. The musher should ask you just as many questions as you ask them. If they don’t, proceed with caution. A dog team is a dog musher’s life and there are few things in his life worth more than his dog team. He or she shouldn’t want to let just anyone with an interest take part in the care of their dogs. Here are a few questions to ask:

1. Is free room and board included?
2. What are the accommodations like?
3. How many dogs will I take care of?
4. How often will I run dogs?
5. What is your daily schedule?
6. Will I run dogs alone?
7. Do you have gear for me or do I need my own?
8. What do I need to bring?
9. What do I need money for while I?m there?

Gear to Bring

During my first year as a dog handler I have learned a few things about what kind of gear you may want to bring and other items that bare a must. Must handlers though will have the expensive pieces of gear for you assuming you can fit in them. These expensive pieces are things such as cold weather suits, cold weather boots, high powered head lamps, and things of that nature.

Some things I would recommend taking are:
– Leatherman or Gerber type knife with cable cutters
– Travel mug with lid
– Insulated overalls like ski bibs
– Winter Boots- The ones with rubber bottoms and are waterproof with removable liners
– Water bottle for trail with an insulation case for it. Otherwise it will freeze.
– Polypropylene clothes for base layers not cotton long johns.

Helpful Links

How to Dress in Layers. Article on Backpacker Magazine www.backpacker.com

Glossary of Dog Sled Terms made by Mushing Magazine www.mushing.com.

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