Distance Harness design & history

Howling Dog Alaska is the original company that introduced the “short harness” design to the sled dog market. Many other companies since followed. It was during the 2001 IFSS World Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska when Howling Dog Alaska sponsored skijorers used the first Distance Harness models in the competition.

The reasons for us moving away from the traditional x-back design for skijoring (and now also canicross, scootering, and bikejoring) were simple physics and geometry. The line angle between the dog and the skijorer (or biker, runner) is steeper than the line angle between a dog team and a sled. When a skijoring line is connected to a typical X-back harness, the steeper angle will cause a lifting force on the harness. The design of the Distance Harness creates a flatter line angle and the dog’s pull force is more evenly distributed.

This picture illustrates the floating connection

Why is our Distance Harness superior to other harnesses of similar design currently on the market?

  1. The harness has been used by top mushers worldwide with great success for almost twenty years. These are not only single dog owners but also accomplished distance mushers such as Aliy Zirkle, Allen Moore, and Jeff King, with large dog teams.
  2. The neck opening, the breastplate, and the top of the harness are fully padded with closed-cell padding.
  3. Unlike other similar harnesses out there, our Distance Harness features a “floating” connection. This means that the point of attachment on the top of the back can slide from side to side as the dog changes direction, enabling the breastplate to stay centered. Similar harnesses by other manufacturers have the top connection sewn in-place and the harness is unable to rotate around the dog’s torso, resulting in the breastplate sliding into the armpit as the dog changes directions (often causing rubbing).
  4. There are two pivoting points on the harness. One is positioned on the chest and the other one is positioned behind the neck. These are simple D-rings. These pivoting points are also very important for the overall harness design. They enable the chest strap and the top of the back strap to move independently without affecting the fit of the neck opening.
  5. The Distance Harness is a simple, yet fully functioning harness. We prefer simplicity over a complicated design, which our customers appreciate.
  6. The fit of the Distance Harness is very forgiving. The harness will fit 99% of dogs out there.
Aliy Zirkle and her team

Let’s not forget the events that occurred during the 2003 Iditarod that resulted in a rethinking of what constitutes a well-designed sled dog harness for long-distance racing. During the race, Iditarod champion Jeff King and his daughter Cali created quite a stir by using an innovative new harness design, different from the standard x-back or h-back harness for their dogs. What they both were testing was our, then, brand new short harnesses – our Distance Harness prototypes.

In the 2003 Iditarod Jeff King astonishingly arrived in White Mountain with 12 dogs, his highest number ever. Further up the trail, his daughter Cali still had 14 healthy dogs in harness, the largest team left in the entire race. Jeff credits the low attrition to a lack of injuries to his dogs. He is certain the reduced rate of injury was due to the use of the Distance Harness which pulls from further up by the shoulders, rather than from the rear. Since the harness only reaches halfway down the dog’s back, it eliminates the pressure a standard harness puts on the dog’s hips (a common “sore spot” for distance dogs). Because the harness puts less downward pressure on the dog’s hindquarters, it helps to eliminate ankle problems in the rear legs. Also, the harness design reduces the occurrence of shoulder and wrist injuries.

The Long Distance Harness’s point of attachment can rotate freely around the animal’s torso. Thus, once the team starts pulling, the harnesses of dogs on the right side of the gangline roll to the left, closer to the gangline, making dogs run straighter. The opposite occurs with dogs on the left side of the gangline. The harness with its floating tugline connection allows the dog to run without crabbing outward. Crabbing is often a cause for a front leg, wrist, or shoulder injury. A wrist injury is the most common injury that takes dogs out of a long-distance race. Dogs also tend to trot more with these harnesses on.

The use of the Distance Harness during the 2003 Iditarod was a spectacular success. Since then the harness has attracted a lot of attention from the long-distance community. The Distance Harness has been a consistent harness of choice for Yukon Quest Champion Allen Moore, and for his wife, a top Iditarod competitor Aliy Zirkle for many years now.

Try our Distance Harness to gain the benefits for yourself.

Gear Safety-Check Tips

Whether you run dogs for fitness and fun, or you are focused on the competition, there are many things you can do to have a safe, clean run.  These are some of the equipment checks Howling Dog Alaska’s Customer Advisor and a former champion sprint musher Ami Gjestson would do at the start of the season and throughout the year.  Even though most of it relates to driving a team on a sprint sled, you can incorporate it to fit whatever discipline you participate in:

I always start with clean harnesses and coats that had been washed before storing for the summer.  Dirt contributes to harness rub, so I washed my gear quite often.  Check for harness fit at the start of training, then eyeball the dogs while running throughout the season.  Young dogs may still grow over the summer, and all the dogs may muscle up a bit as they get in shape.

Spend some time pre-season going over the working parts of your equipment.  I would check for loosened nuts and bolts on my sled, replace any frayed poly rope in my gangline, make sure the gates of snaps, quick releases, and carabiners are working smoothly on all equipment – drop chains, gangline, snubline, picket lines, dog yard tie-outs.  Pay special attention to your snubline and snowhook line.  They need to withstand a lot of force holding back an amped-up team. I used Kevlar rope for those lines.  For skijoring lines, make sure the knots are tight that hold the bungee in place.  Also, check that the tug loop knots are tight on your harnesses.

If you want to get really particular when running different sized dogs on a team, it’s helpful to adjust your tug loop size in order to make all your harnesses the same length so they will fit the standard distance between tug line and neckline.  On a large size harness, the loop will be smaller, and on a small harness, the loop will be bigger.  If you choose so, you can use the single fisherman’s knot, which is self-tightening. 

Many recreational skiers don’t think they need to wax their “waxless” touring skis, or only need to wax their skate skis for glide.  Skis (and runners) need to be waxed for protection from abrasive snow conditions as well.  If you see some white coloring on your black p-tex, that’s a sign of base burn and you need a wax job.  Base burn can seal the micro-pores in p-tex and limits the ability to hold wax.  At the end of the season, I always iron on a protective layer of yellow or black graphite wax and scrape it off after storing my skis for the summer.

Lastly, check around the truck to make sure everything is secure when traveling.  I’ve never lost my sled, but I have backed over my poop bucket.  Taking that extra minute can save time in the long run. 

Have fun out there!

Should you have any questions for Ami, you can contact her here.

What the Heck is That Rope Doing There?

Many of our customers are confused about what the meaning of the rope attached to the top of any of our short style harnesses is for. Many of our customers mistakenly remove this rope. The name of this rope is a “tug”. All Howling Dog Alaska harnesses feature tugs, as it is a common feature for all sled dog harnesses. Below are the three main reasons for having a tug attached to a short harness:

1. Attaching the line/leash to the tug, rather than the D-ring itself, brings the snap (the hardware) further away from the dog’s body. If the snap is attached directly to the D-ring, it will hit the dog’s back repetitively as the dog runs. This can create quite a bit of discomfort (and a sore spot) for the dog.

2. Attaching the line/leash to the tug prevents an accidental release of the dog. This comes in play when the dog twists or tries to get out of the harness. Clipping the snap directly on the D-ring when a dog is acting up can result in the snap catching on the D-ring, twisting and possibly opening. The snap will never accidentally release if it is attached to the tug.

3. Lastly, all of our tugs are color-coded. Each size harness features a different color tug. For example, a small harness has a red tug, a medium harness has a blue tug, a large harness has a green one and so on. This is very important especially for larger kennels who handle and harness many dogs a day. Simply taking a quick look at the tug tells them what size the harness is.

Now you know!

Training tips from Jeff King

1. Offer water and keep it consistent. During the winter months, it can be hard to keep water available to dogs at all times without it freezing. Our solution has been to hand-carry small, white, one-gallon buckets from dog to dog whenever necessary. After a training run? Here come the white buckets. A hot afternoon? Here come the white buckets. Catch a dog eating snow? Here come the white buckets. Dogs aren’t eating their dinner? You get the picture… We do this often enough that anytime they see that small white bucket they know water is coming and they transition into great drinkers. This is an invaluable habit when we get out on the race trail. Shiny metal bowls mean the food is coming and white buckets mean water is coming. Consistency.

2. Train the dog, not the team. These are individual athletes we are working with and they need to be treated as such.  Here at Husky Homestead we rarely panic about a dog missing a few training runs. Catering to the needs of each dog is a great way to receive elevated performance from the team as a whole when race time arrives.

3. Move ‘em around. Pay attention to where dogs are running in the team and assess their performance based on that position. Young dogs, especially, can look great on one side of the tow line and borderline drunk on the other. Got a healthy dog that you are still not getting a smooth gait out of? Try a different harness. We have had success with the Howling Dog Hybrid Light Weight Harness, it allows for standard x-back configuration as well as side pull options. On certain dogs, we have gone so far as to rotate between both tug points and both sides of the tow-line in the same run for a total of four different arrangements. This diversity in tug points and pull angles allows a dog to work different muscles and build a more uniform strength or “protect” an area of concern if coming back from an injury.

Aliy Zirkle explains the benefits of Howling Dog Alaska’s Distance Harness

Aliy with her leaders Mismo and Dutch at the finish line of the 2019 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Top Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle has been using Howling Dog Alaska’s Distance Harness with great success on her dogs for many years now. Below, she describes the benefits of this harness for use in long-distance mushing.

Allows Individuality

The Distance Harness system allows each dog to work on the team as an individual. They do not have to fit into a system of “one size or style fits all”. A small dog with short steps can run paired with larger dogs, short-legged dogs can run alongside long gaited teammates and lopers can run with trotters. Individual gait preference does not affect a dog’s running partner. 

Aliy Zirkle of SP Kennel

Howling Dog Alaska has the Distance Harness available in a variety of sizes – from an XXS size to XXXL size. This harness style will accommodate the majority of dog breeds out there. No matter whether you have a large team of dogs or a team of two skijoring dogs, our simple Distance Harness will make it easier for your canines to work in unison. – Ivana, owner HDA

Location of the pulling point allows dogs to run without crabbing or crooked gaits

Location of Pulling Point

The Distance Harness is a light-weight, well-padded, half-harness design with a pulling point about halfway down the dog’s back. The dog’s pulling point can rotate around its torso, thus eliminating any downward pressure on the dog’s back or hips. The dog’s hind end is completely unencumbered. After a dog gets accustomed to running with no pressure on their rear end, they can relax and will find a comfortable natural gait. I’ve never seen a sled dog who is accustomed to a Distance Harness pull off to the side, run crooked or with a sideways “crabbing” gait.

Aliy Zirkle of SP Kennel

We have designed the Distance Harness so it moves around the dog’s body comfortably. A couple of “pivot” locations and a floating top connection are crucial to the overall harness performance. The harness will rotate around the torso as the dog changes directions without causing discomfort or without altering the dog’s gait. Due to the flexible top connection, for dogs on larger teams, the Distance Harness becomes a side-pull harness – a feature Aliy and other long-distance mushers prefer. – Ivana, owner HDA

A single point of attachment to the team

Single Attachment to Team

Each dog on our teams are attached to the mainline at only one pulling point. There is no need for a neckline. Our Distance Harness tug line is shorter than a traditional setup and maintains team cohesion. The fact that there is no neckline means there is no front end body restriction. A dog can move side to side and up and down without constraint. Therefore with the single attachment system, a dog has the freedom to choose its own path along a race trail: it can jump trail hazards, navigate sharp turns, and sidestep obstacles.

Aliy Zirkle of SP Kennel

Because the health of all canine athletes is a top concern for us at Howling Dog Alaska, we designed the Distance Harness to give freedom of movement to each dog to avoid obstacles, minimizing common injuries. Four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King pioneered this Distance Harness “no neckline” set up several years back. Both he and Aliy agree on the benefit of running without necklines. – Ivana, owner HDA

Click here for additional Distance Harness info and to purchase.

What is the best harness for your dog’s needs?

We quite often see that people struggle to make an informed decision about what harness to purchase. Some of them, unfortunately, use the incorrect harness for their needs. Nowadays it is common to get the wrong piece of advice on social media. Here is a helpful and much-needed explanation about which harness style will be most suitable for your activity depending on your dog’s work ethics and experience.


Our Distance Harness is the best harness for your needs. It is a short harness made out of heavy-duty webbing. The harness is well padded around the neck, on the breastplate, and on the top. It will keep its shape while on the dog. There is no bunching up. For beginner dogs, the harness is difficult to back out of.

The pull force comes from the TOP of the harness.


Our Second Skin / Tough Skin Harness style is best for your needs. It is a very comfortable shorter harness made out of soft fabric. It hugs the body like a glove when the dog is pulling. However, it will bunch up some when the dog is not pulling or when running loose.

The pull force comes from both the TOP and the SIDES of the harness.


An x-back harness is the most comfortable harness for hard pullers, as the pull-force is most evenly distributed. A hard pulling dog will be able to lean into this full-length harness without the neck opening riding up on the dog’s throat. An x-back harness will hug the body nicely under a full pull force. However, it will bunch up some when the dog is not pulling. We offer several different x-back harnesses, including our fully padded Light Weight Harness, the Hound Harness, and the Standard Harness.

The pull force comes mostly from the SIDES of the harness.

Keep in mind that the harder your dog pulls, the more evenly distributed pull force needs to be on the harness you need. Also, the slower the pace, the harder your dog will pull. A poorly fitted harness or a harness that is not suitable for hard- pullers or for the given activity, will ride up on your dog’s throat, causing discomfort.

We hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to CONTACT US should you need help with harness sizing, or advising you further about what harness style will be best for your needs.

Team Howling Dog 2019-2020

ALIY ZIRKLE & ALLEN MOORE (Alaska, USA): Long-distance mushing

Aliy and Allen are on board for yet another season! And we are honored. This famous wife & husband duo are known not only for their outstanding race performance but also for dog care that is second to none.

Aliy and Allen own and operate SP Kennel – a premier sled dog kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska. They strive to be the best they can through complete dedication to their canine teammates and the sport.

Keep an eye on Aliy’s Red Team this winter as she mushes down the Iditarod trail, and keep an eye on Allen’s Black Team, as he takes his team down the Yukon Quest trail.

Check out SP Kennel’s website.

Aliy’s and Allen’s have been using our Distance Harness with great success for many years.

JEFF KING (Alaska, USA): Long-distance mushing

The four-time Iditarod Champion is taking a break from racing this winter. For the first time in decades, Jeff did not sign up for the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. The main reason was an unexpected surgery for torn rotator cuff repairs in late July. Jeff is pleased to report his first six weeks post-op and PT has been stunning. He is so excited to get this long-time chronic shoulder pain behind him and get back on the sled!

While recovering, Jeff is concentrating on an overhaul and complete facelift to his winter dog lot, which at the end should impress even the most critical observer.  It is Jeff’s intention to continue to lead by example in the world of dog mushing and dog care in every way. 

Visit Jeff’s Husky Homestead website.

Jeff’s harness of choice has been our Hybrid Light Weight Harness

BLAKE & JENNIFER FREKING (Minnesota, USA): Long-distance mushing

Welcome to the team, Blake & Jennifer!

Blake and Jennifer own Manitou Crossing Kennels in Northern Minnesota, where they raise and train their Siberian Huskies. Combined, they have accumulated nearly six decades of mushing experience and together have run 4 Iditarods, the Yukon Quest, 17 Beargrease Marathons, and many other races in Alaska, Canada, Lower 48 and Europe.  Blake, a civil engineer, is a 2-time Beargrease Champion.  Jennifer, a veterinarian, ran her first Iditarod in 2008 and was awarded the Most Inspirational Musher award by her fellow mushers. In 2019 they finished 1st and 2nd in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon.

Blake and Jennifer’s primary focus is the preservation of the working Siberian Husky. Their goal is to raise their dogs in the best environment possible with great socialization, the best nutrition available and optimal training to allow them to perform to their potential on the trail.  They strive to enable their dogs to be happy and healthy from start to finish of every race.

And let’s not forget their daughters Elena and Nicole (ages 7 and 9) who also enjoy helping out in the kennel, socializing puppies and running teams.

Visit Blake & Jennifer’s website. Watch a video about their kennel.

Blake & Jennifer have been using our Light Weight Harnesses on their racing Siberians.

KATI & MARTIN DAGENAIS (Quebec, Canada): Sprint mushing

Kati & Matin own a premier limited class sprint racing kennel located in Quebec, Canada. They specialize in 6-dog racing. They took their team both to Europe and to Alaska, where they competed at the highest level.

This season Kati & Martin are having a lot of fun training and developing their talented puppies and yearlings. With Kati being the main driver, they will be focusing not only on the 6 dogs class but also on the 4 dogs class. Their intention is to race in the major sprint races in Quebec and the Lower 48. If everything goes according to plan, Kati & Martin will also take a drive up to Alaska to race in the Limited North American in Fairbanks on the best sprint trails in the world.

Visit Dagenais Racingsleddogs Facebook page.

The harness of choice for Team Dagenais is our Light Weight Harness.

ANDREY & ALLA NAYDENKO (Russia): Sprint mushing

Andrey and Alla are from Moscow, Russia. They own a kennel of Eurohunds named Crazy Dog Kennel, and they specialize in 4-dog sprint racing. Right now they are the fastest four-dog team in Russia. Both Andrey and Alla hold the title Master of Sports, which is a big honor in Russia. They travel all over Europe so that they can enter all the prestigious races.

This season Andrey and Alla are hoping to reach the podium at the European Championship and to travel to all the World Cup races. Besides 4-dog class, they might also try their luck in the 6-dog class.

Visit Andrey and Alla’s Facebook page.

Andrey and Alla’s dogs are running comfortably in our Chest Protectors, Hybrid Running Jackets and our Light Weight Harnesses.

RICH KISSELOFF (Illinois, USA): Skijoring, scootering & bikejoring

During the past season, Rich and his running partner Guinness (a Greyster) had some really nice performances on the world racing scene. This upcoming season they will have a new addition to the team:  Trek, Guinness’s son, will be added to the mix as a yearling.

Rich opted not to attend IFSS Dryland World Championship in Sweden this year, but he will attend some big dryland races nonetheless. This year’s version of the Bristol Dryland race will serve as Canada’s National Championships race.  Rich was selected as one of the few Americans to participate in the championships class. A week later Rich and his team will race on US soil at the Dirty Dog Dryland Derby in Wisconsin, which usually brings out some of the best US competitors.

The winter season will have Rich competing for the SkijorUSA race series and possibly a few sled events as well. Rich and his team are looking forward to another full and busy schedule for 2020.

Let’s not forget to mention that Rich is the founder of Windy City Mushers Club – a group of mushing enthusiasts in the Chicago area. Visit Windy City Mushers Facebook page.

Rich uses our Skijoring Belt PRO and our Skijoring Line PRO.

CARLOS VALADEZ (Mexico): Canicross & bikejoring

We are pleased to introduce our new team member, Carlos (nickname Cobi) from Mexico! Carlos competes in canicross with my his two German Shephard girls Hasen and Nima.

He entered his first race in 2016 and has since come a long way. By November 2018 he achieved his first podium placement in canicross with Nima, the craziest of the pack, at the Mexican Championship. He won another two podiums in bikejoring and canicross at the Mexican Cup this last February competing for a place at the next IFSS Dryland World Championships (now that Mexico has been recognized as a member of IFSS and ICF).

And now it’s finally official, Carlos has qualified for the IFSS World Championship! Congratulations! He will be the first Mexican male representative for canicross in such race.

Canicross is a young sport in Mexico, and Carlos is doing a wonderful job representing Howling Dog. He is a part of a team called Trail Mushing Team in the state of Mexico. With many teams throughout the country, the members are promoting these incredible activities with their dogs.

Interested to find out more about mushing in Mexico? Visit Mushing Mexico Facebook page.

Carlos is using our Canicorss Belt and our Skijoring Line PRO. His German Shepherd girls are running in our Second Skin Harnesses.

JON MOORE (USA, Texas): Canicross

Welcome aboard, Jon! Jon, an avid runner, is from Austin, Texas. His dog Rush joins Jon on his runs and also during all the races. The two are a true “urban” canicross team.

Jon & Rush won “Top Dog” in multiple races including the Strut Your Mutt 5k in Dallas.  They also placed 3rd overall in the “Wild Canyon Ultra 25k” which Rush was the only dog.  They competed in the Wild Canyon Ultra and in the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail, CO (in the Rocky Dog 5K).  Attempting to be crowned “Fastest Dog in Austin” is also on the calendar in the Sunshine Run this season.

  Rush is an Australian Cattle Dog. His accomplishments show that canicross can be undertaken with pretty much any athletic breed. Keeping active is the best a human can do for their four-legged friend.

Check out Jon’s Instagram page.

Jon is using our Canicross Belt and our Leash with Bungee. Rush is wearing our Distance Harness.

Behind the scenes of Howling Dog Alaska

Have you ever wondered who is involved in our daily operations? Well, here we are!


Ivana is the Founder of Howling Dog Alaska and the main driving force behind the scenes. A big dog lover, she has been involved with sled dogs for the past 30 years. She has transitioned from a competitive sprint musher to a passionate business owner. Ivana spent most of her mushing career in Alaska and raced all over the world. Her kennel was one of the first kennels in the US to start breeding imported Scandinavian pointer crosses. Ivana coined the new name for this type of a dog – the Eurohound. Ivana’s extensive knowledge of everything related to sled dogs has transformed into designing top working dog gear. Ivana is now retired from racing and spends her free time pursuing her new passion – golf.  Read more.


Ami is our Customer Advisor – a knowledgeable and accomplished go-to person when needing advice regarding harness fitting & selection, supplement use and much more. Same as Ivana, Ami spent many years in Alaska learning from and racing against some of the best teams in the world.  Ami retired from mushing shortly after the 2013 IFSS Winter World Championships. where she may have been the happiest silver medalist on record. Ami now lives in Montana with four of her retired race dogs and one new, young addition. Ami will be happy to advise you on anything starting with hiking, skijoring and scootering, and ending with sledding.


Meet the geek behind the scenes of an online business! Chaim is a Simulation Specialist for the US Army. Although he holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago, Chaim is an autodidact when it comes to computers, programming, and electronics. He wrote his first computer game in BASIC on a Tandy Model I Level I and stored the program on a cassette tape. Amateur radio introduced him to electronics while the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi provided a medium to combine computing, programming, and electronics into one hobby. In his spare time, he likes to play PC games and occasionally develops his own. And of course, he loves dogs!


If you ever purchased Nutrazinc from us, Samile most likely had her hand in the cookie jar. Oh, excuse me, the zinc jar! 😉 You can call Samile our “Lab Technician”. She studies biology and is passionate about science. Samile, originally from Brazil, is an outstanding worker, always ready to lend a hand wherever needed. Plus all the animals at Howling Dog Alaska headquarters adore her! 🙂

Office supervisor & models

And last, but not least, we should introduce Alaska, the cat, the office supervisor. And then there are the dogs: Minnie (the matriarch), Dasher (Minnie’s son), and Aura (Dasher’s daughter) – three generations of Eurohounds, and the continuation of Ivana’s dog breeding legacy. All three dogs are an important part of our business. They are the main models on our website, and they are the “guinea pigs” and testers of our newly developed gear. But most importantly they are all spoiled members of our Howling Dog Alaska family. 

Announcing the winners of our 2019 Photo Contest!


Photo submitted by Phil Niles (United States). A huge congratulations, Phil! 🙂

The photo features our Light Weight Harness, our Skijoring Line, and our Skijoring Belt. Phil’s dog Bella is pulling hard in her first skijoring race!


Photo submitted by Lisa Shore (United States).

Handsome Sebastian, a Siberian Husky, is sporting his Tough Skin Harness while out on the trails.


Photo submitted by CJ Jones (United States).

Chopper is posing at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado. Chopper is wearing our best-selling Distance Harness.


Photo submitted by Lorrie Covington (United States).

Tilly, an 18-month standard poodle, completing her first 5k run wearing her Distance Harness.

View complete vote tallies HERE.

Countdown to Iditarod at SP Kennel

Taking a break during one of the last training runs before the big race.

In only one week Aliy Zirkle and Allen Moore will be on the runners behind their teams heading towards Nome. Aliy explains what the last few days leading up to Iditarod look like:

Iditarod – here we come! SP Kennel sled dogs and mushers are almost to the starting line. The week prior to the big event is probably my most stressful. If you are an organized person, like me, then you like to have everything ready for your race. I try to categorize my week in four parts in order to make it manageable.

  1. Of course, number one is always the dogs. Iditarod requires that all potential race dogs have blood drawn and ECGs. These tests will be analyzed by doctors in Anchorage prior to the race. The head Iditarod Vet, Dr Stu Nelson, will call us if he sees any anomalies with our dogs’ health. As well, we are required to worm all the dogs before they take to the trails that go in and out of many Alaskan villages. It is a safety precaution for the dogs and the people. Then of course there are a thousand “other things” to check before the race: toenails, ears, eyes and attitude. As a dog owner – I should be well aware of any issues with my dogs – but just in case I miss something – we have our Vet, Dr Rouge – come out to the kennel and give each dog a full health check one week before race start.
  2. Number two is gear. There is so much that I carry with me for 1,000 miles of wilderness travel by dog team. Hopefully, it is not a lot of weight, but is a well thought out, packed sled with anything and everything I might need. I like to check all this gear before I get on the trail making sure that I have enough of certain things and that they aren’t worn out or old. Checking harnesses, lines, snow hooks and the sled is just the start. I sort through my med kit, thermos, straw bag, sleeping bag, extra clothing, mitts, tool kit… the list is endless.
  3. Final training runs is number three. As I prepare for the Iditarod, I can’t forget that the athletes – all of us – still need to stretch out, run and train like we have a 1,000 mile race ahead of us. It is easy to get caught up in the race hype as well as the last minute preparations but it is best to stay consistent with training. The dogs should stay on a regular run schedule, with a small taper near the end. And my work out schedule stays the same until the bitter end as well.
  4. Lastly, we need to get to the starting line. This is a biggie. For us mushers, dogs, sleds and gear will be driven about 400 miles to Anchorage for the Iditarod start. Dog trucks are notorious for not functioning correctly when you need them to, sleds fall out of trailer and dogs get left at the kennel! Loading and unloading dogs into their travel boxes needs to be done with extreme care – we do not need any pinched toenails or toes. Drive cautiously and take your time – you are not racing… yet! For Iditarod, as well as the Yukon Quest, there are festivities and meetings several days before the start. Make sure the dogs get stretch out time and proper feeding while the mushers attend ‘Meet & Greet’s” and banquet.

This is what my last week looks like, but after that …. Iditarod here I come. 3 – 2 – 1 GO!