The annual Aviemore Sled Dog Rally takes place in the shadow of the Cairngorms. Sometimes the race is run on snow but often the weather is cold and wet; Ideal conditions are either lots of snow or dry underfoot.
Regardless, around 1,000 dogs will be out on the trails of Glenmore Forest preparing for the start of two days of intense competition. 2016 will be the Siberian Husky Club of Great Britain’s 33rd rally. But what of the people putting the dogs through their paces?
“Never work with children or animals”; the reason behind the saying being “children and animals are scene stealing and completely unpredictable”. But what if it’s your job to train animals? Do it outdoors facing variable wintry weather and the challenge becomes greater.
Common to both scenarios is the skill, dedication and patience demanded of the instructors.
The ‘musher’ drives the team of huskies around the course on a sled. Often mushers are also the dogs’ owners and trainers. So what trials do they face? Although the Siberian Husky is a striking dog breed, this intelligent and athletic dog can be incredibly independent and challenging to handle. Do not be fooled by their joyful demeanour, friendliness and incredible smile.
Tips from one trainer/owner: “Definitely not the breed for a first time dog owner. A Siberian Husky should NEVER be let off its lead. Siberians love to run and should only be allowed to do so free in enclosed areas. This trait can be traced to the origins of the breed, as the Chukchi Eskimos developed their dogs to pull a light load at a fast pace over great distances. Even although we do the training, we’re not able to trust our Siberians off leash.”
Other advice? “Siberians are sociable and need the company of other dogs or of people at all times. So if you work all day, this isn’t the breed for you. The Siberian Husky is very friendly with strangers. If you want the loyalty of a one-man dog, or guard dog instincts, don’t adopt a Siberian. Huskies have a tendency for digging holes. If you take great pride in your landscaping efforts – you know the score.”
On 23-24 January 2016 come and join thousands of spectators at one of the biggest gatherings of its kind in the world and watch the huskies race through the forest around Loch Morlich.