Feeding the Sled Dogs

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Dave and I walked down to the dog kennel this morning. We opened the dog food shed and pulled out a 50 pound block of frozen chicken meat. We had to break the block into smaller pieces for the dogs to eat. We used a log splitter to do the job. The chicken broke apart easily. We filled buckets with cubes of chicken. Each cube of chicken weighs about two pounds.

The dogs were howling and barking while we were working. They knew what we were up to. They know the familiar sound of the food shed door opening. At first, one dog sounded the alarm. He barked as if he was telling the other dogs, “Chicken! Hey guys, they’re cutting up chicken for us! I like chicken!” The other dogs began barking and howling. They were telling us that they wanted chicken too.

When the dogs at Wintergreen are working, they need to be fed two times a day. We give them water at the same time as the feeding. These dogs are serious athletes. They work in very cold weather too. They need a diet that is high in protein and fat.

A sled dog’s diet is very different from yours. They don’t need to eat fruits and vegetables like you. People are omnivores, but dogs are carnivores. That means dogs are meat eaters. We feed the sled dogs dry dog food and frozen chicken. The dog food looks similar to what you might feed your dog at home, but it has a more fat and protein in it. The sled dogs are more excited about the chicken. Each dog gets a two pound chunk of the frozen chicken. This meat contains plenty of protein. When the weather turns really cold, we will supplement their diet with lard. They need extra fat to stay warm in extreme cold.

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All of the dogs in the Wintergreen kennel work really well on this high protein, high fat diet. We have some smaller dogs and some bigger dogs. The bigger dogs need more food. The smaller dogs need less food. We check the dogs often to make sure each dog gets the right amount of food.

chicken_bucketAfter we have given each dog their chunk of chicken, the kennel is silent. Every dog is happily chewing on their frozen food. Their water dishes have water in them. They are content for now, but we must feed them twice a day. Every person and dog here knows this routine. Tomorrow when we open the food shed again, we will hear the same excited barks.

Food for Thought

How is your diet different from a sled dog’s?

What do you eat each day?

What are healthy foods? What are unhealthy foods?

What are the food groups?

To learn about the food groups, check out the Talking My Plate activity:

http://www.nourishinteractive.com/kids/healthy-games/24-my-plate-usda-five-food-groups-healthy-messages

Use this link to find out how many calories you should eat each day:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-for-kids/NU00606

Use this link to learn more about each of the food groups:

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/

Use this link to learn more about feeding sled dogs:

http://www.mushwithpride.org/Feeding.htm

5 Comments

  1. Alexandrea
    Posted March 17, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I wish that I could go dog sledding some day.

  2. John K.
    Posted April 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Dogs are omnivores, and can also thrive on a vegetarian diet, as long as they get enough protein and other nutrients.

    • Fred Murre
      Posted May 22, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Dogs are omnivores to a varying extent based on breed.

      Fresh grass shoots, seasonal fallen fruit and some gourds , and berries (really lots of blueberries) is about the extent of the classic vegetation diet that the basal ‘canine’ ancestor – c. lepophagus, (which is very similar to the modern day coyote c.latrans ) ate. Wolves evolved up from c. lepophagus, to drop big game (and they had to, to survive with their big bodies) and their diets became almost exclusively carnivorous. Our dogs are of course derived from wolves. Domestication and diet has not been regular however:

      As far as grain and starches, it depends entirely on the breed as some dogs genetically (Western European) have genes that allow them to produce more enzymes to handle processing carbohydrates. Simplified, the capability across dogs and wolves looks like:

      Wolf ability to handle carbs: 1, Siberian Husky ability to handle carbs: 4,
      Pit Bull or labrador ret’s ability to handle carbs:16.

      Dogs that were domesticated by people who were hunter-gatherers with no agrarian background such as the Samoyed and Husky are poorly adapted to process vegetation. Dogs that spent time around humans who farmed, such as virtually all the western european and other global grain-belt dogs, can handle mass quantities of vegetation. (mostly because the ones that couldn’t died off when their only food was stale bread and barley slop)

      So keep in mind.

  3. Sarah
    Posted December 14, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    So do you feed them two pounds twice a day, four pounds in all, or do you feed them one pound twice a day?

    • wildernessdave
      Posted December 15, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Typically in the winter when the dogs are running a lot and it is cold we feed them 2 pound in total each day.

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