How to Take Care of a Pack of Drafting Dogs

Sometimes, one dog is not enough and it is better to have a whole pack. Especially if you breed drafting (or also pulling) dogs. Of course, the more dogs you have, the more care and issues it means, but it also means there’s much more joy for the breeder with a whole pack. What do you need to be prepared for if you decide to live with several drafting dogs and what breeds are most suitable for that? We asked Anita Bebr, a breeder of drafting dogs, about these things. 

Which breeds are the best for living in a pack and racing in a pack?
In the Czech Republic, people who breed pulling dogs in packs have breeds such as Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, Alaskan Husky or European Slider Dogs. 

What are the key pillars of taking care of such dogs?
There are many important factors that must work together perfectly. The main thing is good nutrition, but training and subsequent recovery are also crucial for drafting dogs. Also, a musher (i.e. a handler) needs to be connected with the pack, so there aren’t any undesired issues. 

How should we approach pulling dogs’ training?
Personally, I work most often with Siberian Huskies which naturally want to run and love running, so they don't have to be forced to do it. However, every breed is specific and needs something different. I start with drafting training with my packs and teach dogs to run in packs since they are about 1 year old. I always try to do a systematic training and follow the intervals during which the dog trains and during which it rests. For example, such an interval can be two days of training, one day of recovery. At the same time, it's a good idea to determine what your training is focused on. From the start, I mainly focus on the strength in training and I start focusing on speed only later, before high season, i.e. in winter. 

Should the training take place only in the pack or also separately for each dog?
Trainings are usually for the whole pack but if you need to train a good leading dog, it’s also useful to have individual trainings with it.

Do all drafting dogs have the skill to pull naturally or do they need to learn it?
For Nordic breeds, the skill is mostly innate. With regard to new breeds such as the European Slider Dog, these sometimes need to learn to pull and get the desire to run.

What is the most important thing for training a pack of drafting dogs?
The most important thing is to know your team and what the skills of each dog in it are. Dogs can’t be pushed to overexertion and train more than they can. Also, it’s necessary to pay attention to good nutrition which should mainly consist of high-quality dry food, meat, recovery supplements and articular nutrition. 

Do I need to adapt my dogs’ training and diet?
Definitely. When we train, I make sure my dogs have more food than when they rest.

How much time should drafting dogs spend resting?
As much as they need. Anyone who lives with dogs, pays attention to them and does sports with them should be able to tell. If dogs are tired, don't like training, don't pull well, or are bored, it's good to let them rest more than it was previously planned for their training. 

What kind of training and practicing should drafting dogs have when it’s the season of snow?
In winter, we focus on speed more. Dogs enjoy drafting more because snow means a natural environment for them. 

What kind of training should do they have without snow?
Off season (without winter and snow), we focus more on strength training. So, we use a slower pace and greater burden – taking into account their health as well, because their muskoskeletal system suffers more. 

How should we take care of drafting dogs in hot months of summer?
Drafting dogs shouldn’t exercise too much when it's hot. it’s a good idea to let them rest more, go for easier, shorter walks or go somewhere to a river, lake or pond so they could cool down. And, of course, it’s important to stay hydrated.


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