On a dog sledding holiday in Sweden, teamwork is very much the name of the game – working together with your dogs to lead your dogsled across the frozen wilderness is a unique and magical experience. By the end of your dog sledding tour you will be closer to the dogs, closer to your fellow travellers and even, perhaps, have come to know yourself a little better.
On a Nature Travels dog sledding holiday, each participant is responsible for his or her own sled, with 4-6 sled dogs. A large part of the thrill and adventure of this experience comes from the challenge of working with and handling your dog sled team effectively – from your first tentative steps at the beginning of the dog sledding tour to the spine-tingling moment when you start to feel properly in control and your confidence soars! By the time your dog sledding holiday in Sweden draws to a close, your skills with the sled and your knowledge of the dogs should have improved immeasurably.
In the early stages of your dog sledding holiday, it is easy to concentrate too much on yourself as you try to put into practice what you have been taught about handling the sled, but as you relax and begin to feel at home on your sled and in command of yourself and your team, you will find yourself thinking more and more about the dogs and marvel at their intelligence, strength and stamina.
As in any team, each member of a dog sledding team has a designated role, and though dogs may be placed in different positions within the team at different times, many dogs will display a particular aptitude for a particular position.
Each dog in the team is named according to its position. Positions are taken relative to the sled. There are “wheelers”, “team dogs”, “swing dogs” and of course the “lead dogs” out in front.
It is the responsibility of the lead dogs to set the pace for the rest of the dog sledding team and to steer the sled. Nowadays, it is common for a dog sledding team to be fronted by a pair of lead dogs, though a single dog was frequently used in the past. In some situations a wrong turn may of course be disastrous, so the lead dogs must be particularly intelligent and good at keeping to the trail when conditions and visibility are poor. The lead dogs will respond to commands given by the musher – but these commands do not need to be shouted, a spoken word is somehow picked up through the noise and clamour of the pack and the dogs obey immediately.
Behind the lead dogs come the swing, or point, dogs. It is their job to “swing” the dog sledding team around the twists and turns of the trail and maintain a smooth flow. For larger teams, behind the swing dogs will come the team dogs, who lend strength and power to the dog sledding team.
Nearest the sled come the wheel dogs. A good wheel dog should be strong, steady and calm. They should not be made nervous by the motion and noise of the sled behind them.
And finally, of course, comes the only two-legged member of the team – you! Your responsibility will be to guide your dog sledding team surely and safely to your destination, to watch out for obstacles and potential hazards on the trail, to brake the sled effectively when travelling downhill so as not to overtake and possibly injure the dogs with the sled, and finally, when your day of dog sledding draws to a close, to make sure that your team-mates are fed and watered and settled for the night before retiring to your cabin to dream of your next day on the trail!
The Nature Travels Team
Nature Travels offers a wide range of dog sledding holidays in Sweden. Tours are available from 4 to 7 days with a variety of accommodation during your experience from tents to mountain cabins to hostels and lodges. We offer many opportunities to go dogsledding in Sweden with tours available on fixed dates in winter 2007/2008 between December and April. Groups of minimum 3 can organise dog sledding tours tours on other dates by arrangement. For a full list of our dog sledding holidays in Sweden please see our website at www.naturetravels.co.uk.