Is Adopting a Retired Sled Dog Right for You?

retired sled dogFor those inter­est­ed in an awe­some, intel­li­gent com­pan­ion to fill their life with love, a retired or oth­er­wise adopt­able sled dog might be right for you. Much like prospec­tive pet own­ers, no two sled dogs are the same. Sled dog orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try are often look­ing for poten­tial adopters once their trust­ed com­pan­ions retire typ­i­cal­ly 6–10 years into their pulling career, and each of these pas­sion­ate enter­pris­es go out of their way to find the right home for their canine colleagues.

To help answer the ques­tion, “is adopt­ing a retired sled dog right for you?”, The Clymb reached out to six dif­fer­ent sled dog orga­ni­za­tions includ­ing ken­nels, teams, and sanc­tu­ar­ies to gain some insight. Just cov­er­ing the tip of the ice­berg in retired sled dog adop­tion. To find more infor­ma­tion about each con­tribut­ing orga­ni­za­tion, fol­low the links by click­ing the orga­ni­za­tion’s name.

The Clymb: What is the need for sled dog adoption?

“There are MANY awe­some dogs out there who just need a chance or two at adop­tion with their only prob­lem being mis­un­der­stood. Many sled dogs, espe­cial­ly old­er retirees, don’t need miles and miles of trail to run. Some just need a nice com­fy couch—but an adopter needs to hon­est­ly eval­u­ate their lifestyle and what they can provide.

If you’re a marathon run­ner need­ing a run­ning com­pan­ion, great; if you’re a movie night every night kind of per­son, great! I guar­an­tee there is a sled dog out there that can match any­one’s per­son­al­i­ty, and if the home­work is done on the back­ground of the dog and their needs, a suc­cess­ful match can be made each and every time.”

Raven Vinter—President
Sled Dog Sanc­tu­ary (AK)


The Clymb: What are some of the unique traits of retired sled dogs that make them great pets?
“Retired sled dogs are no longer pup­pies and have less of a need to wan­der so far from home or to try and escape every chance they get. They know how to behave in a pack, usu­al­ly meet oth­er dogs eas­i­ly (that’s def­i­nite­ly an indi­vid­ual trait, every {dog} is dif­fer­ent). They can def­i­nite­ly learn new tricks and new rules with patience, con­sis­tent cues and the right tim­ing of reward or correction.

Their ener­gy lev­els are much more man­age­able. They still love a good long walk, hike, cross coun­try ski, run, bike ride…but need to do those less often. Trust­ing them off leash will take time. Trust­ing them unsu­per­vised in the house will take time. They are usu­al­ly lov­ing, friend­ly, qui­et and just easy to be around.”

Tra­cie Martin—Owner / Operator
Dog Sled Rides of Win­ter Park


The Clymb: Would you rec­om­mend a retired sled dog for a first-time pet owner?
If you are a first-time pet own­er; do not hes­i­tate to adopt a retired sled dog. If you are look­ing to make a great home for an ani­mal there is no rea­son a sled dog would not be appro­pri­ate fit for you. We would make sure that you are aware and under­stand the breed and what to expect when adopt­ing our dogs.

Here at Choc­paw, we are fam­i­ly and we want our future adopters to keep in touch. We love get­ting updates with pic­tures and sto­ries of how your new dog is adjust­ing to their new life. We also ask peo­ple to not hes­i­tate to call or email with any ques­tions they have regard­ing their new dog. There are often small sug­ges­tions we can make to help the dog adjust faster and smoother if you are hav­ing any prob­lems. It is very impor­tant to us that if you feel your new pet is not a good match for you that the dog comes back to Chocpaw.

Kaylee Moore—Expedition Leader
Choc­paw Expeditions


The Clymb: What is the screen­ing process involved for some­one inter­est­ed in adopt­ing a retired sled dog?
The screen­ing process is free and rel­a­tive­ly easy. It involves a con­ver­sa­tion between the hope­ful adoptee and the Pro­gram Direc­tor. The dis­cus­sion involves home situation…other ani­mals, kids, yard, house vs apart­ment, fam­i­ly rou­tine, finan­cial respon­si­bil­i­ty.… We also speak about the dog they are inter­est­ed in and why or why not it will work out. On-site we bring the dogs in our own hous­es as test runs and even have a neigh­bor cat in which we can test our dogs on! We do have a no ques­tions asked return pol­i­cy, in which we would rather have the dog come back here rather than get put in an SCPA type of situation.

Bud Ahrens—Pro­gram Director—Ely Winter
Voyageur Out­ward Bound School


The Clymb: Would you rec­om­mend a retired sled dog for a mul­ti-pet household?
Of course, it always depends on the dogs. Dogs are a lot like people—they have dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and pref­er­ences just like we do. But I do find that in gen­er­al Alaskan Huskies tend to get along pret­ty well with oth­er dogs. They are born and raised with­in their lit­ter, so they have their lit­ter­mates, and then they are raised with­in their packs, their ken­nel, so their whole life they’re around oth­er dogs.

Just like any­time you intro­duce a new dog to a fam­i­ly, you might get some pow­er dynamics—but that stuff all usu­al­ly shakes out with dogs in gen­er­al. And with cats, I’ve been real­ly pleas­ant­ly sur­prised how well these dogs tend to get along with them. Espe­cial­ly if the cat is brave and just won’t run away. Alaskan Huskies are very obe­di­ent and so once they know that they need to behave a cer­tain way around a cat, they tend to learn that very quick­ly, so they are obe­di­ent and very smart.

Kat­ti­Jo Deeter—Owner and Founder
Black Spruce Dog Sledding


The Clymb: What kind of exer­cise does a sled dog breed need in a home environment?
Gen­er­al­ly, a fair amount of walk­ing. Maybe two one-mile walks a day. Some can do a lot more than that, and some enjoy being a run­ning com­pan­ion. If you have snow, they LOVE to pull. Pulling a sled, or pulling you ski­jor­ing is a great way to keep them in shape. They like to do things with you, not for you—so not as like­ly to fetch a ball mul­ti­ple times, but be your part­ner on a walk or hike.

Jane Cordingley—Vice President
North­ern Cal­i­for­nia Sled Dog Rescue