Best Care Guidelines

The following are written guidelines concerning the implementation of Sled Dog care in the State of Alaska.

The Best Care program may be set up and run by any entity concerned about the welfare and well-being of sled dogs.  The objective of the entity and Best Care should be the betterment and furthering of the sport and business of keeping sled dogs.  The Best Care guide goes hand in hand with the maintenance and business of tour, racing, recreational, and other working dog kennels. 

Best Care oversight should be performed by an independent committee composed of diverse community interests. Veterinarian and race interests should be represented, but not over-emphasized. It must be recognized that the general public has a vested interest in the welfare and care of all dogs.

The committee should be composed of 6-9 volunteers willing to donate a several days each, independently, to make kennel visits throughout the year to make random checks as to the adherence to Best Care Guidelines.

Kennel participation in the Best Care program would be entirely voluntary.  There is no penalty phase for not following Best Care protocol.  However, those who meet the guidelines would get a sticker on their website indicating they are following Best Care practices. This could be a huge incentive for a tour operator. Racing kennels could also reap big rewards in the form of sponsorship and support, especially if a race organization such as the Iditarod implements the program. In light of recent doping and abuse revelations; volunteers, fans and sponsors are demanding accountability.

We visualize a parent organization in Wasilla/Willow with satellites in smaller communities were there is a significant sled dog presence. We recognize that this program is not going to solve every issue in the dog community, nor will it reach every kennel. However it is the beginning of accountability that our sport desperately needs.

Follows are the rough draft Best Care Guidelines from the programs in Colorado and Whitehorse.


Best Care Practices;

  1. Doghouses should be waterproof and in good repair with adequate lip around the entrance.
    • Tethers must be 6’ minimum and equipped with a swivel. 
    • Pens should be a minimum of 100’ feet for a single dog and 150’ feet for 2 dogs.  Fencing should be adequate, designed to prevent injury and without holes.  No standing water in chain areas or pens.  
    • Indoor house should be available for older dogs and short-haired dogs.
    • Dog areas should be cleaned once daily.
    • Unless there is constant monitoring, no more than 5 dogs in one pen.
  2. All dogs must have adequate caloric intake and be fed at least once daily.  Fresh, clean water available in non-freezing months.  Dogs fed and or baited water 2x’s daily during winter months. 
  3. Dogs should have a documentable worming protocol.  Coats will be free of matting, toenails at good length.
  4. Socialization. dogs must have consistent direct contact with people and other dogs.
  5. Tethering.  Proper tethering should allow most individual dogs to interact with one another by touching, playing and resolving conflict, while still maintaining individual space.  Aggressive dogs may need to have more space from others.

    It is important for sled dogs to be in a wide open area that is highly visible to each other and all dog caretakers.  Mushers and guests are able to interact with each dog in their own space.  Tethering allows caretakers to easily notice changes in behavior, apetite and in activeness.  Each dog can be individualized to monitor eating, drinking, behavior and stool health.  Humane tethering, coupled with an excellent off tether exercise program is optimum.
  6. Dogs should have straw or ship bedding at temperatures consistently colder than 20*F
  7. Breeding.  Sufficient pens to separate females in estrus.  Whelped females should not be tethered.
  8. Euthanasia. If a dog is no longer healthy and pain-free it may be euthanized by a veterinarian.
  9. On site care. The staff should be knowledgeable.  Large kennels, (in excess of 25 animals) should have constant monitoring available.
  10. No more than 30 dogs per caregiver at  single location.
  11. Record-keeping.  Meticulous record-keeping is the most important piece in any kennel program. Committee members and veterinarians must be able follow individual dogs.  All dogs should have a kennel card with a complete physical and psychological description.  Name, birth date, sex, previous owners, when acquired, spay/neuter should all be recorded.  Additionally, breeding, worming and veterinary records should also be available.  Deceased animals will have the cause and date of death recorded.

    Also, a monthly training and conditioning must be kept for each dog.  When not working or pulling sleds, or for dogs no longer working, a log of days and times off-tether must be kept.



This guide is not a finished product, but it is good working start to what can become an industry standard. 

Transparency and accountability is the key to a working program.

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