Dogsledding : An underrated outdoor activity!

Published on February 26 2021

Six Outaouais companies offer dogsled rides. Some are more sporty, others more educational, but all are family-oriented.

At the Tanwen Pack, you can be a driver (musher) or a passenger. After a basic musher training session led by experienced guides, I opted for the sporty excursion in the forest.

Thirty dogs barking—the decibel level is deafening. The guides finish harnessing the animals, which are quivering with energy. Imgripping the sled handle firmly with both handsnever let go! The adrenaline level is high. The head musher rings the start bell, the dogs surge forward, and then… silence. All we hear is the snow crunching under the sleds runners. 

For an hour, my four dogs andI roam the hilly trails and steep slopes under the snow-covered trees. The challenge is to steer the sled well, keeping your knees bent and your centre of gravity stable. Ithought Idhave my foot on the brake the whole time, but Ifind myself easing off during the descents… which can reach 30km/h. After running with my dogs up hills and negotiating several tight curves, Istart to envy my children, who are comfortably snuggled up on the sled behind mine. Fortunately, the experienced guides encourage us at the turns along the trail. 

A crash course in sled dog breeding


When we arrive at the Tanwen Pack kennel, I’m not expecting such a comprehensive introduction to sled dog breeding. ÉrikPichette, a great enthusiast and the business owner for 18years, takes us on a tour of the maternity ward, the enclosure for dogs with disabilities, the enclosure for retirees, and the gigantic enclosure for the 40 or so working sled dogs.  

While sharing his passion for this traditional means of transportation, he describes the psychology of husky dogs. The first three months of their life are crucial for their socialization. Theyre born competitive, and running is in their nature. As they wont willingly stop, its up to us humans to supervise them! Amongst themselves, they are very assertive. They derive their strength, intelligence and cunning from their Canislupus (wolf) side. 

What happens in summer?

Timberland Tours offers a summer dogsledding experience. At the Tanwen Pack, after their active period (approximately from December to late March), the dogs go through a detraining period: theyre hitched up less and less often, and sometimes run alongside ATVs. Volunteers spend the summer walking and cuddling the dogs. 

In September, the team gradually resumes training. The kennel is fenced off so that the dogs can concentrate on their work. The business has plans to add a dog park and, why not, a giant wheeljust like a hamsters! 

Sled dogs are hybrids of several breeds: sometimes greyhound, sometimes husky, often wolf! 

Quite an adventure


Improud of myself for not backing out in the face of the unknown; proud that Ididnt fall and that I managed to steer my sled along the hilly trails and around the tight curves. Most of all, Imhappy that Igot out of my comfort zone and overcame my initial fears. It was an unforgettable and safe experience for the whole family, adapted to everyones comfort level and physical ability! 

A few useful tips

You can drive your own sled or be a passenger. The important thing is to indicate your preference in advance. Packages range from one hour to several days. Our experience at the Tanwen Pack lasted 3½ hours (9:30a.m. to 1p.m.). 

You have to reserve a time slot in advance. In the current health situation, equipment rental is not available. Depending on the weather, ski goggles can be a good idea. 

If you choose the sporty dogsledding option, you must be reasonably fit and not have heart problems. Heres some free advice: dress in layers, because youll get hot! For an unusual ride, try skijoring: put on your cross-country skis and let your new canine buddy pull you along the trail. 

The staff reminds you to keep your distance, especially around the dogs. Unfortunately, youre not allowed to pet them right now—but theyre always up for a photo! 

Dogsledding

Aux Solstices Kenauk, Montebello

Gatineau Sled Dogs, St-Sixte 

Timberland Tours, Bristol

Escapade Huskimo, Pontiac 

Tanwen Pack, Montpellier 

Ferme LAventure, Low 

Attelage de la LièvreMulgrave-et-Derry 

When

By reservation, as long as there’s enough snow; generally from December to late March or early April.

Learn more

Read more about dogsledding possibilities in the Outaouais or discover places to go sliding in the region!

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