I was recently reading information that said it was cruel for a team of 16 sled dogs to pull a sled carrying 400 to 450 pounds of supplies during the Iditarod. 450 pounds sounds like a lot, but you have to look at the breakdown. If you break down the weight per dog, they are pulling 25 pounds per dog. That’s not a lot.
Where I work, a team of 8 dogs can easily pull 300 pounds of weight, which is the average weight of two people riding a sled for two hours, come back and still be pulling and tugging trying to go further.
Pulling a sled is different than carrying a pack. To put this in perspective, I am 5’5″ and I weigh somewhere between 105 and 108 pounds. I have carried a 40+ pound pack through the Sierras to elevations of 11,000 feet for 13 days, with one 24 hour rest, similar to what sled dogs do. The first day was a little rough, but then my body adjusted as I built muscle. I promise you, these dogs are much stronger than I am and pulling 25 pounds is not a lot for them.
It’s important to remember that these dogs do not go from pulling nothing to pulling 300 pounds or 400 pounds between 16 dogs. They are trained and conditioned. They are trained with a four wheeler in high gear to start with, and in neutral up hills sometimes given gas to help them out if they need it. Just like we would train for a race or a camping trip, these dogs are conditioned.
I am currently in training and am carrying 25 pounds easily for several hours a day. In the mornings I carry 37 pounds for 45 minutes. By the end of training in several months I will be carrying 45 pounds for 6-8 or more hours a day. I hope that puts it into perspective a little bit.