Ce que les chiens mangent a un énorme impact sur leur santé, leur bienêtre, et de fait sur leur capacité à courir. Les chiens de traineaux ont des besoins spécifiques en termes de nourriture. Une grande puissance certes, mais un gros appétit. Alors que la plupart des chiens ont besoin de 1500 calories par jour, un chien de traineau peut facilement consommer 10000 calories.
Nous utilisons un mélange de croquettes et de viande. Les chiens apprécient la viande grasse mais les croquettes leur apportent les nutriments dont les athlètes ont besoin. Nous ne pouvons pas leur laisser d’eau à disposition pendant l’hiver mais nous faisons tout notre possible pour qu’ils boivent beaucoup durant les repas. Le matin, ils sont nourris avec une soupe (croquettes, viande et eau), et prennent leurs deux autres repas deux heures avant et après chaque course, particulièrement les jours d’entrainement ou de grosses chaleurs. We want them to be used to drinking rather than trying to eat snow since that can actually dehydrate them as they spend too much energy warming up again.
Hence, in winter, the dogs are fed a meat or mushed dry food soup using steaming water first thing in the morning, at least two hours before they run and and post-running they get an additional soup - unless it is a very hot day, when we may use blood ice cubes to help reduce the core body temperature. Using warm water gives the dogs a chance to enjoy the food rather than have it almost instantly turn to ice in front of them. In this way, we go through hundreds of litres of hot water, per day.
They get their evening feed, which is a mixture of dry food and meat, right at the end of the day and collectively this adds up to somewhere between 2000 and 7000 calories, depending on the mileage they are running at that time. Dogs in the cages eat through feeding holes in the front of the cages and any food which they spill in their eagerness is immediately picked up so that birds, mice etc are not attracted to pick up the pieces.
Durant l’été, les chiens ont de l’eau à disposition toute la journée (la tâche est parfois rendue difficile par ceux qui jouent avec leur bols !), et prennent leur repas en fin de journée (mélange de croquettes et de viande).
They are still fed a high quality food but they are burning less calories at this time (c. 500-1000 calories per day)so the portion sizes they need are far smaller. We change all water in the bowls and in the water canisters once per day so that there is no chance that the dogs are drinking stagnant water.
Les chiots sont quant à eux nourris tout d’abord avec de la nourriture pour chiots haute qualité, avant de passer progressivement au même système que les adultes
Soft food alternatives are available for dogs recovering from illnesses and those with problems with their teeth and we have additional food supplements which we give, depending on need. Our bowls are also stainless steel to ensure that no rust gets into the food.
In elk hunting season locals bring us bones which they cannot otherwise utilise and it is a win win all round. The dogs that live on the circles can all have bones with no problems. Those that live in pairs in the cages are separated and one of the pair is put onto a travel chain so that each can eat bones for a couple of hours each day. (We don't put them into the cages with the dogs or there would be a high risk of fights). In addition, when there are cows or horses from local farms which die in the winter, we often get their carcasses to feed to the dogs (assuming the cows can't enter the human food chain for some reason (eg post having taken medications)) and this adds variety to the diet whilst also enabling them to clean their teeth fairly regularly on bones.
Some Natural Supplements can be beneficial for dogs and we use psyllium, for instance, to help 'steady' the digestive tracts when the going gets tough for the dogs in the peak points of the client season.
Just like people, all dogs are individuals. Each has his/her own personality and eating habits. Understanding this we recognize that not all the dogs are going to eat the same amount of food. To guarantee that our dogs get what they need, we feed them top quality ingredients and monitor their calorific needs during weekly dogchecks. Keeping track of what each dog should be eating and IS eating is very important. If the dogs are leaving their food for a couple of days in a row, we take it very seriously since this can often be the first indication of an illness, fatigue or allergy which needs to be addressed ASAP.
In the heaviest weeks we add psyllium as a supplement to the evening feed to help absorption in the digestive tracts and to settle stomachs.
And, of course, after carefully monitoring what we put in, as well as how efficiently we do it, we also have to monitor what comes at the other end, to ensure that what we are feeding is important. There are a bunch of unexpected aspects of running a dog business....although our guides have not been quite as 'in your face' as some of the Bristol Hospital nursing brigade, who apparently made the cake below.