Learning to Dogsled in Ontario
On an extremely dark and cold morning in January we headed out to the designated meeting spot for a day trip. We had registered for a one day dog-sledding trip with small group tour company called Travelling Chicken, based in Toronto. Our itinerary for the day was dog-sledding with the Sugardogs Adventure Company. Once we got to the meeting spot we grabbed our stuff, checked-in with the organizer, took a seat on the tour van and headed up North to the Bruce Grey Simcoe area for a day of winter fun!
Here’s our video from that day:
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Lenka is the owner/operator of Travelling Chicken, and she does all the driving for these tours. We enjoyed the fact that we could just sit back and chat with the others on the trip, many of whom were attempting these activities just like us.
We headed over to the small town of Sundridge, Ontario, to try dog sledding. The owner operator is Ed Schmidt from Sugardogs Adventure Company. When we arrived, he had already been outdoors for most of the day, and his entire beard had frozen into a giant icicle. You’re gonna have to watch the video to see it for yourself.
The dogs were super excited when we arrived, cause they know that once visitors arrive on the property, it means that they get to go for a run. It also means they get extra attention, because of course anyone would want to pet a friendly dog! The dogs were of various breeds, but mainly husky or some type of husky mix seems to work best for this. Our understanding is that their fur and temperament are best suited to the duties of sledding.
Ed gave us some instructions on how to operate the sled and work with the dogs. There’s many small details that most people would not have considered when trying this sport. For example, always have your brake on – these dogs love to run and just want to ‘go’. Having the brake on reminds them to wait until you give them the ‘let’s go’ command. Also, how a person speaks to the dogs is very important. If they are getting commands from anyone who is stressed or yelling, the dogs would not be comfortable, and may also get stressed. It really is a partnership to operate a dog sled successfully so that both human and canine can have a good time.
The trail is narrow, so the sleds must travel in a single file. We lined up, got ready, gave the command to ‘go’- and bang! These dogs really went for it. The leader of our sled even did a jump to get things moving faster. It’s incredible to see these dogs working as a team and following their leader. Within 10 seconds the sled was up to full speed as we started heading down the trail through the forest. We learned quickly that we too are part of the ‘team’ and not just passengers. When going up small hills or inclines, it’s the driver’s job to help kick the sled up the hill, kind of like a skateboard. We even noticed that as we stated an incline, the dog closest to the driver would kind of look back at us quickly – as if to say ‘You’re gonna help right?’.
The tour was awesome, we made our way through Ed’s private trails, the snow was gently falling and we had a chance to stop for a quick photo op. It was perfect – well almost. There was a turn that was a little tighter, and we may have flipped our sled over…and Petula may have ended up in a snowbank…you’ll have to see the video to find out.
A short Checklist for your day trip:
- Wear many layers.
- Brings Snacks & Drinks for the road.
- Your smartphone, camera or GoPro with a battery pack. You’ll be amazed how quickly you lose battery power in the cold.
We’re so glad to have partnered up with Lenka Makajovic from Travelling Chicken for this daytrip. She originally started her tour company as a way for new Canadians to get together and experience everything that Ontario and the surrounding area have to offer. She saw a need for this type of service because she too was a new Canadian. Having immigrated from the Czech Republic less than 10 years ago, Lenka wanted to make new friends and try day trips around Toronto. Since she has a background in Travel/Tourism, she decided to start her own company that specializes in small group tours. Our experience from that day trip was more about just having fun in the snow – it was a metaphor for Toronto and Canada for that matter. We live in the most diverse place in the world and were able to meet recent immigrants and expats from all over the world – Britain, Australia, Poland and Japan. Something that we’ve noticed in our travels both around the world and here at home, is that the more people you meet, you realize you only have more similarities – not differences. It was quite a memorable day.
Our visit to Sugardogs Co was partially sponsored by Travelling Chicken however all opinions, recommendations & reviews are our own.