Interview With Ken Haggett From Peace Pups Dogsledding

Peaceful Dog Powered Sports & Guided Activities In North Central Vermont

Siberian husky sled dog smiling - Cosmodoggyland Interview Series Photo Credit: Natalie Siebers. Courtesy of Ken Haggett from Peace Pups Dogsledding

Peace Pups Dogsledding Tours offer unforgettable experiences through numerous dog sports and varied activities to explore at different times of the year. Smooth rides on Ken’s comfortable homebuilt sleds powered by his team of Siberian huskies, make these adventure tours a special treat for dog lovers of any age.

1. How and why did you get involved in mushing?

I have always had an interest in polar exploration and sled dogs. I remember going to a sled dog race when I was a child and, for some reason, it really made an impression on me. Back around 2000, my wife and I went to a dog sled race near our Vermont home and it was the first time I had seen skijoring. I left with the goal of learning how to skijor with my 5-year-old dog named Maura, whom we had adopted from a shelter. After a few weeks of trying to teach Maura to skijor, I realized that it probably was not going to happen. She was a wonderful frisky dog, but really had no interest in pulling me around on skis. That is when we decided to visit the shelter and see if there were any “real” sled dogs there for adoption. We brought Jake home a week later and the rest is history.

I would have to say that my main passion for mushing is really just spending time with the dogs. I enjoy my summer days when I am just hanging out with with them just as much as I do winter time when we are sledding. They are a very loving breed.

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2. What has mushing taught you about leadership?

My dogs have taught me that staying calm is an asset. If they sense that I am stressed about something, they will amplify that. I believe that is one of the biggest challenges for a musher. I have read many books about distance races, such as the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod, and I can see how the musher keeping it together in difficult times can be on of the hardest things to accomplish. If you stay upbeat and relaxed, then your dogs will be happy and enjoying their time out there with you.

3. How do you choose your dogs? 

I have never been very fussy about the dogs I have adopted. I cannot think of a time when I went to meet a new dog and did not come home with him/her. This is a dangerous character flaw and I have learned to stay far away from dog shelters! We have always had Siberian Huskies though. My first sled dog, Jake, was a Siberian and I just fell in love with the breed. Sometimes I wonder why, given their stubborn personalities, but there is just something about them that I connect with.

4. What is a “good” sled dog?

A good sled dog is a dog that loves to run and has a lot of energy. This is one of the things that can make they very challenging to have as pets if they do not have an outlet for that energy.

5. Can you please explain a little bit about the breeding process?

We have only had two litters in the 16 years that we have been involved with dogsledding. We have chosen not to breed, because we feel that there are plenty of dogs out there already that need good homes. That said, there really is nothing like the bond you have with a dog that you have been with since its first breath. We do not sell puppies and the pups we had from our two litters will live their entire lives here with us.

6. How important is teamwork in mushing?

Teamwork is super important with a sled team. It is one of things I pride myself most on. I have a mixed team of Siberians, from show line dogs to racing dogs. I am proud of the fact that I have taken in dogs from a wide variety of backgrounds and taught them all to work together as a team. We typically run two teams and the biggest factor that determines who runs where is their individual personalities. I am always striving to find that perfect team lineup that brings the strong points of each dog to the forefront.

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7. How do you house and what do you feed your dogs? How do you ensure their overall safety and wellbeing?

We currently have a total of 21 Siberians, with 10 dogs in the house and 11 in a common dog yard next to our house where they have individual dog houses on platforms with shed roofs over them. I also have two kennels with roofs over them, for times when I need to separate the dogs. Around the dog yard, we have an acre fenced off with a fence that is six feet high, which serves as their play yard.

I have been feeding them a food called Inukshuck for around five years now. I have had good success with this food and find that all of my dogs enjoy eating it and keep their weight well. I also feed them a meat stew every morning during the winter months when we are sledding, and I bring a five gallon bucket of that to the trail on days that we run, so they can have a bowl for hydration and some quick calories after each run.

8. What do you do with your dogs when they retire?

My goal is for all of my dogs to spend their entire lives here with us. Since we do not race, I find that I can often allow my dogs to run up until they are 13 years old. I see how much they love running with the teams and I want to allow them to continue doing that as long as possible. Once they have a health issue that does not allow them to run anymore, then they have to stay home when we go to the trail. That is never an easy transition to make. They really do not understand why they are being left behind.

9. Are mushers born or made? Can mushing be learned and improved upon? 

In my case, made for sure. I did not get involved with dogsledding until I was almost 38 years old. I am self taught, with the help of many books, online forums, and trial and error.

10. What tips and tricks would you give to someone interested in getting started in mushing?

If I was younger and had the possibility to do it all over again, I would go to Alaska and work for a kennel there for at least one season. I feel that the knowledge one could gain from an experience like that would be hard to beat. I have yet to make it to Alaska, but it is certainly on my “to do” list. If that is not an option then finding a local musher to help you get started could be valuable as well. I advise getting into mushing slowly, so you can develop a sense of how it will fit into your life. I have seen people jump in with both feet and acquire a dozen dogs only to decide a year later that it just did not work for them. When that happens, the dogs are the ones that pay the price. Easing into it a dog or two at a time allows you to come up with a model that works well for their lifestyle and provides the best situation for the dogs.

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Peace Pups Dogsledding

Cross Drive, P.O. Box 165Lake ElmoreElmore, VT, 05657

1 (802) 888-7733



Photo Credit: Natalie Siebers. Courtesy of Ken Haggett from Peace Pups Dogsledding

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