January 1, 2010

How To Feed A Dog Team

Happy 2010!

A lot of people wonder how the heck we manage to feed 30-some sled dogs!  So, we decided to put together a little “how we do it” tutorial.

Let’s face it, dog food isn’t cheap, especially for dogs who work hard and live in some of the coldest conditions.  On any given winter day, our temperatures in the Two Rivers area of Alaska vary between –50 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit and our sled dogs live outdoors.  How do they maintain their weight when they are undoubtedly burning plenty of calories just to stay warm?  The answer, my friends, is that we do some sweet home cookin’ for these babies and we make them work for it!  ;)  We’ve tested every concoction we could muster up, but the method outlined below has proven to be the most cost-effective bang for our buck!  Over the course of several decades, we finally settled on this tried and true method.

First, we take a team of at least six dogs out into the forest to cut firewood.  It can be a challenge to get the ol’ chainsaw going even when it’s only 20 below!



The dogs have to wait patiently until we get a sled full of wood.



They’re always checking on progress, eager to hear the command to go again!

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But they wait and wait until the sled is loaded and the wood is tied down, then they have to haul the fuel that feeds them back home. 



Then, we have to chop the wood into bits that fit into our outdoor rice cooker….



…which is a 55 gallon drum with a window cut out of the bottom to accommodate a small fire and a few pieces of rebar jutted through the barrel above to support a large cooking pot. 


We get the fire going…


…and add a bunch of rice (what will cook to be about 17 lbs. of rice…for carbohydrates which will carry us through two feedings), then fill the pot with water.

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It takes about 1.5 to 2 hours for the rice  to cook, but then we have to let it cool for 3-4 hours before we can feed.  Depending on the outside temperature, we add anywhere from a few cups to a quart of vegetable oil (the colder the temp, the more oil we add).


Then, we stir it together and distribute half the contents of the pot into three 5-gallon buckets.



Then we add water to fill the buckets almost to the brim. 





And for protein, we dump about a quart or two of powdered meat/poultry/fish meal into each bucket.


And we throw a few quarts of dry dog food (National brand)…


…and a splash of vitamins into the mix.


Melvin is always there to ensure that no grain of rice, fluff of meat meal, or kibble of food is wasted.  :)


Give it all a big stir, and VOILA…you have a meal fit for royalty!!


It’s most efficient to pack the buckets around in a little kiddy sled.


And this is how Red and all his buddies get fed twice a day!



“Mmmmmm!  Yum, yum!”




With this recipe, our dogs maintain their weight and even gain weight in some of the coldest temperatures. 

This is how we feed them at home, but in the arctic, there’s no way to melt enough water to use this method.  On the expeditions, the dogs eat straight kibble from National Dog Food, which is supplemented with veggie oil or muktuk (whale blubber) to ensure they’re getting enough fat and calories to maintain!

- – -

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they? 

-Matthew 6:26


  • WYO Fan Club

    That’s a big process of cooking and a whole lot of dog food. They sure are thriving on their diet. Beautiful Malamutes!!!!
    Happy New Year to all!!!

  • Rosanne

    Great article and photos- thanks for sharing this. We’re getting our dog team next week and I was trying to figure out what would be the least expensive way to feed them while maintaining their health and weight.
    All best to you and your dogs in 2010!

    • Thanks, Rosanne! Best wishes to you and your new dog team. How exciting!
  • http://kit-dogdaze.blogspot.com/ Kit

    Great post!!!
    Makes my feeding process seem so effortless…
    When I visited my friends Scarlett and Wayne Hall in Eagle, I helped catch, clean and cut the salmon in strips for drying for their dogs!!! What a treat!

  • http://www.thzkennels.com Tim McElravy

    very cool…looks yummy:)