The Stardancer Team's Home Base
Stardancer Historical Freight Dogs kennel is small relative to most dog mushing
kennels. I am dedicated to keeping my team as small as I can for
financial as well as philosophical reasons. By keeping the team just large enough
to field a solid recreational team of six to eight dogs, I can ensure
that every individual dog in the Stardancer kennel receives the one-on-one care,
training and interaction that he or she needs to be as happy and as
healthy as possible.
The physical layout includes one 500 square foot
free-run pen, three 200 square foot pens, and a spacious combined housing
and free run / training yard area for a total of 7100 square feet.
Currently we are housing 11 dogs in a facility that could easily handle
Any of the free-run pens can serve as an isolation pen to
house a female in estrus or to isolate a dog from his or her team
mates in the event of potentially contagious illness.
Dogs housed in the free-run pens are
housed in pairs. Scientific research has shown that single
housing of dogs in a confined space can lead to serious
behavioral abnormalities, but that dogs housed in pairs enjoy a
level of interaction similar to that of dogs housed in groups of
15 or more animals.
The larger housing yard is set up with 9
post and chain swivels, a very common type of restraint system
used by dog mushers to ensure that all dogs in the yard can
safely interact with their neighbors while preventing runaways.
Because each chain can swivel 360 degrees around the post, this
set up gives each dog slightly more than 113 square feet in
which to run, jump and play. Recent studies conducted by
Cornell University have shown that tethering sled dogs in this
manner is less stressful for the dogs than any other type of
Each dog is provided his or her
own flat-roofed doghouse. Stardancer dogs are trained to jump on
top of their houses for grooming and handling and many of them just to enjoy
sitting or lying on top of their shelters
while sunning themselves or just checking out the view. All of the dog houses are raised a few
inches above the ground to help keep the interior dry and free of snow
or loose debris. Each dog is provided with a thick bed of straw
for his or her comfort and we change out their bedding at least monthly
in dry weather, and weekly or even more frequently when wet.
Some rather interesting research has found that social and
psychological stimulation in the housing area may be even more
important for maintaining the physical and mental health in dogs
than providing adequate space. This doesnít mean that space
isnít important, but it does point to the importance of
providing a stimulating environment for our working dogs. We take several steps to keep our dogs mentally active.
Because our yard is literally an oasis in the forest, my dogs
have ample opportunity to smell and watch local wildlife,
especially squirrels, snowshoe hares and song birds. We enjoy having dogs inside our house, and each night we bring two of
our team members inside for the evening. Some of our dogs become too
warm in the house and ask to go outside before bedtime.
Others enjoy sleeping in an airline crate in our bedroom, and two
of them even enjoy crawling up onto the bed with us. We're
perfectly willing to accommodate their individual preferences.
We rotate dogs through the
house, free-run pen and individual pole & chain sites so that all
members of the team have frequent opportunities to interact with all
other members of the team, including the mushers. Rotating dogs
from place to place also helps reduce the potential for resource
guarding behavior that can lead to dog-directed aggression.
In addition to the fenced in housing yard
a large, open "play yard" is provide, in which groups
of compatible dogs can be released to run and play together
whenever we can be available to supervise them. It also
serves as a training area for off-lead behavioral training.