Archive for February, 2010

Dog Sledding Pre-History

Dog Sledding Pre-History

By Dr. Robert Forto

My name is Dr. Robert Forto and I am the training director for Denver Dog Works and also a musher training for my first Iditarod running under the banner, Team Ineka.( I wrote my doctorate dissertation on Human-Canine Communication in the Sport of Dog Sledding. This article is an excerpt from that.

Dog Sledding Pre-History

The art of dog driving started with early man.  The area in northern Asia known as Siberia, is the location of some of the most brutal weather conditions on the face of the planet.  The bone chilling temperatures produce almost frictionless snow and ice that covers everything for the majority of the year.

The next natural step from dogs pulling firewood along the beaches, or dragging home spoils from the hunt across the frozen, snow covered tundra, was to pulling toboggans and sleds.  From ancient bone runners dug up at Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island, we know that the sled was used between four and five thousand years ago.  The dog sledding that these prehistoric people started became a crucial tool for the tribes of the north in the fight against Mother Nature for survival.

The Chukchi and Samoyed tribes of Siberia developed dog driving into an art over the centuries.  The Chukchi, according to experts, are the first people that depended seriously on the dogs in order to survive.  The Russian scholar, Dr. Robert Crane, wrote, “climatic changes and displacement of the Chukchi by a more powerful southern people combined to force the Chukchi to base their economy on sled dog transportation in order to survive.”

In the long winters of the northern region the sled dog’s contributions were the most prevalent.  Time and time again the Chukchi people suffered from the scarcity of

food that continually threatened their very survival.  This reality was the catalyst that drove the tribe to develop the sled dog.  With this development, the Chukchi had trumped the other arctic tribes who competed fiercely for the limited resources.  The native people of the north were able to extend their hunting ranges in direct correlation to the added mobility that their dogs enabled them to achieve by pulling sleds of supplies

The original canines that the Chukchi used were likely descended from the domesticated dogs of their competitors from the southern latitudes.  The dog of the north scarcely resembled its southern ancestors a few generations later.  They were larger, more rigorous, wolf–like and of course very furry.  Their thick outer coats were supplemented with a life sustaining undercoat that helped the canine to retain heat, and fight off the bitter cold of the arctic regions.

These early dogs did more than pull sleds; they were hunters, protectors and companions.  The sled dog was to become an important part of history, figuring predominantly in a plethora of history changing events.  Most assuredly, without the sled dog many things would be different.

Mushing Legends: Short Seeley

Short Seeley and Wonalancet Farm

By Robert Forto

A large measure of the success of the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute as purebred sled and show dogs is given to a small sprightly woman known as “Short” Seeley. When Arthur Walden left New Hampshire to go with Admiral Byrd, he left his Chinook kennels in the more than capable hands of Milton and Eva Seeley.  The enthusiasm and complete professional dedication which the Seeley’s lavished on northern dogs influenced (and still does) the status of these dogs all over the world.

At Wonalancet Farm and kennels during the late 1920’s the Seeley’s established a school for dogs and dog drivers. The graduates of this school, both human and canine, have gone on Antarctic expeditions, served in the United States Armed Forces and made names for themselves on the sport racing trails. The kennel and training school at Wonalancet is the oldest privately run school in operation anywhere, and up until 1955, Short Seeley supplied dogs for the United States Navy’s Operation Deepfreeze in Antarctica.

The dogs favored by the Seeley’s were Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. It was primarily through their efforts that a true-to-type Alaskan Malamute was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1938. The Seeley’s organized the Alaskan Malamute Club of America and kept the New England Sled Dog Club in business after its first president went to Antarctica.  Mrs. Seeley herself was one of three women who raced the New England trails during the 1930’s. She was also the only woman to race sled dogs in the 1932 Olympics. Later in life, Mrs. Seeley had minimal involvement in the operation of her kennel while she was traveling all over the country as a judge for the American Kennel Club, working on books about her life and her dogs.

Mrs. Seeley, as the operator of Chinook Kennels for over fifty years, had seen over two thousand dogs enter her gates. The accomplishments of these dogs and the achievements of the kennels have been nationally recognized. Admiral Byrd visited in the early thirties, and a plaque was dedicated to all the sled dogs that served on the Byrd Expedition. In 1971, Senator Norris Colton, of New Hampshire, read a tribute to Short Seeley into the congressional record citing in particular her excellent contributions to the world of northern dogs. Mrs. Seeley was also honored by election to the Dog Mushers’ Hall of Fame. At the time of her election, she was one of only two women to be so distinguished.


Dr. Robert Forto is a professional musher and races under the Team Ineka banner. Dr. Forto can be reached th

If You’re Not the Lead Dog the View Never Changes

If You’re Not the Lead Dog the View Never Changes

By Robert Forto, PhD

On the next edition of The Dog Doctor Radio Show , Dr. Robert Forto will welcome motivational speaker, corporate trainer and the author of the book Iditarod Leadership,Unleashing the Power of the Team, Chris Fuller.

Fuller the CEO of Texas based, Influence Leadership has developed a cutting edge corporate leadership program based on the allegory of the Iditarod that was born during a corporate training development project for John Maxwell’s 360 Degree Leader principles. “I was looking for an illustration to bring the concept to life and the old saying ‘if you’re not the lead dog the view never changes’, a quote that I have used for many years in building sales organizations,” says Fuller.

In Fuller’s corporate training program he develops people in the team concept often used in the Iditarod dog sled race. The concept is refined by placing these team members in a strategic position it provides the opportunity for them to contribute to the team, not just become the rank and file. “As I looked a littler further, I realized that it was a perfect illustration for how to view leadership,” said Fuller.

While Fuller is not a musher, he is in heart. He grew up in Texas where they don’t get much snow and as he was building out the concept for his book and subsequent training program he wanted to make sure it was authentic. He flew to Nome during the 2008 Iditarod sled dog race and spent the week with three time Iditarod competitor, Nils Hahn learning to mush and loved it.

In Fuller’s leadership training program he teaches practical, straightforward principles all over the world. His accompanying book is a quick read and is designed to pique the interest of his readers and draw them into this unique concept of corporate and business training. “People, learn through stories,” says Fuller.

In his book and in his training system he tells these stories first and then research proves up the story. Just one example is how to apply the positions on a dog team; leader, wheel, swing, and point and use those positions to harness the power of any organization or business.

Fuller’s next training conference will be held in Anchorage, AK on March 4, 2010 at the Millennium Hotel from 9 am to 4 pm. If you would like to sign up for the conference, buy his book or find out more information please visit Fuller’s web site at

Mushing Legends: Scotty Allen

Scotty Allan

By Robert Forto, PhD

Scotty Allan journeyed to Alaska, attracted by news of the gold strike in the Klondike. Around him were men of action from many different countries, dependent on in a large measure upon animals. It was not long before Allan had a wife, a baby and a dog team, and with his uncanny knack with animals, was well on his way to being a first class dog-puncher. His first leader was named Dubby, a Mackenzie River Husky from the stock of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Dubby led the team the day his venturesome owner decided to sledge across the Bering Strait to Russia. While in Russia, Allan visited some Siberian Eskimos and then headed back to Nome, impressed with the self-sufficiency of those people.

Scotty Allan joined with Judge Albert Fink and other Nome citizens to organize the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, the first official series of sled dog races anywhere. From these races emerged a new kind of hero in the far North, the racing sled dog driver. In preparation for these 408-mile non-stop races, Allan put his team and himself into training. He watched everybody’s diet, gave up smoking and even practiced going without sleep. He must have done something right, for the first eight years of the Sweepstakes, Scotty Allan never finished lower than third and had three firsts and three seconds to his credit. His team consisted of lop-eared freighting dogs, mongrels, and he was proud of their ability on the racing trails.

In more than one race, however, Allan could look back over his shoulder and see John “Iron Man” Johnson’s long string of Siberians slowly gaining on him. Johnson led a team of culls from Fox Ramsay’s other two imported Siberian Husky teams to a record setting win for him in 1910. The handwriting was on the wall for the mixed-breed freighting teams. Johnson’s Siberians beat Allan’s team by nine hours in 1914, and then Leonhard Seppala and his Siberians wrapped it all up in the final three years of the Sweepstakes.

Dr. Robert Forto is a professional musher training for his first Iditarod racing under the name Team Ineka. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at

Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race Starts Today in Fairbanks, AK

Hello All

I am planning on updating everyone that is interested in the two biggest dog sled races in the world on the Team Ineka blog

Today is the official start of the Yukon Quest dog sled race in Fairbanks, AK and ending in Whitehorse, Yukon Terr. Canada.

This year 24 mushers have entered the race in what some say is the most difficult race in the world.

Read a story from the Fairbanks (AK) News Miner here:…ome_lead_story


Dog Sledding Legends: Arthur Walden

Dog Sledding Legends: Arthur Walden

By Robert Forto, PhD

When sled dog racing started to catch on as a winter sport in New England and Canada, the speedy little Siberian dogs with the great endurance had not yet been introduced outside of Alaska. These crossbred dogs still held the inside track. Arthur Walden and Emile St. Godard won many races in New England and Canada during the 1920’s; Walden’s dogs were the big golden Chinooks, a freighting dog, and St. Godard’s were hound-husky crosses, bred for speed.

For his part in the promotion of the sport in New England, Arthur Walden held the inevitable title, “Father of New England Sled Dog Racing.” For nearly twenty years he traveled all over the Northeast, including Canada, driving his teams in races and exhibitions, at schools and fairs. For much of that time his famous dog, Chinook, was on lead, and was a welcome companion at ball games, lectures, and promotional visits. With a breeding program that included not selling any dog that could not reproduce to Walden’s standards, he developed his unique dogs and sold them as sled dogs and pets.

In 1928, Walden, age fifty-six, and with his special breed of sled dog, ventured from New Hampshire and his New England Sled Dog Club, from the races and the farm where he taught dog driving, and joined Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition. His position was that of dog handler, his chief assistant was his faithful lead dog, Chinook. Chinook did not make it back to New England from his trip to Antarctica and the Manchester (New Hampshire) Union Leader newspaper carried a tribute story to this fine sled dog on January 24, 1929.

Walden returned to New Hampshire and remained a popular speaker on sled dogs. His life touched all the aspects, from dog punching to racing, from kennel manager to explorer. He brought the spirit of the gold rush dog team from Alaska and he instigated sport races a continent away from their original home.

Walden lived to be ninety-one years old, straddling the animated decades from the 1870’s into the 1960’s. Without Arthur Walden, the lore and the lure of the sled dog would be much less than it is.


Dr. Robert Forto is a professional musher and training for his first Iditarod racing under Team Ineka. Dr. Forto can be reached through his website at


February 2010

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