Ethical Dog Sledding Tours in Riga, Latvia

Dog sledding, dog sled, Riga, Latvia, Ethical dog sledding
Riga is a gem of a destination and Latvia is entirely ready to show you an amazing winter wonderland break. As part of that, dog sledding is on offer. That leads to an uncomfortable question- how can you tell if your dog sledding tour is ethical and responsible?

The key here is research. Take your time to find out whether the animal attraction you want to give your money too is ethical. There are boundless resources online, but if you are still in doubt, ask questions. Contact the tour providers, the sled dogs kennels, check previous reviews from other travellers. If you are still unsure at that point, take your money elsewhere- better not to undertake the activity at all than to fund something harmful to animals, because we all know we are suckers for animals!

Some things to consider when deciding on a tour operator for dog sledding are:
  • How are the dogs kept? Dogs need to be kept in clean, dry and warm conditions. Avoid paying money to any attraction that has dirty kennels or has dogs chained up in the cold- you do not want to be responsible for funding poor treatment of animals.
  • How do the dogs look? The dogs themselves should be clean and not smell, be free from sores and have a thick coat.
  • Where did the dogs come from? Unfortunately many tour operators rely on puppy farming to obtain sufficient numbers of dogs to keep up with demand.
Having carried out our research we decided to book through Discover Latvia. We were delighted to find that for our tour Discover Latvia used dogs that are sourced from shelters- 8 of the 16 dogs were rescue animals. Their dogs are rotated and not made to run every day and the tours are weather dependent- if the weather is too hot, the dogs will not be running and your tour will be cancelled.

Rihards, our extremely helpful and knowledgable driver and guide, met us at our hotel and took us on the next part of the trip, driving for almost an hour to the countryside outside of Riga to meet the dogs themselves. When we arrived we were thrilled to find 6 huskies with their two owners. It was clear from the condition of the dogs that they were very much loved and well cared for and they delighted in making their owners bend to their every whim- one dog in particular kept whining until the owner came and knelt on the floor with him, at which point he was all waggy tailed joy!

The dogs were connected to the cart and we were shown how to mush the cart and use the breaks. We were told that one of us would need to sit on the cart as the "baggage"- a role that I was born to fulfil!

Dog sled riga latvia disover latvia tours
Having seated myself we were warned that the dogs would set off when given the command like a set of rockets- this is, after all, what they were bred to do! The owner jumped in his van to drive ahead of us to ensure that everything was safe and off we went for a 3km jaunt!

Dog sledding riga latvia discover latvia tours
It all started rather smoothly and the dogs appeared to be overjoyed to be out running with their pack. But then the lead dog noticed his owner had disappeared in his van over the crest of the hill and decided that the dogs should stop for a wee and a sit down!

Dog sledding riga latvia discover latvia tours
Having sat, sniggering, for a few moments as we tried to work out how to get 6 dogs moving again, we were rescued by the dogs owner who drove back to see where we had got too! On seeing their owner appear in the distance all the dogs started barking and running towards him- at which point he set off again and we chased him down the hill.

At the halfway point of the 3km loop we swapped roles as musher and baggage and I got a chance to experience the terror of thinking you might run over a dog by accident.

Dog sledding dog karting Discover Latvia Riga Winter activity
Photo credit: Rihards of www.discover-latvia.lv

Back at the start of the track the dogs are released from the sled and taken for water and then, the best part of the day, for petting!

Sled dog huskie malamute riga latvia
Sled dog huskie malamute riga latvia
Sled dog huskie malamute riga latvia
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our dog sledding experience with Discover Latvia and would recommend it as an exhilarating morning trip from Riga itself.

If you fancy trying your hand at mushing (or being the baggage, because that is seriously underrated) then Latvia is the place to go. But please, make sure your tour is ethical and responsible- after all, you would not want your new furry friends to be mistreated.

Comments

  1. That sounds wonderful! It is amazing how much these dogs love to run. We had the same experience in Colorado, the dogs were healthy and just wanted to go go go!

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    1. They are incredible animals aren't they? I couldn't believe the speed they got up too as well!

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  2. That sounds amazing! I've never been to Latvia, but I've added it to my list along with dog sledding. I'm glad you took the time to outline the ethics of tours involving animals. It's something we all should be doing and now I have a place to add to my list that's pre-approved!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Emily. It was a fantastic experience, and Riga in general is absolutely beautiful- we thoroughly enjoyed it and will be going back in the Summer to see what else there is to do.

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  3. First, I am so happy to read that you did a thorough research before embarking on such an experience. Second love the pups. They really look well taken care of and happy on the "job" :)

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    1. Thank you Ana. The dogs really did seem to love running (and taking a sneaky rest break!)

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  4. Those dogs are beautiful animals, I am glad you did your homework to make sure it is ethical.

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    1. Thanks Anisa- they really were lovely and so friendly!

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  5. I love that they are rescue dogs. And so many good things to consider that you raise about this trip. Baggage seems like a fine job description, and one to which I could become accustomed.

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    1. Honestly Bernie, being the baggage is not some much a description as a life choice for me!

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  6. I just love these dogs! It’s so heart-warming to see the rescue dogs have a good home and a good job :)

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    1. Thanks Margarita- I think those dogs are very lucky indeed to be so loved and to get to do what they love in return

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  7. I really appreciate that you're educating us all on this subject! It's so important to know what to look for and I didn't realize that these types of businesses sometimes rely on puppy mills. So sad!

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  8. Wish I'd had this advice before I had a horrible dog sledding trip in Canada of all places. Now I'll know what to look out for.

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