Ethical Dog Sledding Tours in Riga, Latvia
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!
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.
|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!
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.