Sunday, March 09, 2008

Looking for an all purpose hiking and skijoring dog.

I am thinking of buying a dog. This will be a hiking companion and skijoring dog. Plus an all around all purpose type dog to have with me out in the Bush when I go to Alaska. I really like huskies in terms of sled dogs. That would be a good choice for skijoring. But in my experience, huskies, especially siberian huskies and more primitive type alaskan huskies aren't especially good "all around dogs."
Generally they can't be trusted off leash, have no watch dog ability, they have a prey drive, but not in any kind of a way that I have seen, that can be channeled into being a hunting dog.

What I mean, by an "all around dog" is basically an all purpose farm dog. There is a breed of dog from down south that is more of a "type" than an established breed, called a "cur." there are different varieties- "Black mouth cur" "Yellow black mouth Cur" " "catahoula leopard dog" "mountian cur" They are used as hunting dogs, cattle and sheep herding dogs, and watch dogs. They can tree coons like a coon hound, or be used to hunt wild hogs.

They are obedient and somewhat protective and can also be used as a "varmint dog" that kill rats and other pests around the farmstead. The ancestors of these dog seem to be the ancestors of the Great Dane that came to the Americas with the Spanish, that were then crossed with local indian dogs. They are actually quite similar to Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Which are a cross of the same type of Great Dane type dog with indigenous dogs from Africa.

The Great Dane is just a show dog and a pet today, with little or no working ability. But originally it was a bear and boar hunting dog combining the best qualities of mastiffs and sighthounds.

Curs are kind of like a smaller more driven version of a great dane. They are lithe and muscular, with a learn wiry build and a bigger sized head and strong jaws. The catahoula leapard dog has an unusual coloring, related to the merel gene, similar to a harlequin Great Dane, but they also come in solid colors. The other cur varieties come in brindle or tan or red with a black mask.

These aren't cold weather dogs. They have a coat like a pointer or a hound, so it would sleep indoors with me. I was considering a german Shepherd also, but they have so many horrible health problems. Its really sad to have a beautiful German shepherd with a great temperament totally break down and become a cripple after just a few years. This has happened to me and to so many other people I have known. I had one I paid $1,200 for from German import parents that had to be put down at 4 years because of severe hip dysplasia. I had a neighbor with one that lost all its fur to allergies, and also knew a person with two that could barely get around due to various structural problems.

Just seems like too much of a gamble.

I would imagine that a cur with have similar abilities as a pointer in skijoring. They are similarly athletic and driven and probably even have higher intelligence than a pointer since they are used for herding.

Speaking of herding dogs, I have also considered a border collie or a blue heeler, but I tend to like bigger dogs. I have also considered a Chesapeake bay retriever or a Rhodesian Ridgeback. I exclude labs, because I like hiking dogs that are a little aloof with strangers. Its inconvenient to hike around with a dog and have it go berserk with affection every time I encounter another person on the trail. Plus they are just so darn common. I'd like something a little different.

I would also consider a mutt with the above characteristics I am looking for or even an alaskan husky with the right qualities. There are so much variation with alaskan huskies. I have encountered some that were trustworthy off leash and very trainable and intelligent. I have also seen some that were very much like a typical siberian in temperament and some are dumb as rocks. Which in a sled dog, its not always bad to have a dumb dog as long as it is a good runner that is an easy keeper that eats and drinks well and keeps its line tight. Thinking too much isn't always a good thing.

I imagine a Russian Laika, might be what I am looking for, they are similar to a cur in purpose, but with beautiful husky looks. Seems like it might take some doing to find one, though and would be expensive. I also have never seen one in person, and it may be they they are not as trainable as some other breeds.

The few belgian sheepdogs I have seen were nice. Having a similar temperament as a good German Shepherd in a slightly smaller package without the massive amount of health issues.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to meet Ellie. She's a Shepherd/Husky/?Rottweiler? mix; 18-24 months old. Spayed & current on all shots.

Started in skijoring; also loves to pull a sled. Learning to retrieve. Lives on a farm. Very friendly, affectionate. Great with cats indoors but tends to play too aggressively with cats outdoors.

Photos, vet records, etc. available upon request.

If you're still in WI, we're not too far away.

March 30, 2008 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Theo_musher said... haven't left anyway to get in contact with you.

hopefully you will check back here. Sounds like she has potential.

April 1, 2008 at 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: potential new friend. Contact


April 1, 2008 at 6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haven't heard from you yet; wondering if you would like more info. about Ellie? You can contact us at

April 5, 2008 at 7:21 AM  
Anonymous Quilla said...

Well written article.

November 10, 2008 at 10:17 PM  
Anonymous David Miller said...

I'm not exactly sure what kind of dog I have. I was told she might be a shepherd/akita mix, or possibly a nordic breed, like an aleutian. Anyway, she's definitely keeping me busy.

November 16, 2008 at 9:15 AM  
Anonymous Pru Kerr said...

Don't give up on Labs! I love my Alaskan Husky, but I have a Lab who is not an affection hog with strangers and is an excellent scooter dog. He couldn't care less about people when he's on the trail. Same goes for rabbits, wild pigs and other dogs! A good boy.

December 16, 2008 at 10:08 AM  
Anonymous Dagny said...

Have you considered a husky/hound mix? They are still great for skijoring, but are more prone to stick around home and are great companions.


February 13, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...




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March 24, 2009 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Taigasail said...

I have read your blog from MARCH 09, 2008, I am trying to reinvent your wheel; can you help me?
I'm hoping to find a sled dog for recreational ski/bikejoring, sledding, with the hope of maybe having a team of four and doing some competition. However, the dogs must have some potential for recall, must fit in with my home life, and with my lab (who I have trained to go through the chee/chaw motions, etc.).

I've looked at some of the Chinooks, in the US: health issues seem to abound, and the ones I saw seemed to be more house pet than working dog. I need both.

As I said, I feel like I am going over similar ground of many.

Though I live in the Maritimes, Canada, I do have some limited experience running and training Siberians in NWT. So, I know that unless it is a special Sib, they won't fit my criteria for recall.

What did you finely come up with for your dog team?

I've been going around in circles for over a year. My lab is doing well but we need a partner.

Pardon my forwardness but I wondered how your endeavours had panned-out, and hoped you would give me some suggestions.

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December 14, 2009 at 6:54 PM  
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August 12, 2010 at 2:32 AM  
Blogger Darby said...

You sound a bit like me now that I'm planning for another dog. It IS a big gamble.

But since you brought up curs, I'll share my experience. My Catahoula is AMAZING. She has speed and endurance for bikejoring(we haven't gotten into skijoring yet). Strangers are little more than background noise to her yet she has protected me on the only two occasions that I actually needed it. And she is very trustworthy off leash, however, prey drive is an issue. We've done enough training that I can call her off the chase but the drive will always be there.

The only thing I will warn you about is how incredibly destructive Catahoulas are known to be. My girl has earned a life time of being crated when unsupervised because of the $100's damage she has done to my house and belongings. With adequate exercise, she's fine but I never know when she'll have an off day.

There's also a great deal of variety in the breed. Some people are producing big, bulky dogs that don't appeal to me in the slightest, while others are producing more sinewy, lean little dogs. My girl is that latter and that's what I will be sticking with. I've already chosen a breeder that produces purebred Catahoulas as well as Catahoula long dogs. I really want to meet the long dogs but I feel like that's just asking for trouble with the sight hound tendencies and what I want in a dog.

Catahoulas are overall very healthy dogs. Look for a breeder that does at least OFA hip testing and you should be good to go. Deafness and blindness happens in the breed though because of the merle gene.

And once you have a Catahoula, enjoy chuckling at all the random breed guesses people throw at you. I've gotten Pit Bull, Aussie, German Shepherd, Pointer mix, Cattle dog mix, and even Whippet and Greyhound.

March 9, 2013 at 11:48 AM  
Blogger Crazy Like a Fox!! said...

Hey, great blog!!

I know this is a bit late of a response, but there is actually a forum dedicated to the various Laika breeds, and are mostly full of those with the hunting types. They are amazing dogs and they seem to be a lot more common than you may think. It may be worth a look if you, or anyone else, is considering getting a hunting laika:

January 29, 2014 at 4:14 PM  

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