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Human-Sled Dog Relations: What Can We Learn from the Stories and Experiences of Mushers?

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In this qualitative study, the elements and quality of musher-sled dog relationships were investigated. In-depth interviews with a narrative design were conducted with eight mushers from northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario. The mushers were asked to contribute ideas by sharing stories and experiences of working with dogs, as well as art or photographs. While all the participants had their own ideas about musher-sled dog relationships, six themes emerged. The mushers stated the importance of getting to know the dogs, their respect for their sled dogs’ abilities, the idea of a two-way communication that takes place, the importance of trust, the notion of partnership, and what can be learned through working with sled dogs. This study supports other research suggesting that humans and animals engage in interspecies relationships and that these can be quality relationships with multiple elements. The importance of researching and teaching about dogs as subjects is discussed, as well as the significance of humans having direct experience with other animals.

Affiliations: 1: Lakehead University, Email:


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