The Fan Hitch Volume 4, Number 1, December 2001

Newsletter of the Inuit Sled Dog

Table of Contents

Featured Inuit Dog Owners: Jill and Daniel Pinkwater
Never Let Go: A Pedestrian Experience
Points of View:  John Senter; Kathy Schmidt
When a Fight Isn't a Fight
Arctic Brucellosis Update
High Arctic Mushing: Part 1
Book Review: Uncle Boris in the Yukon
Page from a Behaviour Notebook: Do Dogs Have Emotions?
IMHO: Dog Sled Racing vs. Sled Dog Racing

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Editor's/Publisher's Statement
              Editor: Sue Hamilton
              Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
The Fan Hitch Website and Publications of the Inuit Sled Dog– the quarterly Journal (retired in 2018) and PostScript – are dedicated to the aboriginal landrace traditional Inuit Sled Dog as well as related Inuit culture and traditions. 

PostScript is published intermittently as material becomes available. Online access is free at:  PostScript welcomes your letters, stories, comments and The editorial staff reserves the right to edit submissions used for publication.

Contents of The Fan Hitch Website and its publications  are protected by international copyright laws. No photo, drawing or text may be reproduced in any form without written consent. Webmasters please note: written consent is necessary before linking this site to yours! Please forward requests to Sue Hamilton, 55 Town Line Rd., Harwinton, Connecticut  06791, USA or

John Senter during the 2000 Oregon Dune 
Mushers' Mail Run                 Senter photo

Points of View

...from John Senter, Oregon (USA)


Prior to 'discovering' the Inuit Sled Dog (ISD), I was running a small team malamutes. I am a recreational musher, not a racer. I had a good relationship with a working and show malamute kennel and could count on acquiring high quality pups from them as the opportunity arose. However, I had always wondered about the relationship between malamutes and 'Eskimo' dogs. I had also thought that perhaps the native dogs from the arctic might well be more hardy due to the environment in which they live. The few articles I had read on these dogs and the Yellowknife project lead me to believe that they were extremely rare and difficult to handle, so I pursued it no further.

Then, two things happened. First, I met Sylvia Feder in 1994. She had a very impressive three dog team of ISDs. A friendship was struck. Second, in 1996, Sylvia put me in touch with Mark and Sue Hamilton and, in due course, I received my first ISD, Ashe, a female from the Hamilton's 'A' litter.  A few months later, I received Bering, a male from their 'B' litter. Since then, I've  added Smokey, an ISD/Alaskan cross and my leader from the Capistrants in Wisconsin (USA),  Shadow from Jeff Dinsdale of Quesnel, British Columbia (Canada) , Stormy from Scott and Terry Miller of Minnesota (USA), and most recently Raven  from Donald Mearns of Pangnirtung on Baffin Island (Nunavut, CANADA). Ashe, sadly, is deceased, but Bering is in his prime and a powerful worker.

Impressions, similarities, differences 

My first impression was that the ISD could well be another malamute. I still think there were more similarities than differences. As I got to know Ashe and Bering, they really didn't throw me too many curves when I integrated them into the malamute team. In essence, I treated them pretty much the same as I would have any malamute.  In working these dogs, I found that they were very enthusiastic from the beginning. Most of the malamutes I had were good workers, but could sometimes be obstinate. This has not been an issue with the ISDs. I believe they are born knowing their jobs and wanting to work. It only remains for the musher to train them.

I had never been a great trainer of lead dogs. However, I decided to train Ashe to lead, mainly because she was young and the most likely prospect. It wasn't so much training as simply showing her what you wanted. She would then pretty much have it down.  She could really have spoiled me. Bering, on the other hand, is a terrific team dog, but was not a good, focused leader.

The primary differences between my malamutes and my ISDs were the latter's' heightened need to socialize with the other dogs and the need for specific high quality foods. With the need for socialization and establish a hierarchy came a certain propensity to fight, something the mal breeder had warned me about years ago.  Mark and Sue had also warned me that this would be an issue, because Inuit Sled Dogs live to dominate each other. In my personal experience, it has all been true, up to a point. But I don't think it was any worse than with some malamutes I'd owned over the years, which were always good for a brawl. These days I still get the occasional fight, but the dogs have lots of contact with each other and the result is that fighting is infrequent
and not serious.

I was informed by the Hamiltons that ISDs needed a certain quality of food [free of phytate-rich wheat or oats] to maintain good health, due to their primitive digestive system. High quality food is not just desirable, it is imperative.  Malamutes likewise need high quality food, but could endure a lesser quality food now and then.  Happily, I was already feeding a good quality food at the time and have simply continued providing that food. I have, however, become more cognizant of the ingredients of the different foods and what to watch out for.

Future -- preaching to the choir 

It is exciting to be involved with Inuit Sled Dogs. We are in a position to  preserve and protect these rare and wonderful dogs, so it's up to us to keep focused on certain issues. First, we must remember where these dogs come  from. We must honor and respect the Arctic people who live there and survive by using these dogs.  We must refrain from any breeding that will detract from the working qualities and abilities of these dogs. We should keep focused on working these dogs, to whatever degree the owner is able. These dogs deserve no less than this.

...and from Kathy Schmidt, Ohio (USA)

October 19 2001

To all people,

This is my answer to Janice Dougherty's (Who Belongs in the the ISDI, Volume 3 Number 4, August 2001).... The people in your photos driving teams... keep these dogs in the hands of mushers!

I've had malamutes all of my life... I've bred some really good sled dogs... and at 56 still keep my sled dog genetics alive... but also realize that 65 years of AKC registration have ruined my breed... wimpy, bad temperaments... lousy sled dogs... poor type... on and on and on.  The only way to keep ISDs alive and healthy is to keep them in the hands of the people using them [as sled dogs].

Kathy Schmidt

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