The Greenland sleddog is one of the kindest dogs. It is very social and likes people. Should you ever care for one, it will love you for the rest of its life.
You can meet one in the dog sledging districts, which encompasses the entire region of East Greenland and north of the polar circle in West Greenland.
The Greenland sledge dog is adapted to the polar regions and thrives outside in all kinds of weather, except when it rains. Then he will wander restlessly, bound by his chain and wishing for a shelter. He is not particularly fond of water, but because of his training he won’t hesitate to throw himself into it to cross a gap in the ice. He has a thick fur consisting of a layer of fine wool covered by some longer hair. This protects him against cold and precipitation. In addition he needs a layer of fat beneath the skin as isolation during the winter, where temperatures drop to anywhere from –20 to –40 degrees Celsius. Even though he is equipped to withstand extreme cold, he easily handles the summer as well. Like other dogs his tongue and respiratory system work very efficiently to expel surplus heat, all though he prefers a shaded spot to rest in and lots of cold water, when the sun is high.
The Greenland sleddog will eat anything, but does not require as much as one would suspect. His favourite dish is seal, but unfortunately this is not always available and it is not equally obtainable everywhere. Hence on the west coast the dogs are often fed with carcasses from fish. It has also become common to feed the dogs with regular shop bought dog food, which they really like. If the dogs were allowed to choose, they would pick the dog food. They are probably smarter than one would suspect, since the dog food contains all of the necessary compounds the body requires.
Their greatest passion is to pull - they simply love it - and running of cause. This is the traditional use for the Greenland sleddog. They can pull an equivalent of their own weight for hours, days and even months – as long as they get fed enough to handle the physical work. He is not the fastest dog but he is very strong due to a well developed muscle mass and powerful legs. Not to mention a strong will to please his master. People believe he is dangerous and will bite. This is also the case if he isn’t fed properly or being treated badly and therefore one should always be careful when approaching a dog. But as long as a sledge dog is being treated well he will be nice to anyone – except other dogs that try to steal his food!
The Greenland hounds are pack animals and they have there own social order within the pack. They protect their own pack and are most comfortable when together. However fighting can still occur within a pack. There will always be a male or female dog, which believes he or she should be the leader but others may disagree. The real leader however is the rider of the dog sledge and the dogs know this very well.
It is a very versatile race and is useful in most situations, also as a pet dog. Children will love this, but beware. He is a big dog who will not differentiate between playing with a small child or someone older. They make good company when wandering the in the mountains and can carry half their own weight in a specially made bag. In this bag he can carry food for both himself and his owner for several days. It will also please the dog to accompany you on jogging trips in the mountains or by the fjord and he will (generally) always stay close.
In Greenland the Greenland hound has been used for thousands of years as a working dog - in the beginning for moving between settlements and later for hunting and fishing. There was a mutual dependency between the people and the dog. During bad times when food for the family was scares there would also not be sufficient food for the dogs, and some would be used for “emergency rations” for both people and other dogs.
It is only within the last decade that the need for many dogs in a family has appeared. In the old days fewer dogs were enough, but with fishing the sledge has become a much more important means of transportation for the fish. The fishermen often have to cross large distances through mountain terrain with a heavily loaded sledge and to do that, they need a larger number of dogs to pull the sledge. It is not unusual to see 10-20 dogs pulling a 200-300 kg loaded sledge near the town of Ilulissat.
In the hunting districts hunters travel with their dog sledges when hunting musc ox, rain deer or polar bears. Now it is even possible for foreign hunters to go trophy hunting for musc ox and rain deer with the local hunters.
Dog sledging has also become a sport. In many towns there are races between the local sledge drivers and their dogs and those who win can attend the National Championship, which is held every year in Northwest Greenland. However, not every one can attend since it would be practically impossible to transport ones dogs and sledge from let us say East Greenland. The largest share of Greenland’s dog population is situated in Northwest Greenland though. The two towns of Uummannaq and Qasigiannguit take turn on being host for the races.
Dog sledge trips with tourists are perhaps the biggest source of income through the dogs today. One can now buy such trips anywhere in the dog sledge districts and travel around enjoying the beautiful nature. There are many different trips: short trips, several days long trips, hunting trips, fishing trips, etc.