Responsible Husky Dog Sledding outside Riga Latvia

Wonderful Winter Fun With Rescued Huskies

DOING GOOD ON A DAY OUT IN THE FOREST

Latvia is a wonderful place for a winter break. But what is there to do near the Baltic when the weather isn’t warm? How about husky dog sledding in a snowy white forest near Riga? Just outside the country’s cool capital, you can meet some of these beautiful and eager dogs for a perfect winter day out.

If you are like me, making sure that your travel experiences are sustainable, respectful and responsible is extremely important. So when my family found out that dog sledding was an option on our recent winter break to Latvia, I needed to make sure that it was an ethically sound outing. But how can you tell? What does that mean? Must love dogs for a start. And these Latvians do. So will you.


RELATED: Slide Down the Olympic Bobsled Track in Sigulda | LATVIA

RESCUED SNOW DOGS

Working dogs by nature and nurture, Huskies and Malamutes require lots of exercise and activity to keep them happy. What happens when a family takes home one of these beautiful energetic dogs and can’t keep up with their needs? Often, the animals are given up. Here in Latvia, this is unfortunately true. Enter Sniega Suni, which literally means snow dogs in Latvian, owners Kristaps and Iveta began with one rescued husky and now have taken in 16 of these stunning animals. As requests to rescue dogs come in all the time, they have plans to try to help more in the future.

“I have already been called by three owners during this last month, unfortunately, I could not pick up the dogs, sent them to the shelter where they are now living, and as soon as we build our larger dog houses, we will take them,” says Iveta Preisa-Imaka, owner of Sniega Suni¹

Iveta believes that the responsible touring of visitors gives the animals the workouts they need while helping to pay for their feeding, maintaining and vaccinating. The dogs are obviously well-loved and cared for and have become part of Iveta’s family. She explains (in Latvian, translated by our tour guide Janis) that the dogs took a little while to get used to each other, but now are an inseparable pack and don’t like it when any of the group has to leave for any reason. You can hear it when some are hooked up to the sled and then again when the sled returns. Happy barking when the gang’s all back.

Iveta has trained the dogs for community outreach and works with local senior groups. She has goals to create a safe place where at-risk children can come engage and interact with the animals for free, because she feels that everyone opens up with a dog. Spend some time with these and you will too.

LET’S GO FOR A RIDE

Time to hit the track and do some dog sledding! A small sleek sled affords a tour for two people at a time. One person in your pair stands in the back stepping right onto the rails and acts as the driver. Your partner sits in front and enjoys the ride. We are given instructions on how to steer and how to stop, but are recommended to only use the foot brake if we might run into the dogs when they slow. It’s clear that they are eager to run and when instructed, take off with a surge down the path. Iveta’s partner Kristaps jumps in his van and drives ahead down the path to help turn the sled around and let the touring team change positions before returning to the start. I feel safer knowing that he is ahead if anything were to happen on the sled mid-track. It’s a 3-kilometer loop that takes about 15 minutes depending on how frisky your furry friends are feeling. I found they were fastest in the last 15 feet hearing the barks of their buddies.

TIME TO MEET THE DOGS

While two of our group slips down the snowy forest track behind their furry pack, the rest of us have plenty of time to love on the animals left waiting their turn. We learn which ones are Huskies and which ones are Malamutes. There is a mother-daughter pair and a step-brother/step-sister in the pack. Some are loud and bark for attention. Others quieter and snuggle in when you step up to pet them. All of them so so sweet and savor the attention. We were in heaven. And so much fur!

RESPONSIBLE TREATMENT OF SLED DOGS
  • Sniega Suni dogs are healthy and happy.
  • Dogs are rotated between tours to get appropriate rest periods.
  • The dogs are not required to go fast or very far.
  • Sled tours are weather dependent and won’t run when too warm to keep dogs from overheating.
  • These dogs are clearly treated with respect and love.

Iveta said that each dog may run up to 3 times per day, 6 days a week. They give the dogs one day off, not for physical reasons but for their mental health. She thinks they could run every day. When we have all had a go on the sleds, we get to reward the pups with a treat. We get a warm cup of tea plus a last bit of petting and then we’re all grins on our ride back to Riga. Ask any one of our family and we’ll all tell you it was our favorite thing we did in Latvia. We wouldn’t have won any races, but the dogs truly won our hearts. Husky dog sledding in Riga rocked.

RED FOX TOURS RIGA

We booked our sled dog tour through Red Fox Tours who picked us up from our apartment in Riga and drove us the 45 minutes to the forest where we met Iveta and Kristaps and their dogs. Janis was our extremely helpful and informative guide for the afternoon giving us tons of great local information and history about Latvia and Riga. He also acted as translator and tasty tea purveyor at the end of tour. Red Fox Tours were extremely accommodating and can create specific tours to entertain everything you might want to do in the area.

GOOD TO KNOW:

COST | starts at 50 €/ per person for 2.5 to 3-hour outing that includes:

  • Hotel pick up/drop off
  • Transportation
  • Safety and sled-driving instructions
  • 3 km or 5 km sledding
  • Tons of time for interacting with dogs
  • Tea
  • Lowering of blood pressure
  • Slap-happy grins
  • Support for local outreach programs
  • Memories for a lifetime

+371 29376677
info@redfoxtours.eu

NOTE: Red Fox Tours work with two different dog sledding companies and I can only offer my opinion about Sniega Suni, which run options on the 3 km track.

 

“Untold
T ravel Loving Family

44 thoughts on “Responsible Husky Dog Sledding outside Riga Latvia

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Are you afraid of dogs? They are big dogs, but seriously sooo sweet and very well behaved. And we really didn’t go that fast!

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      It made for the perfect balance along with bobsledding and trekking through the forest (by accident) – ha!

  1. I LOOOVE that these are rescue dogs who are earning their own living! I’m such a dog lover that I don’t think I could have brought myself to burden the dogs, but since they need the exercise, it eases my guilty conscience! Definitely pinned for later! #FarawayFiles

  2. I’ve always wanted to go dog sledding. I love that they are so considerate of the dogs. Do you know if there was a minimum age for kids? #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      Probably a minimum age for driving the sled, but I don’t think so for riding. Little ones could sit on parents lap? Make sure to check before you book!

  3. Clare Thomson

    We’ve met rescued huskies a few times at Hever Castle – they’re just the most adorable dogs. This experience sounds absolutely wonderful. I love that you all got to spend time giving the dogs some love as well. Aw…. #FarawayFiles

  4. Those dogs are adorable – I’ve been stalking your insta pictures and it looks amazing!!! Dog sledding is going on the bucket list for sure- I’m so glad there’s an ethical way to try it and spend time with those beautiful dogs. #FarawayFiles

  5. I have enjoyed your article. It looks like fun but I understand activities related to animals need to be researched and understood. I like what you have shown in here since the animals look healthy/happy and the sled is not that big (even though I do not know how much it weights). The other thing that pops to me from your article is the selection of the right breed for a pet. A lot of people get a dog because of their physical characteristics but do not understand their behavior. More insight into dog’s behavior will help with the problem of animals in pounds or shelters. #FarawayFiles

  6. I didn’t know you could do dog-sledding in Latvia (or indeed, that they get enough snow)! I’ve only ever tried it in the summer but I bet that it’s an entirely different experience in winter 🙂

  7. What a unique and fun experience! I’ve never even considered that something like this would be possible, but knowing it is, I just know my little one would LOVE it! He loves animals and the idea of getting to spend all that time with so many furry friends would be a dream come true! Wonderful! Wonderful! #farawayfiles

  8. I love that these dogs are rescued. It breaks my heart whenever I hear that pets have been given up. I have a post lined up about my own dog sledding experience here in Canada which involves me falling off the sled and having to run to try to catch up!!

  9. Aww what cuties! I really loved this post, Erin. Sounds like the dogs are taken great care of, and I love that they get a day off for mental health. What a fun day out for everyone. #farawayfiles

  10. We went sledding for half a day in Norway with Sven Engholm (a 11-time Finnmarkslopet race winner who now runs a dog sledding business), and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done traveling. This, however, is for such an amazing cause, and is so affordable! Here in Korea, I sometimes see someone with a husky or malamute walking around the city, and I literally want to tear their heads off. To me, it’s SO irresponsible! There’s nowhere to really run in Seoul + in the summer time, it’s 35 degrees and 90% humidity. I feel so bad for those poor dogs. 🙁 #farawayfiles

  11. Wonderful, Erin! I agree with you that we need to ensure that the tour operator manages and takes care of the dogs well. Have come across a number of irresponsible tours in Asia especially those that offer elephant rides – they don’t really care for the animals at all. Enjoyed your video 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    1. oregongirlaroundtheworld

      The season is definitely shorter here and is weather dependent, has to be cold, but not necessarily snowy – they have wheeled sleds when there is no white stuff on the ground. Just has to be cold to keep the dogs from overheating! So I was told!

  12. Trish @ Mum's Gone To

    How fantastic that rescue dogs are being cared for and trained in dog-sledding. When we were in Finland, learning to cross-country ski, some of our friends went dog-sledding but they were seated in a sleigh, I think. I love this idea of pairing up, with one person skiing on the back: looks much more fun.
    #farawayfiles

  13. Phoebe

    Such beautiful animals and so lovely to hear how well cared for they are. Riga is high on my list (we nearly went in February too but plans changed) so if we go in winter I’ll be sure to do this. #farawayfiles

  14. Omg those dogs look gorgeous – I just want to bury my face in their fluff! Sorry, I’ve composed myself now! I’d always wanted to do this but I do worry about the ethics of it – lovely to hear there’s good places to go where the animals are looked after! #Mondayescapes

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