What’s it like driving your own team of husky dogs in the Arctic of Norway?

Husky dogs in Svalbard, Arctic Norway
When I heard I’d be driving my own team of huskies in Svalbard I was excited but nervous: what if the dogs lead me into a ditch? Worse still, what if I accidentally run one of them over?

I’m a naturally clumsy person so the likelihood of one of these things happening is more than possible. But luckily, I discovered that husky dogs are very intelligent, trained to understand commands and have a great aptitude for spatial awareness. So really the question I should have asked myself was ‘how will the dogs handle me?’

Firstly, to go dog sledding I always thought there needed to be snow, but I was wrong, you can still go dog sledding without snow but you do it on WHEELS! Because of this, I should really be calling it husky carting or something, but I’ll stick with husky sledding for the sake of tradition.

After getting changed into super sexy hi vis attire, the experience of greeting the huskies was one of insanely loud barking and wagging tails – they are extremely excited to see visitors and they all compete against each other by trying their utmost to get attention.

It was really cute to see each dog with its own doghouse complete with a wooden plaque inscribed with its own name. Each pack of dogs are named with a theme in mind; like copper, silver, and gold for metals, and another pack were named after planets; Venus, Mars and Pluto (even though technically Pluto is no longer a planet). Giving them a theme makes remembering their names so much easier, something which can be difficult when the owners have over 100 dogs to look after!

Cute husky dog puppies in Spitsbergen, Svalbard

Newly born huskies

We also got the chance to see and hold some newly born huskies.

Husky dogs, Svalbard, Norway

The first thing we had to do was gather the husky dogs to the sleds, which as it turns out, is more difficult than driving the team of huskies (also known as ‘mushing’) because they are so powerful and energetic. We did this by securing the dogs between our legs before putting on its harness. Usually at this stage you’re able to discover who the really intelligent dogs are because they’ll lift up their paws and almost dress themselves. As you can imagine, I was seriously impressed by this. However, most of the time the dogs were too excited and jumped up and down every time I tried to put on their harness. I narrowly escaped a head-butt.

Harnessing a husky dog

Jasper, our guide demonstrating how to put the harness on the dogs. He did it with such ease, but I on the other hand…

Interestingly, the most intelligent dogs are strategically placed at the front of the sled as they are the ones who essentially direct where the other dogs needs to go, and the back dogs are the strongest ones and are therefore usually the biggest in the pack.

Husky dog sledding in Arctic Norway

Once the slapstick task of getting the dogs attached to the sled had been accomplished we were ready to go. I was standing at the back of the cart holding onto the handlebars and my friend Katie was sitting in the front seat probably feeling more scared than I was because she was putting her trust in my ability to steer the dogs. An ability which I had no previous experience of doing.

Pack of husky dogs in Svalbard, Norway

Water break!

Husky dog sledding in Spitsbergen, Norway

We ran up and down the side of the banking to fetch them water

To make driving easier, we were provided with three easy to follow commands, they were:

    • Gee: meaning turn to the right
    • Haw: meaning turn to the left
    • Whao: meaning stop

I was probably erring on the side of caution as the noise or word I used the most was ‘Whao’ which is supposed to be spoken in a really, deep stern voice. I was really impressed by how responsive the dogs were to my commands but admittedly, I didn’t want to take any chances so I was also quite liberal with using my breaks! During our safari I noticed other people using teams of husky dogs and was later told that some of the locals keep a few for private to use as a mode of transport. Living in such a unique and protected place the dogs can be preferable to cars or snowmobiles because they don’t damage the environment with the release of carbon emissions.

However, the dogs did release their own gas… yep that’s right, the dogs kept farting in our faces as they ran gleefully along Adventdalen, and it especially hit poor Katie who was sitting right behind them on the seat in front of me! But as we turned around to return back to camp, Katie and I switched places so it was time for me to endure my share of doggy pooping which was further accentuated by the speed we were travelling at. Aside from the wiffy presents that the dogs kept generously dropping, it was really spectacular sitting back on a seat shaped like a deck chair, enjoying the supremely beautiful Arctic scenery of snow-capped mountains, clear sky and the odd reindeer.

Spitsbergen, Svalbard mountain landscape

Arctic landscape, Svalbard

Kiss from a husky dog

A big kiss goodbye!

Though there are lot’s of ways to explore the Arctic, none will be quite as joyous as spending a few hours at the back of these furry fellas!

Would you like to go Husky Sledding in Svalbard?

A travel & culture blog specialising in Scandinavia and the Arctic, peppered with the rest of the world in between.

'What’s it like driving your own team of husky dogs in the Arctic of Norway?' have 14 comments

  1. October 10, 2013 @ 5:05 pm Mike | Earthdrifter

    That really looks like fun. Such great dogs too. I guess if you want to do it during ‘light’ season then it’s probably on wheels. Could be cool on snow in the winter too if the moon on the snow is lighting up the permanent night.


    • October 20, 2013 @ 4:01 pm admin

      I would love to try it in winter too! Doing it on wheels was definitely a funny experience and strangely therapeutic – the wind, the scenery, the motion of going forward – ahhh bliss!


  2. October 11, 2013 @ 11:35 am TheTuscan

    Oh the arctic, awe-inspiring! Missing the polar environment.


    • October 20, 2013 @ 4:06 pm admin

      It’s definitely one of my favourite places, aren’t we lucky to have visited… Greenland next eh? 😉


  3. October 13, 2013 @ 7:45 pm Richard

    Some cracking photos there, especially the top one of the never ending tongue!


    • October 20, 2013 @ 4:09 pm admin

      Thanks Richard it was easy to get carried away snapping these cheeky canines! Haha the dog with the big, sloppy tongue is my favourite photo too 😀


  4. October 17, 2013 @ 6:19 am Mary {The World Is A Book}

    This looks so fun even with the dog farts 🙂 The Arctic scenery is spectacular and what a great and memorable experience for you. I’d love to do this someday. Gorgeous photos, Shing. Those dogs are adorable!


    • October 20, 2013 @ 4:14 pm admin

      Haha, secretly I enjoyed all the dog farting 🙂 The scenery was so beautiful, and so untouched it made me feel really privileged to experience it. I hope you get there Mary… it’s easy to get to from the mainland of Norway.


  5. November 7, 2013 @ 12:51 am Mike

    Shing, this is one of my favorite blog posts that I’ve ever read. Totally serious. I’m a life long dog lover and the light of my life is my Golden Retriever, Phoenix. I’ve always, always wanted to go dog sledding with a real team like you did. That is absolutely brilliant how they have team names to remember the individual dog names. And how awesome you got to hold some puppies (puppies are my Kryptonite…they undo me). I’m so envious of you and I would love to go to Svalbard right now! Thank you, thank you for this 🙂


    • November 9, 2013 @ 10:39 pm admin

      Dogs really are a man’s best friend eh Mike? I really hope you get to experience driving a team of your own huskies – for a dog lover like you, you’d be in your mecca! Really happy you enjoyed reading it 🙂


  6. April 11, 2014 @ 8:09 pm Kathryn Burrington

    What a fantastic landscape and a great experience. While I didn’t get to drive when I recently went on a husky dog sledge ride, it was the highight of the trip for me and even more thrilling than seeing the Northern Lights. Jealous of you seeing the husky pups! so cute 🙂


    • February 24, 2016 @ 8:46 am Shing Yoong

      I agree, I had way more fun husky sledding than searching for the Northern Lights! If these gorgeous fellas don’t put a smile on your face then nothing can! 🙂


  7. February 22, 2016 @ 12:29 am Flora Baker

    This looks so fantastic! I’ll be in Svalbard this June and I definitely need to try out husky sledding – what company did you arrange it through?


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