Dog Islands

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Dog Islands

I am curious if any of the mushers keep their Inuit Dogs loose on "dog islands" in the Summer?

I've been in several

I've been in several communities in Nunavik, along the east coast of the Hudson Bay, where mushers leave their dogs to run free on an island through the "off season" but I've never seen this on Baffin. Typically, the dogs are "parked" several kms away from the community in the summer months, and then brought closer when the snow comes, being kept either in pens or on chains. At the end of Episode 6 in the TV series, there's a sequence with a team "on vacation" near Clyde River.


Oh, so you've seen some held in pens, mingling together? I've heard people that are adamantly opposed to letting the dogs mingle unsupervised, cause they believe fatal fights are inevitable that way. They claim that even in the old days the dogs were always tethered; which I find hard to believe. Either way, since in the old days each family had a "team" of only two or three dogs, I imagine such small group were lot easier to manage.

ken MacRury
dog islands

The use of islands for the dogs in the summer was wide spread all over the baffin area, usually one team per one island. In Frobisher Bay/Iqaluit there were many islands in the bay and when I had my team there were about seven teams put out on seven islands. In my case I would put the dogs out about mid-July, after all the ice was gone, and they would have free run of the island until mid-October when I would bring them home. During that time I would go to the island once or twice a week to feed the dogs, more often if there were young dogs under eight months. I had few problems with the dogs fighting but it did give the dogs a good opportunity to settle who was boss dog and that resolved any problems later when they were put to harness in November.

Dog islands, chains and historical memory

When we in Piksuk made the film "Qimmit: A Clash of Two Truths" recently, the question of how the dogs were kept when they were not in harness became a central point in the controversy. The NWT Dog Ordinance and hamlet bylaws (as the Inuit moved into settlements) dictated that dogs be kept on chains. Loose dogs became legitimate prey for Mounties, bylaw officers, others. But most elders we interviewed in both Nunavut and Nunavik insisted that this would weaken the dogs and that a "good team" would not cause problems even if the dogs roamed free in the summers. Of course, on the land that's one thing; when people are moved into settlements with their dogs, the situation changes. What actually happened varied from the settlement to settlement and depended on the actual people involved, Inuit and Whites both. Therein lies the complexity of this issue, although one central truth remains: The loss of the dogs, regardless of the particular circumstance, cut deep wounds into the lives of families and individuals. There are several parallel issues, and the outcome always depends on one factor: Who has the power?

Good to Know

Thanks Ken, that makes a lot of sense.

I have two (intact) males that are together in the yard. There is always tension between them; breaking out in a fight once in a while, but knock on wood, there was nothing serious so far.

Base Camp Bigfork
Our dogs at Base Camp Bigfork Dogsled Lodge

We keep our 16 Inuit Dogs in open pens free from chains. They are large pens with typically 2-5 dogs per pen. If certain dogs are not compatible they will fight. So it is important to monitor who is or is not getting along if you don't want to end up with a injured dog. Check out our youtube kennel tour to see our setup and meet our dogs.

More photos on our website

Lots of great photos of our dogs in action as well as information that is relative to the breed and how we use them.