Learn Dog Mushing in College
Did you know that students at two of Alaska’s universities can learn how to dog mush?
Our own managing partner of Mushing, Robert Forto teaches the course each winter.
The course(s) aptly called Dog Mushing, is really an introduction to the lifestyle, several dog powered sports, history, and a lot about outdoor leadership. Over the course of the semester, the class comes out to Forto’s sled dog kennel, Team Ineka, and they learn everything possible about what it takes to be a high caliber mushing team. Forto holds a master’s degree in sports management and is working on his doctorate in strategic leadership and wants to impart wisdom he has learned on and off the trail with the students.
“The reasoning behind covering leadership is to introduce the students to different styles of leading teams and to help them build connections that they can use later in life, well after their college experience,” Forto states.
“I hope in doing so, the students learn that a dog team is much like a company. You have your leaders and followers, and they must all get along,” Forto adds. “Understanding how a team operates is so crucial in the business world today, we just hope that these students can take away some skills that will help them later on,” Forto explains.
Over the course of several weekends the class spends a lot of time learning how to “drive” a dog team, dog care, and proper handling in the midst of chaos. “Learning to mush is so much more than staying on the sled,” Forto said. “You must learn how to read the dogs and give them what they need to be successful. I have been mushing for almost 30 years and I am still learning all the time.”
Forto’s kennel is comprised of three dozen dogs, most of which are Alaskan Huskies from some of the top distance kennels in Alaska. “The dogs here are very different than those than what was in that old Disney movie, Iron Will. These are purpose driven canine athletes and they will do anything to run,” Forto explained.