Mushers and dogs from Canada, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho and more participated in the American Dog Derby at Bear Gulch on Friday and Saturday.

Mushers experienced race cancelations and less training time because of the lack of snow.

“We had no snow and a lot of our races got canceled, so we had to look for alternatives rather than have the dogs sit,” said Dave Hochman, a musher from Manitoba, Canada, who came in 3rd in the 12-dog-class race. “Because you put so much effort into them that you want them to be used for what they’re supposed to.”

For Hochman, spending time with dogs is a lifestyle, a sport and a hobby.

“First of all, you have to take care of your dogs year-round. No matter what, it’s a commitment,” Hochman said.

Hochman feeds his dogs with food he makes himself. He raises puppies and trains them to race in dog sled races. After they are trained, he sells some of them to other mushers. Hochman races against his dogs during his races sometimes.

Hochman starts training his dogs in September for the dog sled races. Mushers train months before the actual races so the dogs grow accustomed to running long distances in chilly weather.

Jordan Hillock crossed the finish line for the 28-mile run.

Jordan Hillock crossed the finish line for the 28-mile run. Photo credit: Rosemary Jones

Savannah Cook, a musher from Shelly, Idaho, placed 6th place in the second event. This is her first year as a musher and racing in the American Dog Derby was a last-minute decision.

Earlier in the year, she had decided to compete, but due to the weather, she considered backing out. A friend who also participated in this year’s derby reached out and offered her five professionally trained dogs so she could compete. Cook has four dogs of her own.

“We’ve only been able to do two days a week right now,” Cook said before the race. “We’ve had to come up to Ashton every time, so it’s been like four hours round trip drive time and the running. So, I’m not feeling actually as prepared as I would like.”

During the start of the American Dog Derby, both the 12-dog class and the six-dog class races started off in the morning on Friday and Saturday at 8:30 a.m. The larger team race about 28 miles per day and the smaller team of dogs raced about 11 miles per day in a loop.

After the longer races finished, there were two more smaller races. Three contestants competed in the Skijoring potluck race. Skijoring involves a person on skis being pulled across a trail by about three dogs.

Yeti, a Siberian Husky rests after the race.

Yeti, a Siberian Husky, rests after the race. Photo credit: Rosemary Jones


The races ended with the junior race, where Landon Johnson, a young musher, competes against himself and wins first place in that division because no other youth were present to compete.

Harleigh Dutton, nicknamed Hurricane Harleigh, placed 8th in the six-dog class race. She has participated in the American Dog Derby since she was two.

“My mom always wanted to when she was a kid and then when I finally got old enough to make the choice, I just found it was fun,” Dutton said.

Dutton feeds and takes care of seven dogs to race each year and she enjoys it.

“The way the dogs are working and the trees and all the scenery, it’s just awesome,” Dutton said.