Design Your Kennel: What’s in a Name?


The Brotherhood Kennel – created on

It is not long now before the Last Great Race on Earth®, and my students are spending time getting to know mushers and their teams.  We learned a lot from Mary Helwig and her kennel, named after her beloved lead dog, Bravo.  Mushers name their kennels for very personal reasons, and their kennel logo or brand sometimes shows a lot about their personalities and what they care about. We decided to create our own kennel names and design a logo that reflected our passion for mushing as if we really lived this special life in Alaska.

Musher kennel web sites offer a glimpse into a unique world known by few.  My class, the “20 Lucky Huskies” learned quite a bit about the 2016 Iditarod mushers, their lives, and what graphic design techniques are used to name and create a successful kennel brand.

Brent Sass, named his kennel after the Hobo Jim song, “Wild and Free” which inspired him to live out his dreams in remote Eureka, Alaska.  One of his first sled dogs, Silver, inspired him to keep trying and believing in himself.  Musher Paige Drobny, and her husband rookie musher Cody Strathe have the most unusual kennel name…Squid Acres Kennel!  Squids don’t really have anything to do with the Iditarod, but Paige did study them as a biologist, so that became a personal touch for their kennel name.  It is certainly memorable!

My students were intrigued by veteran champion, Lance Mackey’s Comeback Kennel logo.  What did it mean to have a half man-half husky dog image for your brand?  I told my students the remarkable story of Lance’s return to the sport of mushing after surviving cancer, and how he believed that the love of his dogs gave him strength and courage.  Then, they understood the design perfectly.  The logo for Crazy Dog Kennels made my students smile.  Musher Zoya DeNure’s kennel name and whimsical design seemed to represent what a kennel of husky dogs must really be like!  

In Writer’s Workshop we made an anchor chart and noticed some special features of the kennel websites and this unique form of writing.  The mushers share their personal stories of life in Alaska and their mushing history on their sites.  They also share their love of their dog teams, and many have pages on their sites dedicated to introducing the team to fans.  They also encouraged people to come visit their kennels in Alaska and learn more about the sport of mushing and offer support for their team.  We took on the challenge of creating our own “about” page for our fictional fans to learn more about us:

Can you easily tell which kennel brands are professional and which were designed by 4th graders?  We used the Canva website to create our logos.  The graphic tools are easy to use, and images can be layered on top of each other like any high-level design program to create amazing pictures.  Then, we used the Pages app to write and print our fictional musher biographies and describe our kennels for our websites and “fans”.  

Use some of our website writing to use as mentor text in your own classroom.  What will your kennel name be?  What is your musher story?  Use the 2016 Iditarod musher profile page to find kennels and research them.  Why did the musher give their kennel that particular name?  Look at their logo.  Do you think their brand is memorable?  Now it is your turn!

Following Footsteps Kennel

The Brotherhood Kennel

Karma Kennel

Blanco Dog Kennel

Cuddle Kennel

Dogs Built for Snow Kennel

Create a Kennel Web Page – Lesson Plan

Learn more about the mushers in this post!  

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Follow my journey this year as 2016 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail™. We have partnered with Skype as a virtual field trip experience, and I will be sending recorded video messages daily along the trail to classrooms around the world.  Sign up for a free Skype account first, and then join the “Iditarod Classroom Club” to follow along.  Remember, you must have a Skype account first, or you only be in my club for 24 hours as a guest!  Click the link below:

Iditarod Classroom Club