Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Back to two dog two milers

On my second run of the day I decided to try Fir up front. I figured I really need to give these leaders a chance to lead or else I'm screwed this winter. I can train the yearlings to lead from scratch but they can't lead a six dog team. If I train them it will have to be two at a time,on short runs until I feel they have built up enough confidence and skill to have dogs running behind them. If they don't have the confidence they balk and create a tangle. There is a certian amount of pressure in being a lead dog and I don't want to push them to do more than they are ready for.

Well, I hooked up Ruger in wheel, first, because he lives in my backyard and I had to walk him down to the dog yard. Normally you hook the lead dog up first and his job is to hold the line out while you hook up the other dogs. Next I hooked up Fir. He would not hold the line out. Ten times he pulled the whole rig over to his house, knocking over the sled which was tied to the truck. Ten times I dragged him back. I knew he knew what I wanted, this is a former iditarod leader for crying out loud! But he would not listen. The tenth time Ruger got sick of him jerking him around and decided he needed a severe ass kicking. Some times dogs will do this. They will get aggravated at a dog in the team that keeps screwing up and try to discipline him. I can't have dogs disciplining each other, that's my job, besides they can get hurt. I broke up the fight but not after Ruger got some puncture marks in his face and Fir was limping. I looked around for a bite mark on Fir's leg. I can't find one. He also lets me handle it so it must not be too tender. Maybe it is bruised or maybe Fir is being melodramatic. That might sound far fetched but its not, sled dogs can actually learn to fake injuries in order to get attention. They learn to do it when they have a real injury and see how much attention they get. Simple Pavlovian conditioning.

So Fir's run was over before it started. I tried to run just Ruger and Doppler, but Ruger looked all befuddled. He is not a leader, never been a leader was not sold to me as a leader. At seven years old, I can't expect him to start now. It's not his fault. Some dogs just don't have what it takes. So I put him back. I feel bad that I haven't run him yet because I really like him. As soon as I get my leader situation worked out I will.

Next I tried Strider and Jack. It weant well. Both dogs are eager to run, listen to me, and seem to be slowly picking up commands. On the way up they hit the gut pile, but on the way back I convinced them to keep going. It's almost all eaten up by now so either they will learn "on bye" really well or eat the whole thing in the next few days, one or the other. It's kind of annoying to have there, but a good training opportunity, nonetheless. A two mile run is a two mile run. Not the greatest most exciting thing, but it went as good as expected. The way back is fun because it is almost all down hill and the dogs get a chance to open up. Strider is astrong puller but not the natural athlete these other racing dogs are. He works for me though, but if I had a serious racing team he probably wouldn't make it. I am gald to have him though.

I took a short break, watered Strider and Jack, went back to the house, checked my e-mail and had a glass of milk. I pondered who to run next.
JJ, with Doppler? What if she kept turning around? That would teach Doppler bad habits or ruin his confidence.
I walked back out to the dog yard after a half hour and there was Jack, banging out to the end of the chain, eager to go again. I figured, why not? It's not like two back to back two mile runs pulling an empty sled will kill him. He was up to five mile runs back in November with his previous owner anyhow. If anything he has gotten out of shape.
So I ran him with Doppler. Here is the difference between Doppler and Strider: Doppler is a very fast naturally athletic dog, but likes to look around a lot and doesn't pull as much. He did better than last time though. On the way down was when he really shined. He is a super fast super smooth runner, just like a grey hound. For a while there I think he and Jack were racing each other, for all his stockiness, Jack is pretty fast, but not quite Dopplers equal in sheer speed.

Jack started losing focus on commands toward the end of the run but I can't ask too much of him at this point. All in all he did really well. Doppler got a chance to run loose for a while as I hooked up Jack. It's fun to watch him zip around the dog yard, he really is poetry in motion. He came when I called him too, which is a plus.

I am thinking my biggest mistake was buying all these dogs my first year. I only need four dogs this winter and that is all I will probably end up running, at least for a while. I need to pick four dogs and just work with them. Having eight dogs is too many to choose from. It screws me up because I want to exercise them all and so I keep trying all these combinations and none of them are logging serious miles yet. I don't have time to always run two different teams even if I had two combinations that worked. I need to find my four best dogs and find homes for the rest.
I want to have a micro, micro, and I mean micro, kennel.


Blogger George Forgan-Smith said...

Interesting... I am still looking for a great alaskan malamute breeders do you know of directory or something?

March 31, 2006 at 6:55 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home