Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Life around the dog yard

Next couple days are supposed to be 50 below with a high of 20 below. Contrary to what some of you may have heard, most mushers don't train in 50 below. They may talk tough but unless they are in the middle of a race, that is a good time to stay inside and give the dogs a rest.
There is risk to the dogs also, even arctic breeds. Males can freeze the tip of their penis, for one.
That right there, is reason enough for me not to run them. That is probably another thing you don't hear about very often in non-mushing circles. But it is serious business and is said to be slow to heal.
I got slight frostbite on my ear already running in 20 below. Another injury that can happen to mushers is that they can freeze their corneas.
So, though I am one to usually jump at the chance of adventure and run off half cocked, usually. Training in 50 below is an adventure I will opt out of.
So I just figure I would make a few posts about life around the dog yard. People interested in the outdoors have probably gotten litle snippets about dog mushing, here and there, on the travel channel, or in National Geographic, but there are little details about mundane things that are kind of funny that you don't always hear about.

One detail is that sled dogs love to pee. Male sled dogs that is. That is their idea of being macho and showing all the other dogs who is boss. Don't leave anything within striking distance of a male sled dog or it will get marked and marked a lot. Probably a male sled dogs doghouse gets peed on at least ten times a day, probably more. If you give them some fresh bedding ( I line their houses with straw) that will get peed on. "This is MY straw". is what they are saying.
I read another mushers blog that had a tree fall down near one of her dogs area. He showed that tree who was boss and marked it about three times every half hour.
If you stand in one spot too long you are fair game as well, or your truck, coat, sled, anything.
My one dog Doppler, actually has a foot high yellow ice sculpture on the wheel axle he is staked out to.

This is one reason why many people don't bring their dogs in the house. You can though. they can be trained to be house pets, but in my opinion they are a little different than most pet dogs. More high strung and destructive. If you have ever seen the movie "gremilins" you will have an idea of what bringing my sled dog team into the house for the first time would be like.
These are outdoor dogs.

As far as noise goes, they are really not all that noisy. That is, unless they think they are about to be fed, or about to be run. They look for little clues when they see me walking around in the dog yard. I time the feeding times about 12 hours apart. Roughly, 10:00 am and 10:00 pm. So they know that routine.

But as for running them I run them at different times, and my schedule varies, so they don't know exactly when they will be run. So they look for "clues" to gauge my behavior. If I have the poop bucket and a trowel in my hand, its obvious what I am about to do. If I pick up a harness, they might indicate somthing, so there begins to be a little bit of a din. If I touch the sled at all, they begin to jump around and carry on, but if I appear just to be moving it, it dies down. When I set it up and begin stretching the line out in the snow, they know what is about to kick off and they get pretty crazy.

Excpept for Ruger. He is a really quiet dog. It is almost like he is a sled dog mime or somthing. He goes through all the motions but never makes a sound. I have heard him whine maybe once. He can howl just like a wolf or a coyote, but otherwise he is silent.

The rest of the times the dogs are quiet. I had a dog that would get loose. This was Strider. He was chained to a steel cylinder that I found. I think it was a tractor axle. The wheel end was pretty big and it had a steel shaft of about a foot long and three inches in diameter. The car axles, which I use for the rest of the dogs, had a longer thinner shaft with a smaller wheel base so I pounded them in with the wheel hub on top. But this tractor axle was top heavy and really short. I think it was for the front wheel. I burried the hub and looped the chain around the shaft.

Well, Strider is a leaper. He can leap almost six feet in the air straight up. He figured out how to flip the end of his chain off this steel shaft. But he would only get loose during feeding times or hook up. Like the rest of the dogs the other times he was quiet. I finally switched him though and put Pumpkin in his area, whonis not a leaper.
When they aren't running it is kind of a boring life. Some dogs will run all day though and wear a mote into the dirt path they make running around and around. I have one like that, Cruiser, the siberian husky.

The social structure, loosely resembles that of a wolf pack. They aren't really wolves, but closer to the wolf than other dogs, especially Ruger. He may indeed have a little wolf blood a ways back. His eyes reflect light really brightly and shine green at night in the headlights of my truck, when I come down to feed him.
He likes being part of his little pack too. The one time I heard him whine was when I was keeping him in the back yard before I got his spot set up in the dog yard. He wanted to be out there with them.


Anonymous Alaskan Malamutes said...

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

March 31, 2006 at 6:47 PM  

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