Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rocket scientists

I must have a couple rocket scientists on my hands for dogs. I must have gotten lucky, or else dog training is a lot simpler than people let on.
Hard to say which. Of course my optimism might be causing me to forget all the frustration and heart ache. Probably that is part of it.
But these guys just about have it down.

I took Jack and Doppler out again today and boy was I impressed. They are really starting to learn these turns. I really marvel at this because I hate to admit but somtimes I screw up left and right. The other day I did with dogs and I was really kicking myself over it. So today I drilled it into my head that the snow hook holder is "Gee". So then I went out with the dogs on my training trail, going around and around the various loops making them go a different way each time.

I think at first they just picked up that when I hit the break before a turn they knew there werre two choices, so they tried one or the other and just waited to see if I let go of the break. But eventually they were hitting turns and I didn't need to break at all. They just did it. Then I mixed things up a bit and made sure they weren't just used to going a certian way. Well it seems like they really do know "Gee" and "haw". I think I need to reinforce it a few more times and then they will really have it down.

I couldn't be more proud of these Guys! I don't think just any two dogs could do this well. They obviously have special leadership qualities. For one they are both very affectionate dogs that seek my approval, especially Doppler. They also are both very enthusiastic to run. Obviously they have intelligence. I feell almost like I just got done building somthing on my own, like a porch or somthing. A real sense of accomplishment, it's pretty neat.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Laurel and Hardy

Free Image Hosting at

Here are the two knuckleheads, Jack and Doppler. Actually they are not knuckleheads at all. They are doing pretty well. I took just the two of them out today and worked on turns. They each have their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Doppler is more eager to please and is catching on to commands faster and Jack is the harder puller and better worker. They are total opposites actually. Doppler is tall and narrow with a short coat and built for speed. Jack is short and stocky with Bulging muscles and a thick coat. Doppler is shy and submissive. Jack is bold and boisterous. They are both crazy to run though.

Doppler is not shy when He sees me getting ready for a run. He goes crazy. Even more than Jack. Both protest loudly telling me to hurry up. After I hook these two up the dog yard is fairly quiet.
After a little two mile run on the logging trail I went and got the camera nad snapped some pictures of my apt pupils. I feel like this one on one training is really bonding me to them. They are interacting directly with me and not just as part of a group.
I am getting a real kick out of this leader training, I think these two knuckleheads are too.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Yukon Quest

For me the next week or so is Superbowl sunday, or the World series! The Yukon Quest sled dog race is on. Its a race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Faibanks, Alaska. (alternate years its the other way). Think Iditarod on steroids!
IMO this is the toughest sled dog race in the world. Compared to the iditarod there is rougher more remote terrain with fewer checkpoints. I think there are eight checkpoints to the iditarods 22. Right now the racers are in a trackless 200 mile stretch of wilderness. I have been following the race on the official website Yukon Quest. But the mushers are on their own right now until first racers arrive in Dawson somtime around noon today. There are no updates untill then. During this long 200 mile stretch the mushers have to pack extra food and figure out the best strategy of run and rest to get to Dawson ahead of the competition.
Some teams are steady marchers that move slower but rest less frequently. Others move faster and stop and rest more frequently.
The person I am rooting for is a Minnesota musher Blake Freking. He is last years winner of the Beargrease sled dog race and the only one to have won it with purebred siberian huskies. He has been holding steady in tenth or eleventh place. Will he pull ahead in the long stretch between Pell crossing and Dawson? Stay tuned!

Yukoner and fellow blogger, Stacie, with the inside scoop:
Chaos Kennel 13
KUAC radio Fairbanks where you can listen to audio clips of race coverage:
Some cool video clips of the race:
Video Album

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Love Stinks!

What would put my toughest best eating dog, off his food for three days, and cause him to pace around all day and whimper like a whipped puppy?
Only unrequited love!

I had a cockamamy idea that I would breed Ruger to JJ. Its not a cockamamy idea altogether. They are my two hardest pulling dogs and are both proven race vetrans. There are probably better dogs I could find though. I do like tough old fashioned huskies with good coats though, and they are becoming harder to come by.

But the reason I decided against it was all the money and time involved with raising pups and finding homes for most of them. My wife helped bring me back down to reality while Ruger was in the back yard wooing JJ and trying to mate with her the way dogs do. She was both attracting him and playing hard to get at the same time in their little courtship ritual leading up to her finally allowing him to mount her. Before it got to that point I came back to my senses and put Ruger back on his chain.

The poor Guy has been pining for her ever since. Today he ate some food for the first time. He had lost some weight and worn a trench into his area from pacing.

He seems to be finally getting over it and JJ is hopefully coming out of heat. It will be nice to be able to run them together again. They are an awsome pair in wheel that add power to a 4 to 6 dog team comperable to switching into 4 wheel drive on an icy road.

Friday, February 11, 2005

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.

I laid some more track in with my snow shoes. I have three loops now with five different intersections to use to teach turns. It is interesting to observe the mental processes of my two lead-dogs-in-traing, Jack and Doppler, as they learn.

There is one interesection that is especially hard, where the dogs could either do another lap on the main loop or go back to the dog yard. I stood there on the brake at the intersection. You aren't supposed to repeat the command over and over agin for various reasons. It's poor training for them. They should only need to hear it once.

The dogs were stretched out poised right at the intersection. I had given the command for "haw". They seemed to be thinking. I wondered what was going on in their little heads. Was it:
Gee, I'm confused. This Gee Haw stuff is really hard.

or more along the lines of:

Man, he wants us to go around agin? I would rather go back into the dog yard and sniff that bitch that seems to be going into heat. How can I keep the big Guy from raining on our parade? Maybe we can act dumb and look innocent.

I came up with an idea to test my hypothesis that it was the latter and not the former. I reached down and rolled a snow ball and beaned Jack with it. He immediately roused himself and pulled the team left onto the trail.

I am finding that Doppler is really come into his own. He has more of the responsible attitude of a true lead dog. After this snow ball incident he never missed that turn and often either dragged or nudged Jack in the right direction. They hop back and forth over each others backs and may be on different sides when we come to the turn.

On my next run I think I will just work on turns with Doppler and Jack alone pulling an empty sled.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Today I spent some time on the track I have made on my land. Its god for working with small teams and leader training. I ran Pumpkin, Jack, Cruiser and Doppler on on run and then later I ran Jack by himself and Doppler by himself.
It was a new experience for Jack to run by himself pulling a sled, But He caught on and dug down and pulled. I am working on teaching him commands. When I tried Doppler, I thought he would not do quite as well as Jack because Doppler is not as strong but the whole time I was working with Jack, Doppler was quite impatiaently protesting from his chain asking me "why can't I go?" "Why can't I go?" "Please? Please?" "Oh, come on!"

You may think I am anthropomorphizing but those were his exact words. Except the dog mouth is not designed to make consonants, only vowel sounds.

So By the time It was Dopplers turn he was so full of pent up energy, he shot around the track.
I think Doppler is better with commands too and is very eager to please me. I still think these two dogs are my best leader prospects even though they are yearlings.
Jack knows how to talk too, but He says things more along the lines of "Hey, Buddy, what do you think you are doing? I am the one that gets hooked up first! or Hurry up with that food."
Or "Boy am I glad to see you! How bout a hug!"
Most of the time though he likes to shoot me quizzical looks.
Both of these young Guys look at me with a degree of admiration, and that may be the main reason why I like them in lead. As someone once said, If I can strive to be half the person my dog thinks I am I will be doing well, indeed!

Strider finds a new home

Image Hosted by

Strider wasn't really working out as a sled dog. He was too big and slow. It was hard for him to keep up and it caused him stress so he would get diarrhea. Poor guy! He really tried hard, though. He would get really excited before a run and jump high in the air. I think he was just excited to get out. He also would rather be a house dog, I think. He liked being around people more than just hanging around the dog yard with the other sled dogs. I do miss him a little.
We found a nice family for him. They seemed to really hit it off. It was a young couple with three small kids. They wanted a big friendly dog that had a scary bark so he could be a watch dog.
That fits strider to a tee. He has a big scary German shepherd bark but is a big baby that wouldn't hurt a flea. But if you didn't know him and came over to the house and he barked at you and you got a look at his piercing blue eyes you might be quite intimidated. That's all that is really needed for a watch dog.
The rest of the time all Strider wants to do is play and cuddle and shake hands. I think he will be pretty happy and they will be happy with him. It worked out well for everyone.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

New Trail.

Well, I snowshoed in a new trail on my own land. I am not the greatest at estimating distances, but it might be a 3/4 mile loop or maybe a half mile. It's somewhere in there, anyway.
It encircles a section of my Norway pine plantation. I will get a picture up tomorrow. It is habitat for several snoeshoe hare. It's kind of neat to mush through there. The trail I made cuts right through the middle and the trees are so close its like mushing through a tunnel. There are serveral turns for the dogs to practice commands on. I ran Jack and Doppler in lead and Ruger an JJ in wheel.
Jack and Doppler are catching on with the commands. I did about 3 passes through the trail, the last one we went the opposite way so the dogs would learn commands better.
I notice doppler isn't the greatest puller when we are going slow. It was a soft trail yet so things were slow. I don't want him to pull too hard since he is in lead, but he needs to keep his tug tight.
Tomorrow I will try some of my other leaders and give Doppler a break.
If nothing else this little trail of mine will be great for leader training. Jack seems pretty confident in lead. I think he is an exceptional dog.
I bought a trailer hitch to put on my truck. There is a guy at my church that might be able to weld it on. Once I get that taken care of I can truck out with the dogs in search of trails and eventually go on a trip. I am hoping I can. The winter is still young and I hear early spring is the best time for cross country trips with dogs anyway. I will try to use the mnth of Feb to get them in condition.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Well while I was out with the flu, and not running dogs, some big changes took place in my little sledding microcosm. My neighbor apparently wanted to do some logging so he had the little trail I was running on bulldozed flat and graded. There is absolutely no snow for the first mile of trail. This is the part that my driveway connects on to. So I can't use that.
Meanwhile, we have had a few days of balmy 35-40 degree weather and the roads are all sloppy and muddy now. So I can't run on the road. Some parts aren't that bad. I'm not sure I still might use it.

So today I got my own little bulldozer, Jack, and worked on laying a little trail of my own through a stand of Norway pines on my 40 acres. I got the special training leash and put his harness on him and got to work with him breaking trail. It's fun working with such a confident little guy, invariably he screws up and I correct him, but its impossible to dent this guys boundless enthusiasm. He seems to be really picking up "gee" and "haw". He is good at forging ahead out in front of me where there is no trail. This is harder than it sounds, not all dogs can do this, especially yearlings. But Jack is a little bulldozer. Ifter one pass around the little loop I was a pretty out of breath. I'm still getting over the flu so I thought I woukld head in and rest. I had a bit of a coughing fit.

I might get some snow shoes and lay it in even better, then on days like today where the trail is unuseable, we could have our own little track. The other thing I am going to do is put a new hitch on my truck so I could tow the dogs out to other places in search of trails. Some mushers have to do this every time they run so I have been lucky.