Saturday, April 23, 2005

Yukon's head

I let all seven dogs run around in the backyard today as I often do.
I got a chance to observe Yukon around the other dogs to see if it will give me any insights into his inherent personality/athleticism or anything else. I always find myself making observations of my dogs, looking for new insights into their behavior.

Its a big free for all in the backyard, but for the most part they get along. They mostly just run around and act crazy. Act like wild happy dogs. Both siberians and alaskan huskies have had a lot of the dog aggression bred out of them.

Yukon is not shy at all around the dogs. He is pretty bold and outgoing. He is definately not as graceful as my alaskans and not even "Cruiser" the othere sibe. He kind of lumbers around. Of course, Ruger was a lumberer also. Pulled like a truck though. Some of these alaskans are realy graceful and athletic, particularly Doppler and Fir. Must be the greyhound blood. They are beautiful to watch in motion. They are not only fast, they can stop and change direction on a dime. They are extremely light on their feet, always whirling around and jumping around, but perfectly in control, kind of like a cat.
I am kind of into the more old fashioned type of dog, but I have to admit there is somthing to be said for these racing dogs.

One thing I noticed about Yukon is that he would pick one dog and chase it around relentlessly and pester it to annoyance. Maybe that is a good sign. Maybe he won't ever give up in harness either. I hope so.
I think every dog I have can outrun him. But he kept chasing them and never gave up.

I noticed once again that he has a really big wide head and a short blunt muzzle. There has been some discussion on these among siberian enthusiasts. During the last SEPP evaluation they recomended this trait be bred out.

Among racers, the conventional wisdom is that large haeds are bad. They are thought to be too heavy for a running dog and put too much strain on the front end. Many alaskan huskies have little heads. Sighthound have small narrow heads also.

What I wonder though is that if this is such a detrimental trait to have why do all the natural sledd dog breeds tend to have big heads? Seems like nature would have selected against it. There must have been some advantage for malamutes, eskimo dogs etc. to have big heads or else they wouldn't have them.

I have a hunch it has to do with certian other traits, like dominance. The inuit more or less let dogs breed randomly, so what that would mean in dog society is that the dominant dogs would breed, like how wolves do.

I also think that maybe in a draft animal, as opposed to a racing animal a big head would be good also, because big strong dogs come with big heads. Almost like a molosser trait. If dogs are bred to develop large size, larger than the average size for domestic dogs, which is around 30 to 40 lbs, worldwide, then they grow big heads. Big in porportion to the body. Giant breeds like St. Bernards have big heads. It has to do with the growth hormone causing certian effects.

Abnormally large people develop big heads also, like people suffering from acomegally such as Andre the giant.

I also have talked to other dog breeders commenting on the relation to big heads and personality. Pointer breeders mentioned a big head and chest being associated with bold dominant personalities. A German shepherd breeder mentioned snipey heads being associated with nervousness.

If you think about it in general terms it makes sense. Greyhounds in general are shier and more nervous, and a dog like a rottweiler or a bullmastif would tend to be dominant.

Personally, I like dogs with bigger heads. I just think they look better.

New dog.

Ruger is gone. He has been gone for about 2 weeks. Not sure what happened to him. I was walking him on the logging trail near my house, the trail we ran on all winter and I thought I would let him off the leash a bit. Bid idea, I guess. he looked at me for a few seconds as I called to him and then took off into the woods. I never saw him again.

I know that you aren't supposed to let siberian huskies off the leash because they are prone to wander and chase game and can be gone for days before they decide to come back. They are a bit less domesticated than most dogs apparently, a bit less bonded to their owners. But more and more I hear about people letting their alaskan huskies off leash. People running them loose with an ATV, going on hikes etc. Alaskan huskies aren't the same as siberian huskies, they have other breeds mixed in.

So I had tried this with a couple of my alaskan huskies. I would walk them on the leash for a while and than after they were a little bit calmer, on the way back I would let them run off the leash a bit and burn off some energy. Stretch their legs out. I would call them back a few times to get them used to coming. JJ is kind of funny. She can't seem to get used to walking on a leash and jerks this way and that with all her might, then I finally let her off and she made a bee-line straight back to her house.

But Ruger I guess is more of an old fashioned type sled dog. I should have known that.That's why I liked him. I let him off and he was gone. Animal control hasn't seen him or heard of anyone finding him. I posted flyers around town, nothing.

Unless he is walking back to Duluth,(which is possible)or unless he's dead from getting hit by a car or shot by a Farmer for going after newborn calfs out in some pasture somewhere( which is possible also), Linda and I were thinking maybe he has become someone elses pet. He is a very sweet friendly dog.

People do that somtimes, find some dog and figure he is lost and no ones looking for him and take them in as their own. I have done it myself in fact. If that's the case, and this may be wishful thinking, that wouldn't be all that bad really. He was going on eight years old after all and would end up just being a pet anyway in a couple years as he retired.

So anyway, a lady at church was buying a house and the people she was buying it from had a husky and they couldn't take it with. They were moving to Minneapolis. I said I wasn't interested in a pet husky. People have this idea that any pet siberian husky can be a sled dog, but in reality many siberian huskies are just couch potatoes because many of them haven't been in harness for five or six generations and have lost most of their ability.

But then they said it was a sled dog and pulled on a team at one point. So I went and checked it out. The people were really nice. Just as I suspected it was a pet siberian husky from pet stock. The only work it had done was pulling a kids sled.
But I got a chance to look at the dog and he was a friendly little guy and kind of reminded me of Ruger. He had a big fat head like Ruger. He looked somewhat athletic, so I was a sucker and adopted him. His name is "Yukon King" named after a "famous sled dog" the Guy told me. I supressed a chuckle. Yukon King was a fictitious sled dog, much the same way this guy is. But time will tell. I'll give the guy a shot.

I got a chance to see some real siberian huskies a month ago. I went and visited Ann and Al Stead in Duluth, they have been breeding sibeian huskies for over 30 years and produced a line of race winning dogs. These were real athletes. It's kind of funny, I think siberian mushers are a little self conscious about usually getting beat by alaskan huskies and hound crosses, so they tend to breed racy looking siberians.

Alaskan husky mushers don't pay as much attention to conformation but mainly performance. I actually have some stocky built alaskans that are built more like what most people would think of as a siberian than most of the actual dogs in the Stead's kennel. They were all smaller sized wiry little dogs. About 22-24 inches at the shoulder 40-50 lbs.
This is the most efficient size for racing. They don't have short coats, but not so long and thick as to cause overheating.

"Yukon King" is the old version of the siberian husky, or maybe not even the old version, more like a show breeders version of what a siberian should be. Big masculine head,really thick coat, and huge paws. But what matters to me though is a work ethic. He'll either have it or he won't. If he works hard, he will make my team. I am not running speed demons. I actually do have some fast dogs, but out in the woods on an unbroken trail, we don't go fast. I also weigh down the sled. I am trying to build a freight team. So I was thinking about Yukon. If he is any good, if he has retained the work ethic of his ancestors, generations past, when they were sled dogs, not show dogs, maybe his build will be good for what I want to do. I need strong thick coated dogs, those are the qualities I selected my alaskans for. All the serious sibe people just race, maybe there are other uses siberians can excel in besides racing.

Well, here he is anyway. God looking, eh? He doesn't have much fur on his tail, apparently he got into a bunch of burrdocks and when his owners got them out it took out some fur with it.
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