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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sled Dog Spring Activity; Obedience Class for Phoenix

Phoenix trying to calm his excitement before class.

Heeling exercise.

"Come fore" command.

"Stand for exam" command.

"Down" with a hand signal.

The second dog chosen for obedience class this spring is Phoenix, an 18 month old Hedlund Husky. This particular evening proved to be a much dryer one than the previous during Ilu's class. Either way, rain or shine, we go.

Does teaching a sled dog, or any dog for that matter, to heel and not pull, interfere with their learning to pull a sled or cart? Not at all. Dogs are very smart and can tell the difference between walking on a leash and wearing a harness. "With the leash attached to my collar, I don't pull." "With a line attached to the back of my harness, I pull." Its all about positive training. It doesn't even matter which comes first.

Points Unknown sled dogs will go to puppy socialization when they are between 8 weeks old and 4 months old. They won't be hooked up in the team until they are at least 6 months old, then it is only for very easy and short runs. They may only run with the team twice a week at this age. Their bones are still growing at this point and damage can be done to joints if they are asked to do too much at an early age. At a year old, most of these dogs are ready for more strenuous and longer runs, keeping in mind that they are still growing.

When they attend obedience class for the first time depends upon timing. They may go to obedience class before any strenuous runs in the team or they may wait until they are three years old depending upon who else is ahead of them or who needs it more at that particular point in time. For instance, Tuloon, an almost three year old Hedlund Husky, will go to obedience class next spring. This girl had a serious injury to a back leg when she was very young that meant she had a recovery period of almost a year. Her second year was all about running with the team, gaining strength in that leg and just getting to be a normal dog. This year she will be having puppies, making next year, at the age of four, her year for class. Having had so much one on one time her first year during recovery, she is quite obedient and it isn't as important to rush her class time.

Phoenix's class will end next week. He has been a very good student, always keeping his eyes locked to mine to make sure he doesn't miss a command. It took him some time, being the puppy at home, to figure out how to deal with all of these dogs that were younger than he who would fly into his face, licking frantically or lay flat on their backs when he approached. After a while, he decided that he kind of liked being the "big dog" at class and having everyone bow to him. He got more comfortable and figured out that he could play with them and be the boss at the same time. "Pretty cool!", he must be thinking.

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