Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A Day in the Life.....
Today we awoke to the most amazing sunrise over the dog yard. It had been cold enough that a complete layer of ice formed on Oake Lake over night and the sunrise reflected on it. The dogs howled to welcome the new day before breakfast was served.
After breakfast, the dogs rested two hours before we began to load for our training runs. It would be out second run after resting over a week during deer hunting season when being out on the trail is just plain dangerous. We would be trying some new harnesses for the very tall dogs that would free their hind ends from the downward pressure that comes with being tall and pulling a heavy load.
The "shorty" harnesses as we began calling them are actually called saddle back harnesses because they rest on the dog where a saddle would on a horse. Our big wheel dog, Ilu would be testing one as would all of our tall boys Klaus, Phoenix, McKenzie, Oken and Zodiak. After using them, I was impressed with how some dogs took to them and how they seemed to fit quite nicely, however on other dogs, it was very difficult to adjust them to make them fit. More testing is needed. Every dog using them seemed to pull just as hard except for Klaus and it could be because of an improper fit. Once back in his old X-Back harness, he seemed to feel much more at home.
Oken, the just over a year old pup, was up in lead with uncle Klaus today and we practiced "gee over" commands which means move from where you are to the far right side of the trail and hopefully stay there until another command is given. His attention span was fairly short so he moved back to point position behind the leaders and Journey took his spot. Journey is a year and a half old and hasn't been up in lead for several runs. She forgot nothing and did the most wonderful "gee over" down the trail with Klaus.
Tuloon and Phoenix are the leaders of the second team. This is Phoenix's first year in full-time lead and is giving Tuloon a run for her money. Tuloon, being the princess she is, sometimes decides what is best for her rather than what is asked of her. This happens for but only for a moment until she hears the ever so familiar "aaah" sound make from deep within my throat or the "on-by" command which means, "no, you can not take us into the field of horses" or "yes, there are cattle down that ravine looking up at us but let's not bother them and just stay on the trail" Phoenix, on the other hand, straight as an arrow, takes us down the trail with complete focus.
Both Phoenix and Tuloon took commands wonderfully today. Since I want them to work independently of each other, I don't use a neckline. When one of them appears confused about which way to turn the other may go behind them and pull them in the proper direction, reinforcing my command. Otherwise, if neck lined together, one may be hesitant to invade the space of the other to move in the proper direction because being tied at the neck, they can't go behind each other without a severe tangle. On the other hand, there is a time and place for neckline use with leaders as in the case of Klaus and Oken. Oken needs all of the reinforcing direction he can get, being a big boy puppy, and Klaus needs to learn to have the confidence to push into him or pull him from the neck when a command is given that Oken hasn't yet learned. In this case, a neckline is used. Each situation needs to be assessed and each dog needs to be worked with in a way that works best for them. After one too many missed commands on Oken's part today and an appearing frustrated Klaus, the neckline was removed so Klaus could have free movement again to go behind Oken to make a turn, if necessary versus constantly having to pull or push him from the neck. Klaus just needed a break.
Ilu got his first chance out of wheel in ages and was placed behind the leaders with Journey and then Oken once the leader swap was made. Ilu took advantage of his new freedom on occasion and tried to pull the team over one way or another to check out something neat but quickly corrected himself when "asked".
After two successful training runs the dogs were unloaded, placed back in their kennel groups, had their collars taken off for safety and were fed a light snack with some water baited with fat.
Tuki and Isis, two of our retired dogs, were then exercised in the yard, and ran wildly around and around. Zulu, another retiree, was taken for a walk with his grandson Zodiak. After the retired dogs were exercised it was time for the evening feeding after a short one hour break for the mushers. The evening dinner consisted of a Redpaw 32/20, a Redpaw 38/25, a Redpaw Balanced Fat and some rice in various quantity combinations based upon the individual dog. After which is a second round of watering with fat baited water. Poop is scooped as it is numerous times throughout the day and then tonight, straw was added to all of the dog houses.
The evening ended with a contented howl from the dogs as we said good night and see you dark and early in the morning!