Our latest run was dedicated to leader training for each of our eleven working dogs. Every dog in the Points Unknown kennel gets a chance to lead during our women's winter adventures when we first introduce the dogs and a sled to our participants. The first introduction consists of two dogs and a small sled. The majority of the dogs don't get much time leading a whole team, however and we wanted to work that into their skill set this season. We try our dogs in lead during their first very short puppy runs. This gives us some insight as to which way to go with their training from there and it gives them the chance, early on, to see what its like in the front. If it works the way we want it to, it becomes a good memory they quickly access when placed up in leader when they are old enough to actually be a full working member of the team.
White Feather and Topa will get their first taste of leading with one of our veteran leaders, in just a few weeks when we head up to Minnesota's northwoods for the holidays. During our latest run, they stayed in the truck and waited for us to return.
Each dog did an amazing job in lead. We couldn't have asked for a better job out of any of them.
Klaus - Excellent as always.
Oken - He's been heavily training in lead since he was 10 months old.
Tuloon - Back in lead after a partial season of Princess disorder. ("I think I'll go where I'd like to go so just hang on and deal with it")
Zala - This year's training has her focusing on lead.
Zodiak - He's grown up enough now to trust a little more up front. His line is quarter bouncing tight now he just needs a tad more focus. (Please, let's not follow the squirrel down the ravine, Zodiak)
Phoenix - Excellent drive and taking commands like a pro.
Journey - Ditto to Phoenix.
Sweet Pea - What has gotten into her this year?! She is actually excited about going and doesn't just act as though she's patronizing us. She had never vocalized after being harnessed before but now she is. She also did a superb job in lead and did so with great confidence, which she has been lacking in the past.
Icoa - She hasn't lead in front of a larger team for a few years. She remembered and was frankly awesome.
Ilu - He was the one that most surprised us. The last time he was in front of a larger team he was still immature. He did well while running but when stopped he would begin to be the goofy boy he is and try to socialize and go see this over there and that over here, etc. Our training objectives after his initial introduction to lead were not to work on all dogs in lead. We had to go another direction with our training at that time. Up in lead, off we go. When we stopped, he commanded our respect as he stood there so majestically. One reminder to stay still when stopped was all it took. What a great job, Ilu!
McKenzie - He came to us in the spring of 2008 at 7 years old. We have hesitated to put too much pressure on him by placing him in lead until he had fully settled in. He now has and we got to see what he is capable of doing. In wheel, we have had some training issues with him since his arrival. He gets so excited that he lunges into his harness but before he does that, he winds up by pulling back on his neckline and pulling the gangline of dogs ahead of him back too. We've made some progress on this item and were wondering how being in front would affect this tendency. Up he went and to our delight, there was no lunging and no winding up. He maintained a tight line with eyes straight ahead on the trail. We did discover, however, that McKenzie is an extreme lefty. Poor Sweet Pea tried her hardest to pull him to the right but just didn't have enough power. She tried so hard to stay "gee over" and kept looking back as if to say "I'm trying! I'm trying! I'm really trying!". So as not to affect her positive experience in lead, we put McKenzie back in wheel after he had made a very good attempt at a "gee over" (Always end on a good note) and let Phoenix end the run in lead with Sweet Pea.
Our training focus for the next run will be passing. Chris will come along with his team and we'll practice minding your own business when being passed by a team, coming head on to another team or running along side another team.