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Sunday, September 19, 2010

First Run of the Fall 2010 Season!

A beautiful sunrise greeted us on our first run of the season.

Wimzi seriously ponders the idea of her first run.

Here she is, looking relaxed and having fun!

First team out. Klaus and Oken. Wimzi and Sweet Pea. Ilo and Topa.

Our newly modified cart with hydraulic brakes, thanks to Neil!

Ilo and Topa

Klaus and Oken

Wimzi in lead with Klaus at 7 1/2 mos old!

Topa in lead with Klaus.

Ari's smiling face.

Ari and Journey

Ari's towering build

White Feather in lead with Phoenix

I am amazed that I am posting about our first run on September 19th. Historically, we're lucky to get out by October 1st. Thank goodness for an early fall!

Having added five "new" dogs to our teams this year, I was excited to see the new dynamic unfold. Would the newbies learn proper trail manners from me and the other dogs quickly? Would there be bad habits that would need to be address and would there be anything new I have not dealt with yet? (This is always a given and what a great way to expand your experience and knowledge even though, at the time, you might not think so.)

Ilo and Ari are older and had run on teams in the past so know the basics but not don't know what we expect. The other additions are White Feather and Topa, who ran a bit last season but were not full fledged members due to their young ages. And then there is 7 1/2 month old Wimzi who will get a taste of the trail early on but will not be a full fledged member until later on in the winter.

Tuloon and Zala would not join us as they as still recovering from their spay surgeries. They rested peacefully in their comforter laden crates in the sun room.

Yesterday, Hailey and I spent several hours preparing for our run. Lines had to be checked for flaws, equipment had to be rounded up and given a once over and most of all, we had to get in the "zone". I wasn't quite ready to run yet!

We loaded dogs to the beginnings of a spectacular sunrise. It was 50 degrees and overcast. Had it been clear, we would not have run as it would have warmed up much more quickly.

Our main objective for the runs was to just get the dogs running again and not to worry about much else. As with many plans you make with dogs, things change and I found myself working on Oken's "gee over" AND leaders! The runs were going so well, I decided to give several dogs a try at lead. In a nut shell, we had two very successful runs. Here's how they went:

Klaus and Oken in lead. Klaus was distracted by Oken's forgetfulness of the "gee over" command. I moved Oken to point position (behind the leaders) on the way back and put Little Miss Wimzi up in front. This was her very first run and her very first time in lead. We had done so much canicross hiking with her as a younger puppy that she was comfortable right away being in the team and then in lead. Had we sensed any stress, she would have remained in the team but there wasn't the slightest. As with most of our first timers, she ran and pulled like heck as she looked back at the other dogs and cart chasing her. This didn't seem to bother her. She just appeared to be assessing whether she should be concerned and opted not to be and went about her merry way, in lead, at 7 1/2 months old and for a mile and a half. This was enough for her first time.

It was then Topa's turn in lead. She had begun the run in wheel with Ilo. Since Ilo is an adult and just being introduced to the team, we want him to remain in wheel position(at the very back) where it is less stressful for him and the others until he has had more time with us. There were no issues what-so-ever with Ilo except for a little bit of cheering before he was hooked up. We teach our dogs to remain silent and calm at hook up. This doesn't work for some of our dogs despite early consistent training, in which case, they are allowed to be themselves, within reason and unless it becomes obnoxious. Back to Topa up in lead. Excellent. Held the line tight and ran straight ahead. She even held a tight line while we were stopped and taking dogs off the line. Only one little blip when a flock of birds surprised her by flying out of a bush along the trail. She did a puppy jump up to try and catch a few but didn't miss a step as she continued forward on the trail.

Sweet Pea did what Sweet Pea does. Behaved well, set a good example for the puppies and new dogs, pulled and remained silent.

Second team out began with Phoenix and Journey in lead. We ran into a group of long distance bicyclists that were camping along the trail. This completely freaked Journey out and she moved all the way to the left side of the trail and froze and refused to get any closer. This is part of who Journey is. We've tried to train this out of her but you can't train out something that lies deeply rooted within a dog's temperament. Yes, we can try to introduce her to all kinds of strange and different things and experiences and it will help but it won't eliminate the problem. At that moment, it appeared as though being in lead was just too stressful for her so she went back in wheel with Ari and was completely calm and comfortable there. Phoenix then lead alone for the remainder of the trip out.

Ari, being an adult and new, just like Ilo, will remain in wheel until we all feel more comfortable as a cohesive team. He is known to be a line biter and Hailey saw that behavior briefly once, made a voice correction and he stopped. Good dog! Otherwise, he pulled his heart out for which he is also known. He takes after his brother Phoenix.

Zodiak and White Feather were in point position to start. Zodiak is one that can't hold back his exuberance at hook up and will wail at the top of this lungs until he is hooked up. He is also one that needs to have a very strong authority figure otherwise he will take over. I've managed to exert enough authority to keep those tendencies at bay but always have to be on top of it. He never gets anything for free. He is also a dog that puts his heart and soul into his job. He's a good and honest worker.

White Feather was doing exceptionally well in point so we decided to move her to lead with Phoenix. Head to the ground and back arched at the start as she pulled more than her fair share, she soon settled into a nice and even trot and remained on the right side of the trail! Thank goodness! A dog that appears to be a natural righty. This means less work for me!

White Feather kept the line tight with Phoenix as we took the dogs off the line and loaded everyone into the truck. It is just so gratifying to think about all of the time, energy and hard work you put into your puppies to get them to the point of their first official runs in lead.... and they do it! And they do it well!

What a great morning out on the trail with the dogs.

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