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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sasha Visit

Wimzi at 9 mos.

A good view of Wimzi's thick ruff as she gazes in the window at the little house dogs.

They both wait for the other to make a move.

Wimzi stands her ground as Sasha goes in for the tackle.

Now it's Wimzi's turn to dominate and Sasha sees that a bite to the foot might give her an advantage.

Playful girls

Hey! Come back here. We're not done playing yet!


I can see big doses of my Zulu in there.

Wimizi's sister came for a play visit in the rain today. They're now 9 months old and hadn't seen each other for a few months so we weren't certain how they would react to each other considering that their hormones should be building momentum. Our worries were for nothing as they wagged and pawed at the fence to be together. The ritual ensued. Wimzi has always immediately dominated Sasha in a very forceful way, to which Sasha submits. Then the tables reverse and Sasha dominates Wimzi but Wimzi tolerates her but does not submit. Whatever it is, it works for them.

Sasha is an essential part of our breeding program as she is exhibiting the "Zulu" line phenotype while Wimzi, being just as desirable to the program, is exhibiting more of the foundation female of that initial Zulu breeding(Jesse) phenotype. A given is their innate drive and aptitude for pulling and their excellent structures. Both temperaments are very well rounded, although they are both on the "bonkers" end of the scale at the moment with constant bounciness. This may dwindle with age. Both are very attentive and love people.

Sasha has the more rangy and long-legged build with longer guard hairs and a longer muzzle, all just like grandpa Zulu. Wimzi is bigger boned with a wider "wheel base", heavier by maybe 5+lbs and solid with shorter guard hairs, like grandma Jesse. Both have a similarly dense undercoat and will be maintenance free on winter overnight outings.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Rebecca's First Run

Rebecca gives the "thumbs up".

Resting with the leaders, Zala and Klaus.

Yes! That IS Zodiak in lead!

Wimzi and Phoenix. At 8 1/2 months old, Wimzi is already the largest female in the kennel. Topa is the same height but is lighter boned.

There is that "line you can bounce a quarter off", just like Uncle Klaus!
Good job, Wimzi!

Diving right in with both feet, Rebecca helped run the sled dogs for the first time this morning! The temperature was 41 degrees F and it was partly cloudy. We had prepared the night before by bringing the water jug in to be refilled and by putting the dogs' collars on. The dogs live in their kennels with no collars on for safety. I've heard the results of dogs playing unsupervised with a collar on when one slips its jaw under the collar of another. To be on the safe side, collars only go on the night before a run and after the dogs have had a lot of exercise during the day to minimize their playfulness in the evening.

There are so many things to learn and remember when working with sled dogs, but Rebecca did wonderfully and didn't seem nearly as overwhelmed as she did the day before at the grocery store. We have far too many choices here in the United States. Poor Rebecca.

First up were Klaus and Zala in lead, White Feather and Topa in point, Zodiak in team and Ilo and Sweet Pea in wheel. Of interest on this run was that on the way back, we placed Zodiak in lead with Zala. It has taken this boy quite some time to mature and at 3 years old, I think that he is ready mentally to do a good job in lead. And he did! No issues and no slack lines. The true test was when we arrived back at the truck. He was called upon to remain still and keep his line tight while we removed the other dogs from the gang line, like any good leader should. I taught Rebecca what needed to be done if he moved which was to gently bump him back up in place, not saying a word, then praise when he had remained still for a few seconds by using the command in the praise. "Good tighten up, Zodiak!". This was necessary only a few times then it appeared as though he fully understood his job description at that moment and didn't budge. Excellent job, Zodi!

The second team consisted of Tuloon and Phoenix in lead, Oken and Wimzi in point and Ari and Journey in wheel. Since we are only doing 4 mile runs at this early stage, 8 1/2 month old Wimzi is able to come along. We placed her up in lead with Phoenix for the return run, all the while keeping a close eye on her for stress or any other issue that might indicate she should return to her original position, but none came. We did see a couple of momentary puppy "moves" that were easily correctable from where we were (which was all the way back on the cart) and with Phoenix's help. "On by" commands were reinforced by the quick jerk to her neck that resulted from Phoenix remaining straight on course as she veered off to inspect a suspiciously floating leaf or a taunting squirrel just off the trail. A neckline between the two lead dogs can be a good training tool and was, in the instance of a goofy puppy and a seasoned leader. There are even training benefits to the seasoned leader. He/she must learn that they shouldn't be thrown off course by what someone else is doing and move away from what they know to be the right thing to do at the moment. Eventually, the neck line will be removed and the new leader will have to learn to think and act independently of their partner.

The temps look good for another morning run tomorrow! Fingers crossed the temps remain low now for the rest of the season so we can spend more consistent time out on the trail with our fuzzy friends.

Private Pull Training Lessons

Gabe pulls two small wheelbarrow tires.

Now up hill!

Pat repositions Gabe on the "tighten up" exercise.

Good "tighten up", Gabe!

Practicing the "Command" training.

And back up hill.

Lexy, Gabe's companion gets a turn pulling the tires.

Pat, Gabriel and Lexy drove from St. Paul, MN over the weekend for an individual pull training lesson. Pat and Gabe were the main students and Lexy, being very much like our Tuloon, was the princess that got to sit in the car and bark orders out the window at her big male companion, Gabe.

For the first lesson, we like to keep it simple and only introduced three new exercises for Pat and Gabe to take home and work on. The first step is to get Gabe used to pulling something light behind him then move up in weight so that he actually begins to work. The second step is to introduce the "tighten up" command which is very much like the obedience command "stay" except that the dog not only stays but maintains constant resistance with the harness. The third and very awkward but necessary step is the Command Leash training where you, as the handler, build a foundation for how you will eventually direct your dog also reinforce the "pull" command. No directional commands are introduced this early. It is best to just go straight ahead.

As with all training, each segment was kept to a maximum of 10 minutes with lots and lots of praise. Not too much talking, however, otherwise the dogs soon learns to tune you out. No corrections at this time, just all happy positive tones and praise for what your dogs does "right", ignoring any behavior that isn't desired unless it is a major offense(mouthing handler or gear).

Pat and the crew join us again next week for phase two!

If this sounds like training you and your dog would enjoy, please let us know. We would be happy to customize training to meet your needs.

Rebecca Arrives!

Wimzi welcomes Rebecca.

Rebecca came to visit the Points Unknown Kennel back in April to see if she would like to spend part of her "gap year" working at the kennel with the sled dogs and to see if we were all a good fit.

She did so well with the dogs and was so open to learning all she could about dog mushing that we invited her back. Rebecca arrived on Saturday and will be with us until the middle January. She'll get lots of training cart time with the dogs and hopefully several runs on snow and ice before she leaves.

In April, when Rebecca first visited, Wimzi was just a baby at 12 weeks old. Wimzi went completely bonkers when she saw Rebecca. She couldn't stop sniffing, jumping, wagging and licking. She is always friendly to new folks she meets but this was different. It appeared to be the ritual of welcoming a long lost friend.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

McKenzie and Wahya Visit!

Lexy with her two furry friends

Lexy showed me the dance that they do together.

Getting leashed up to go home.

Big Smiles!

Off they go.

Rich stopped by today to look at the brakes on the training cart that appeared to be locked. We want resistance for the dogs, but this was a little much. Not to mention that the humans were having a difficult time actually pushing the thing from place to place. He brought along three of his family members, two fuzzy ones, Kenzie and Wahya and then Lexy.

McKenzie and Wahya had a lot of fun running around in the backyard while Lexy kept a close eye on them. It was so good to see them both. They've been doing excellent with Rich's family and this is the first visit back since they went in August. They seemed to remember all of the boundaries and appropriate kennel manners and were very responsive to me but when Rich began to walk towards the gate looking for leashes, they both looked him straight in the eye and walked on either side of him to the gate. It was time to go home and they knew it! They have bonded extremely well to their new family. This was very heartwarming to see.

I'm happy to report also, that Rich was successful in fixing the sticking brakes of the cart and when it is cool enough, we'll be able to get back on the trail without having the work out just to get it to the hook off post.

Scatter Feeding

The pink and purple asters line the driveway and the Oake Lake shore. It's hard to believe that they will soon be covered with snow!

Sweet Pea, Phoenix and Zala have their own favorite eating spots.

When there isn't snow on the ground, we've found that scatter feeding works the best for our kennel and most dogs prefer it. By scattering their food, each dog takes their time eating one morsel at a time. This virtually eliminates the quick gobbling of food that can allow extra air in the dogs' stomachs which can contribute to stomach bloat. It also takes less time to feed, leaving more of our limited time available for playing with them.

What about those that guard their food and can be resource aggressive? We've got one of those active guarders in the kennel. We work with Zodiak individually on this behavior and White Feather, his main kennel mate, has learned to steer clear of him until it is obvious that he has fully abandoned any remaining morsels.