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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Topa/Oken Puppies; 8 Weeks Old

Misquah (Silver Bay) - 15lbs 6oz
Jitterbug (Temperance) - 14lbs 2oz
Animosh (Grand Marais) - 15lbs 5oz
Salsa (Tofte) - 16lbs 8oz
Chetan (Lutsen) - 16lbs 2oz

Irish (Gooseberry) - 17lbs!
Arrow - 16lbs
  This is the final weekly weights and photos update for our Hedlund Husky puppies. The first two head to their new home in Northfield, MN this weekend with the remaining two heading to Alaska on the 27th. The two traveling to Alaska will go into the vet tomorrow for their travel health certificates. All pups were just micro chipped this afternoon and their first shots will be given soon. The Alaska pups will receive their shots on Friday per their new musher's request. Our pups and the Northfield pups will get their first shots at 9-10 weeks. Since we have had reactions to shots in this line in the past, we prefer to wait until we can be more certain the maternal immunity has worn off.

Some exciting happening are about to take place at the Points Unknown kennel! Our dear friend and founder of the original Hedlund Husky Preservation Project is arriving this evening. We'll have a Hedlund Husky gathering on Saturday and folks will bring their dogs along for Kim to see. Kim has not seen many of the dogs she has sent to us since they were puppies and we're eagerly anticipating her feedback on those puppies and grand puppies that have come along the way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Topa/Oken Puppies; 7 Week Puppy Testing

Lutsen's front end structure is assessed

Misquah is going through the elevation test

Grand Marais participated happily

Items needed for the test

 The below is a reprint and revision of a post I made in 2007 after testing the Tuloon/Bazil puppies. It describes all of the aspects of the testing we choose to give. I am finding, however, that Hedlund Husky puppies test very different than many puppies and the test results, as described, are becoming less applicable. At the same time, I can appreciate the process and look upon it as more valuable information to add to the pot when coming up with a training plan for each individual.

The current litter tested more true to the adult personality trait of the Hedlund Husky of being aloof until a bond is made. Most were not the least bit interested in the tester and therefore didn't actively participate in the testing. The aptitude test produced varied numbered scores from the puppies and the leader test indicated that Grand Marais and Gooseberry (Irish) were the Group 1 puppies of the bunch, with the most natural aptitude to lead while all other puppies tested as Group 3 puppies due to their general lack of interest in the tester. It was interesting to note that when one might expect eye contact from these pups during the test, they gave it, but not to the tester. They stretched their necks from whatever position they were in to make eye contact with me, as I sat quietly at the other end of the room. Their bond was with me and they "perform" for me. If their new owners make the effort to bond with their puppies, and they are being placed in homes that will do everything possible for this to happen, I have confidence that these puppies will do anything asked of them.


At seven weeks of age is when puppy aptitude testing and leader testing is done. According to a piece written by Gail Tamases Fisher and Wendy Volhard called "Puppy Personality Profile; The specifics of testing procedures, scoring and interpretation of the results of PAT". EEGs have demonstrated that at 49 days, puppies have the brain waves of an adult dog but are as yet minimally affect by experience and learning. It goes on to say that "While they have learned to use the inherited behaviors which make them dogs, they have not yet had a range of experiences to influence the test results, so we are able to test a virtually clean slate. At 49 days, the tests will reveal the raw material of the puppy's individual temperament. Thereafter, environmental experiences may influence a puppy's response, and we cannot be certain we are getting a true reading of his behavioral tendencies."

The test needs to be performed by a stranger to the puppies and in an unfamiliar area. The test has eleven exercises to be performed in the presence of the puppy. They are as follows:

  1. Social Attraction. The puppy is placed four feet from the tester. The tester then calls the puppy. The purpose is to determine the pack drive or degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence.
  2. Following. The tester stands up and slowly walks away encouraging the puppy to follow. Th purpose is to determine pack drive and the puppy's willingness to follow a person.
  3. Restraint. The tester crouches down and gently rolls the pup on its back and holds it down with light pressure with one hand for 30 seconds. The purpose is to determine the puppy's fight or flight response and the degree of dominance or submissive tendency and ease of handling in difficult situations.
  4. Social Dominance. The puppy sits or stands on a crouching tester's left side and the tester gently strokes it from the head to back. The purpose is to determine the puppy's pack drive and degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person.
  5. Elevation Dominance. The tester cradles the pup under its chest with both hands, fingers interlaced, palms up and gently lifts the pup two feet off the ground and holds him there for 30 seconds. The purpose is to assess the fight or flight response and the degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control.
  6. Retrieving. The tester crouches beside the pup and attracts its attention with a crumpled up piece of paper. When the pup shows interest, the tester tosses the paper no more than four feet in front of the pup, encouraging it to retrieve the paper. The purpose is to assess the puppy's prey drive and the degree of willingness to do something for you. Together with social attraction and following, a key indicator for ease of difficulty in training.
  7. Touch Sensitivity. The tester locates the webbing of one of the puppy's front paws and presses it lightly between his index finger and thumb. The tester gradually increases pressure while counting to 10 and stops the pressure when the puppy pulls away or shows discomfort. The degree of sensitivity to touch is a key indicator to the type of training equipment required.
  8. Sound Sensitivity. The puppy is placed in the center of the testing area and an assistant stationed at the perimeter makes a sharp noise, such as banging a metal spoon on the bottom of a metal pan. The purpose is to assess prey drive and the degree of sensitivity to sound. Its also a rudimentary test for deafness.
  9. Sight Sensitivity. The puppy is placed in the center of the testing area. The tester ties a string around a towel and jerks it across the floor two feet away from the puppy. The purpose is to assess prey drive and the degree of response to moving objects such as a bicycles, children or squirrels.
  10. Stability. An umbrella is opened about five feet from the puppy and gently placed on the ground. The purpose is to assess the fight or flight response and the degree of startle response to a strange object.
  11. Structure. The puppy is gently set and held in a natural stance and evaluated for structure.

According to the same piece referenced above, "The PAT is based on a six point scoring system. Each procedure is scored separately and is interpreted separately. The results are not totaled or averaged. " The behavior of the puppy is assigned a number.

They go on to say that they "...view the scoring system in a circle. High numbers are no better or worse than low numbers. Dogs do not pass or fail the PAT, they indicate behavioral tendencies."

"....a dog scoring mostly ones is extremely aggressive and dominant; mostly twos is very dominant and can be easily provoked to bite; mostly threes is active and slightly dominant; mostly fours is submissive and very willing; mostly fives is extremely submissive and shy; mostly sixes is independent and unaffectionate."

The second test is based on a piece written by Mel Fishback called "Puppy Selection for Work and Training". It involves placing a collar and leash on a puppy for the first time and with leash in hand, just walking away from the puppy to see how they react.

Group 1 puppies crane their necks for a second then immediately rush to your side or head out in front of you. These puppies are the most level headed pups and those that will be real learners and make the best leaders.

Group 2 puppies take a bit longer to figure out the idea of a collar and leash and might resist, make noise, throw themselves on the ground but within a few minutes get the hang of it and come right along. With specialized training, Group 2 puppies can make excellent leaders.

Group 3 puppies will fight the leash and object in a passive way. They will eventually come along but not in a very happy or excited way. These puppies make better team dogs than leaders.

Group 4
puppies actively resist the leash and are somewhat defiant in doing so. According to Mel Fishback, puppies in Group 4 are quitters and will not make good working dogs.

Having listed all of the test items, I must say that I take all of this puppy testing with a grain of salt. It is but one moment in the life of a puppy. While I do think it is good information to have so that individual training can be done according to the results, I don't think that this test dooms a puppy to that specific group or that specific behavior for the remainder of their lives. I believe that with patience, time and attention, all puppies can grow up to be working members of a dog team.

I have had puppies test in Group 4 of the leader test, screaming and throwing themselves on the ground and flailing about, and grow up to have very strong work ethics that also work in lead position. These puppies do require extra attention and specialized training but it is done. Amaruq, an Inuit dog, was a case in point. He did exactly what I described during this leader test. Also, when hooked up for the very first time in the team, he threw himself on the ground screaming as he was dragged a ways. All he needed to know was that he was alright and safe. He needed confidence. Obedience and agility classes did this for him and the last season before he died, he was in double lead with Tuloon and has happy as can be.

Another Group 4 puppy is our sweet little Zala. She actively refused to move forward when the leash was tugged. She has grown up, with proper training, to be one of our leaders. She is most definitely a bit goofy with an independent streak but she holds the line tight and is a trustworthy leader.

A Points Unknown Wedding and Catch Up!

Married December 28th, 2011!

Klaus and White Feather listen as I read my vows
The dogs are fascinated over the whole thing.
The dogs turn their attention to Hailey as she read a poem offered by our friend Lidia who couldn't make the journey.

Neil and I first met online in April of 2008 when seeing a photo of me with Zodiak prompted him to email from his station in Iraq with the British military to inquire about the dogs and my lifestyle! On December 28th, 2011, with friends and family, both two and four legged, by our side, we were married overlooking the dog kennel and the beautiful Oake Lake here in Watertown, MN. We call it "Our Snowless Wedding", but that's another story all together and I've hesitated to complain too much about this puzzling winter season and have just accepted it as meant to be despite the internal dialogue I've been having with myself over the whole thing.

So, we're married and life hasn't slowed down enough for us to bask in the glow of it all but we do feel different; good different.

The lack of snow has meant much more dryland cart training for the dogs to keep them in shape for our month of adventures up in what is still our great white wilderness in northern Minnesota. Yes, there is snow in them hills!  We're counting the days until our departure and in the meantime, have a list of things to achieve as long as my arm, before we leave. First and foremost on that list is the welfare of our now 7 1/2 week old puppies. They have grown so quickly and I can't help but think that one of the reasons we haven't had snow and cold is just for them, so they can live outdoors without concern for the harshness winter can bring.

We're anxiously anticipating the arrival next week of a someone who introduced me to what has become one of my passions, our Hedlund Husky preservation founder and dear friend, Kim Fitzgerald will be here next Wednesday! A package of Hedlund Husky history has already preceded her and I have been glued to the photos ever since. This line of sled dogs is outstanding in so many ways, it's hard to describe the feeling of having the history at my fingertips.

To do! In preparation for our departure, as I mentioned, we've got loads to achieve. We've sorted through the dog sled lines and have come up with a list of necessary replacements and will spent the day making new gangline components. We're building in the spring, on our parcel in the great white wilderness of Minnesota so we need to refine our drawings of the buildings and dog yard and meet with our builder next week. Candles! Neil and I continue to puts hours a day into the candle business, building up our inventory for our time away. Thankfully, I've got someone who can take over our paperwork and deliveries while away.

Then there is the planning of each adventure. Our first weekend up north is a beginner women's adventure. We'll meet with one of our handlers who is also going to be the camp cook during this adventure so that we can come up with the specific menu. The curriculum has been in place for years but a little bit of tweaking may be necessary to customize the experience to individual needs of the participants.

Our second adventure is an advanced adventure. Some of the women are repeat participants times five! Each time we try to come up with a new challenge for them and this time, we've really done it good! The details but the location is such that they will get their refresher by driving a team of dogs in from the parking area six miles to the cabin. Two full days of dog sledding on some of the most beautiful trails in the country is the highlight and on the last day, they will allow the dogs to rest and cross country ski those six miles out to their vehicles.

Our third adventure is a series of adventures we are offering in cooperation with Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais, MN. On President's Day weekend we will be booking half day adventures that include snowshoeing or cross country skiing 7/10ths of a mile into the cabin then a half day with the sled dogs on our breathtaking remote bush trails. Visit this page on our website for details on all of our adventures - Points Unknown Adventures.

In a nutshell, lots to do and counting the days until white is a predominant color on the landscape.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Topa/Oken Puppies; 7 Weeks Old

Misquah (Silver Bay) - 13lbs 5oz
JitterBug (Temperance) - 12lbs
Grand Marais - 12lbs 8oz
Salsa (Tofte) - 13lbs 8oz
Lutsen - 12lbs 5oz
Irish (Gooseberry) - 13lbs 13oz !
Arrow - 13lbs 5oz

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Topa/Oken Puppies; 6 Weeks Old

Silver Bay (Misquah) - 10lbs 8oz
Temperance (Jitterbug) - 9lbs 6oz
Grand Marais - 9lbs 8oz
Tofte (Salsa) - 10lbs 2oz
Lutsen - 9lbs 12oz
Gooseberry (Irish) - 10lbs 8oz
Arrow - 10lbs 6oz