Saturday, December 27, 2008

Proud Puppy-Papa Moment

The three puppies (Cassiopeia, Capella and Orion) are boarding with my friend and training partner Lynn Orbison. We had hoped to take them on their first ever sled run during my last R&R, but illness in the team forced a delay. Yesterday Lynn had some help at her place, so she took them out, and posted a report on the Alaskan Husky Behavior Forum. Here is what Lynn wrote about the first ever team run for these 5-month old puppies:

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, I had a VERY Merry Christmas!

And I was also left with three BIG stardancer puppies that hadn't had a chance to play in harness with their people, so I was "stuck" with having to play with them myself!!!

Edie and Randy were here training today and they both helped me get ready, and then Edie drove the 4-wheeler behind me for "back-up"...but we really didn't need her for much except to be a living witness to the fun!

Okay, here's the starting design:

Lynn with OT sled

Spruce and Just in lead
Abner and Orion in swing
Cassie and Capella in wheel

Abner is only a month or two older than these stardancer pups, but he was a PERFECT gentleman and a delightful puppy trainer!

Edie dressed the puppies. Capella was dressed first and put on the tow-line last. Not a one of them chewed! Randy brought Cassie over to be hooked in. She was goofy and silly and spinning around and trying to jump up on everybody. Randy stayed with her as Edie was dressing Orion and brought him over into swing. I was bringing Capella over. I walked her by holding onto the tug loop (BTW, all three of these pups were wearing red tug harnesses...that's a MEDIUM, and the largest harness I've ever used on a first time in harness puppy!) Spruce in lead was wearing a green/black tug, which is an extra-small, which is what I usually start training new puppies in...this are BIG puppies!

Okay. So Orion had been playing with Abner. Ab had gotten his snap undone somehow and I'd just parked him over on the only open house in the old dog yard. So he was within reach of Orion and the two were now best buddies, so I figured I'd use that new relationship to my advantage on this first team outing.

I didn't want to take Grace in lead because she was being totally snotty to any and every dog that went by and I didn't think these babies deserved to learn that. I wanted a front end I could trust and control. I figured we wouldn't go very far or very fast.

I walked Capella over to be hooked in by holding her tug loop. She lined out rather nicely and only darted around behind me a couple of times Wink She also lined out better than either Cassie or Orion while waiting to go. Cassie exhibited a little bit of that "Nels Behavior" of spinning around...but then I think it's partly because Randy only clipped her neckline and not her tugline, so the only way she could rotate was spinning on her neckline. Orion was hooked in with both neck and tug at about the same time, and he also tried to spin around a bit, but quickly figured out to stay put and enjoyed visiting with Abner next door. Once Cassie had her tugline attached she lined out better too. The sisters were pretty polite to each other, although during the run they took turns interfering with each other! Rolling Eyes

I popped the quick release and called "Okay! Let's go!!" and off we went. All six dogs pulled immediately. (I suppose this might be considered somewhat anti-climatic...but after running, Hope, Angel, Sweety, Cloud, JoJo and others, it was REALLY beautiful to me!) The Stardancer pups did not do as well as Abner and Norman their first time in harness...but, then, I think they are a titch younger, and they are definately NOT sprint dogs!

Orion had the most trouble keeping up, but all three pups found themselves going faster than what was "comfortable" from time to time throughout the run. I spent most of my time on the mat slowing everything down to keep them happy and safe.

In the first 100 yards, Cassie was flawless, Orion was confused, and Capella got worried. By the end of the first half mile, Capella was hard driving, and Orion and Cassie were both happy and goofy. I did quite a bit of stopping and starting to give them practice. They took off happily after even stopping for just a few seconds. They all three lined out like little pros...although each of them ended up tangled in the lines with their neighbor once or twice during the run. We probably did about 2.5 miles. I went into Swenson's field and cut it short by going haw in front of the woodcutters place...we took a haw onto the midline trail and then haw again to head straight toward Swenson's yard. I stopped everybody on that straight-away so they could stand and look at Swenson's yard barking at us. Then I called them up and called for the gee and we turned toward home nicely. The pups balked a little bit with the big dog yard sounding off behind them, but they did remarkably well.

Oh, I forgot to mention...Cassie learned to poop on the run! That's right, she decided she needed to poop, and we didn't stop for her. It wasn't pretty, and it certainly wasn't perfect, but she did it, and she dug right back into her job as soon as she was finished!

Edie was just agog on the machine behind me watching these perfect BIG puppies...Randy said he didn't believe that this was really their first time in harness in a team! I'd explained that Swanny and had them in a harness and taken them out individually on foot...but that this was their first group mushing adventure. They get it!

Males are known to mature slower than females, and Orion proved this today. I went shorter mostly for him. Next time I'll take Daisy and Jethro and Fame and maybe some other really slow dogs so that they are not challenged to go faster.

I don't think they need to go far or even very often. Although they are HUGE, they are still very young and very soft. I don't want to over-do it.

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