Wednesday, September 30, 2009

First Run of the Season

Wednesday, 9/30/09. Overcast with temperatures in the low 30s. Four wheeler.

The first training runs of the season are always exciting. This morning I decided to start with a small team of mostly veterans, to help get my leaders brains engaged and focused back on the job, and frankly to get my own brain engaged and focused on the job.

Think of these early four-wheeler runs as "summer camp" for a football team. They are designed to provide strength training and to help the dogs get their brains back into the game. We go slow, letting the dogs pull against the compression of the four wheeler's motor, and we try to get in lots of "gee / haw" work, to get the team back into the habit of responding to the musher's cues.

I took 6 dogs over to Lynn O’s place to get things started. I’ll take 6 more over tomorrow to do the same sort of thing.

Today’s Run:

3 miles, four-wheeler. Flat terrain, gravel road and dirt trails. Max speed 11.3 mph, average speed 8,7.

Just & Grace (Lead)

Beau and Nels

Orion (yearling) & Seamus

2 of Lynn’s dogs.

All of the dogs were pretty easy to harness except Orion and Grace. Orion was difficult just because he doesn’t yet understand the process and it’s implications (OH BOY, I GET TO RUN!!!). Grace understands the implications perfectly, and was just SO excited and anxious to go that she couldn’t contain herself long enough for me to slip the harness over her head. It took a while, but we finally got it done.

Both leaders missed the “haw” cue at Jean Jane Loop (or whatever the damned side street is named). The corrected nicely and were charging along when Grace decided a side trail would be better. I wasn’t quick enough on the brakes to prevent half the team from going on the side trail, and it was going the same place the road would go, so I let it slide. The dogs really wanted to take a left at the intersection that goes up by the store, but we persevered and they soon figured out that “straight ahead” really does mean go straight ahead.

Once we got back into the habit of giving the cue a few yards before the turn the dogs did just fine and there weren’t any leader issues for the rest of the run. Lynn’s dogs did well, and they are quite nice looking, leggy sprint dogs. We weren’t going at anything close to a sprint pace, but they managed without too much complaint.

We headed down to Schoen's potato field (now a plowed field), stopped and Lynn swapped one of her dogs with Nels (in swing). For the second half of our little run the team looked just like the photograph below:

We made a couple of brief stops along the way to let dogs regroup, rest a bit and think things through. Orion came off his tug about ¾ of the way through, but after a short stop he was right back into it, pulling like the professional he was born to be.

I feel like it was a good start to the season.

After we'd watered and cared for this first team, we ran another consisting all of Lynn's dogs. She had four dogs in the team not quite a full year old. They are there for harness training, and to start learning their trade. We ran them mostly with older dogs who can do much to help the babies enjoy and learn from their experience.

The older dogs were Aurora, Bobcat, Nelix and Tiger. The puppies were the "OTC" litter - Prilosec, Zoloft, Claritin, and Tagamet. Bob and Aurora hit every cue dead on, turning one a dime and looking back with big doggy grins offering to give us some change. I imagine Lynn will write about that run on the Alaskan Husky Behavior forum at

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