Saturday, September 19, 2009

Old School Reading List

Most of my reading falls under the heading of "research", and usually includes works that most folks find rather boring. After all, how long can someone with only a casual interest in history tolerate the daily business journal of some long-dead fur trader. Once in a while I stumble across some excellent books, and today I'll share some of them with you.

Dog Driver - Revised
The first I'd like to discuss in Miki and Julie Collins updated work. Dog Driver - Revised Edition is indeed a completely revised version of their earlier book of the same title. I purchased the book at Gulliver's Books on my way to the airport, and read it cover to cover during my flight and in between ambulance calls.

I would recommend that anyone interested in running sled dogs try to acquire both editions of Dog Driver. The revised edition is more concise and succinct than the first, and seems to cover a wider range of mushing disciplines. The original edition includes some tips and tricks that are missing in the revised version and may be of limited use to the racer, but the revised version is updated to include modern methods, equipment and techniques.

My only complaint with Dog Driver - Revised Edition is that the information offered on behavior training is antiquated beyond belief. I find it difficult to imagine anyone still advocating physically punishing dogs. It's hard for me to imagine that folks who have obviously put in a lot of time and work to keep pace with modern equipment, materials and methods would advocate training techniques that are a decade or more obsolete.

That noted, the remainder of the book seems to be well researched and accurate. It's easy to read and the newer format makes it easier to find information when you're in a hurry to do so. Like so many other books on dog mushing, the modern reader needs to take what is written with a grain of salt, and figure out how to adapt the methods advocated to your own circumstances and philosophies.

Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs
When I returned home from my Kentucky trip, I found a copy of Bill Vaudrin's Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs in a mail box, a gift from my friend and leader of the Hedlund Husky Preservation Project Kim Fitzgerald. Written in 1976, the book is long out of print and difficult to find. If you happen to be a student of historical dog mushing practices it is well worth seeking out.

Racing Alaskan Sled Dogs is a compilation of materials and interviews with those who were the 'movers and shakers' of the sled dog racing world during the 1970s. The chapter "Early Day Sled Dogs" included journal entries from Robert Kennicott and articles by H.M. Bannister, F. S. Pettyjohn and reminisces from Gus Jensen that all shed consider insight on the earlier days of dog mushing. I found a lot of useful material in the book that I'll be including in my upcoming presentations.

Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know
I recent asked certified canine behaviorist Janece Rollet what new scientific information is most likely to influence the way we train dogs in the future. Her reply was that there is some exciting work in the relatively new field of canine cognition that is "going to knock your socks off".

Well, for nearly two weeks the Click-L Animal Behavior and Training list on Yahoo Groups has been all abuzz about the release of Alexandra Horowitz' new book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know. Horowitz aims “to take an informed imaginative leap inside of a dog — to see what it is like to be a dog; what the world is like from a dog’s point of view.”

I can't say much about the book as I've only just ordered it, but Time Magazine's website contains an interesting article on the same subject. Click on "The Secrets Inside Your Dog's Mind". It just might tweak your interest in this exciting new field of research.

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