Saturday, July 24, 2010


The major accomplishments thus far this R&R was to fetch home a bunch of gear I purchased from Mike Green, and to install one of 2 new pens for confining the dogs.  Mike, who has been mushing dogs for 30 some odd years, has retired from the sport.  He sold me basically everything in his dog yard except for his favorite sled and just enough stuff to allow his granddaughter to run his last two remaining dogs in junior races.

Among my "haul" is 17 dog houses in various states of repair.  Though all need some sort of work, it's much easier and cheaper to replace a roof or repair a chewed up doorway than it is to buy materials to build an entirely new doghouse.  Of course it also gives me something more to do during these "off season" days when we can't safely run the dogs.  I want to repair at least a few of these houses so they are ready to put into service.  I'll need at least two of them within the next few days.  For now, they are stacked next to an old trailer that mostly serves as a storage rack for my canoe. 

I built that canoe back in 1991, and it continues to provide excellent service.

The next major accomplishment was to install one of two new pens.  When set up, each of these new pens provides 200 square feet, enough room to house a pair of dogs, in only slightly more space than is required to house a single dog using swivel-post tethers.

Daisy and Sheenjek Share the New Pen

As you can see, the new pen shares a common wall with the older "Garage Pen" I have used for years to house dogs.  The garage pen wraps around the side and back of the attached garage, so provides 500 square feet of space, enough to house as many as five dogs.  I usually only have two dogs in that pen, because the ground always seems muddy in there, due to drainage from the roof of the garage and attached, open-faced storage cubby, sometimes called a "wannigan".

Dogs are social creatures, and do better psychologically when they can interact with other dogs.  Not all interactions are positive, however.  With too many dogs in a confined area, fights would be inevitable.  Studies have shown that a pair of compatible dogs interact with each other just as much as do dogs housed in groups of up to 15 individuals.  One of the new guidelines published in the newest,  third edition of the Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Sled Dog Care Guidelines is to house dogs at least in pairs when using pens as the primary method of confinement.

This morning, 15 year-old retired leader Darling Daisy demonstrated one of the difficulties in using pens to confine huskies.  Nearly all of the northern breeds are considered to be very intelligent dogs, especially in the type of intelligence associated with problem solving.  The problem that many huskies try to solve is the problem of escaping from their confinement.  This morning Daisy demonstrated for the camera how she can use her nose to flip up the type of latch most commonly installed on chain link dog kennels.

Darlene Daisy Demonstrates Problem Solving Skills

Fortunately the large, gregarious, hairless, omnivorous primates that drive dogs sleds are also pretty good at problem solving.  Our problem is how to keep those intelligent dogs from escaping their primary means of confinement.  My solution to the problem is to attach a neckline with a snap swivel on one end to a corner post, and snap it to the gate.  This holds the gate closed even when the dog is able to overcome the latch.
Even though it was a day off, Ted spent most of yesterday morning helping me put the new pen together.  He's a good worker with a strong back and with his help we were able to accomplish the task in good order and a surprisingly short period of time.

As I write, I've already fed, watered and scooped the yard and pens.  In about an hour I'll drive up to the post office to check my mail, perhaps pay a quick visit to my friend Stephanie Little Wolf, and then go back over to Mike's place with a high-lift jack and a length of chain to pull my "new" used posts out of the ground.  

Even when I have the second new pen installed, I'll still have about half the team living on tethers.  These are strong dogs, and they are very active.  It isn't unusual at all for dogs to bend their posts, or even break them.  Having spares readily at hand is always a good idea.  

1 comment:

  1. Have the same problem with my Siberians lifting the gate latches until I started using brass snaps that fit in the hole under the latch. A better solution in freezing temps is to use a padlock that you leave open and do not snap shut. The U shaped part hangs in the latch hole and the lock part makes a nice handle for removing the setup. No huskies have removed this yet from a latch gate!