For a while now Ted has been asking about running without a neckline between our leaders. The advantage of the neckline, sometimes referred to as a "coupler", is that both dogs have to go the same direction, or engage in a tug-o-war. The disadvantage is that one dog can pull another off balance, leading to injuries, they can try to run on opposite sides of the same tree (oops), 'clothesline' another team while attempting a head-on pass, and so forth.
Well, there aren't likely to be any other teams on our training trail, so today I capitulated. I figured with two of us available to fix any issues it would be a low-risk way to try it. It was low-risk, but as far as I'm concerned it was a failed experiment and we won't be doing it again anytime soon. Here's the whole story of the run:
First team – 2.5 miles. Speed not recorded. Home to Boyce place and return in 2 laps.
Team at start:
Rose & Grace (Lead)
Orion & Capella
Beau & Nels (Wheel)
We tried to run without a neckline between the leaders today. Big mistake, and one I'll not make again anytime soon. Grace needs to work on "line out" and Rose wanted to wander about quite a bit. We finally got everyone hooked up and headed out. Rose wanted to visit Ted's dogs as we passed by their yard, but got back into the game fairly quickly. Grace decided to stop and poop, which nearly led to a tangle with no way for a mate to pull her along, and on and on. Finally I asked Ted (riding along on the machine) to put a neckline on them.
I suspect that by then Rose could sense I was getting frustrated and irritated, so she started looking back and balking up front. At that point we traded leaders, moving Orion up front. Then the team looked like;
Grace and Orion (lead)
Rose and Capella
Beau and Nels (Wheel)
We finished that first lap in pretty good form. A LOT of trouble getting them to take a "haw" up the power line trail to do a second lap. Ted had to get off the machine and run in front of them. We finally got them started up the trail again, but now Nels was way off his tugline and looking back nearly constantly, probably worried about the four-wheeler. We stopped and traded Nels for Capella, so the team like;
Grace and Orion (lead)
Rose and Nels
Beau and Capella (wheel)
We got started again for a couple of hundred yards, but then something in the woods to the left of the trail distracted Orion, Rose and Capella leading to stops, leader tangle, nearly a tangle in the team.
We finally got them past that and then they finally settled down to work pretty well.
1- As I stressed to Ted, we run necklines between our leaders until I am confident the dogs can work together without them. Period.
2- Nels needs to run in team until he gets over his concern about the four-wheeler.
3- We need to do more work of this nature so the team can learn that we don't always do the same thing or follow the same route every single run, even if it's on the same trail.
There were no fights, no major tangles and no unintended breedings, so the run was successful enough. In fact, I'd consider it a good training run, because it trained me to pay more attention to my own gut instincts about doing something new or different with the dogs. After the run, I basically laid down the law with Ted - we don't run my leaders without necklines until I say otherwise.
I am certainly willing to reconsider my position, when both leaders are routinely running side by side without issues, and responding to all of their cues together as a unit without any tension in the neckline. Then, and only then, will I be willing to try the experiment again.
So, as we were hooking up the second team to run, Ted asked "do you want a coupler on your leaders?" (sigh) I honestly don't know if he was joking or not.
Our second run was much slower, but much easier for everyone involved, primates as well as canines.
Torus & Just (lead)
Cassiopeia & Seamus
Chinook (single wheel)
This was a much slower run to accommodate Chinook. With two basically bomb-proof experienced leaders up front there were no major issues to contend with at all.