I've been very hesitant to do this training in the past, without assistance. With Ted here to help out it's now time to hit it hard. Highway crossings scare hell out of me, because of the very real risk of collision. In a dog(s) versus car collision, the dogs will always come out on the losing end.
So, some of our thinking.
First, we are not going to go straight from the yard to the road. Instead, we'll follow our normal route up the school trail to a turn-around about a mile or so from the house, and then turn them toward the highway crossing on the way back. If we do that every single time, then if we should lose a team during launch the team will be more likely to go down the safe trail rather than dashing across the highway.
On the way back, the dogs will need to respond to a "haw" cue to go past the power line right of way that leads home. To counter that, we are running our most experienced leaders (pulling Torus out of retirement for this work), and are working in small teams that we can easily hook down and correct if necessary.
Each time we approach the road we will call the team to a full stop, and make them wait a bit before cueing them to go across the road. That way they will habitually expect to stop and wait, important if we have to wait for traffic to pass.
These will be short little runs, with more brain work than body work involved. Just and Torus have done this highway crossing a lot earlier in their lives, so I'm relying on them a lot to teach the younger dogs how to do it. I'm actually expecting the process to go pretty quickly.
I'll update this post later this afternoon to let you know how it goes.
UPDATE 2:30 pm:
I just love it when a plan comes (mostly) together. Torus was just delighted to go for a little run today and was very helpful helping to train Amazing Grace to do what I was asking. I had a bit more difficulty with the second team, but it was nothing that wasn't fairly easily overcome. The weather was very pleasant, with a temperature of 5 degrees (F) above zero when we started, and currently (2:36 pm) it is 9 degrees above.
While I was hooking up the first team Ted (my handler) hiked up to the highway crossing. Of course he ended up standing around up there for a good long while as I got one team home and harnessed and hooked up the second. I'm SO glad he is patient with the dogs and his employer. Ted's role was just to provide help if the dogs needed it, and today he didn't have to do much more than watch pretty dogs run by.
Here is the today's entry from my training journal:
1/24/11: Road Crossing Training:
Two teams, training to safely cross Chena Hot Springs Road.
Torus & Amazing Grace (lead)
Cassiopeia & Capella (wheel)
Approximately three miles total. Home to trailhead on Two Rivers Rd, return past powerline right of way, over road crossing to highway trail, to intersection with baseline crossover trail, back to highway crossing, then powerline to home.
I brought Torus out of retirement to help with this training project, and he seemed to have a great time with it. Grace tried scotching at him on the way out of the yard and he put her in her place quite effectively. We had no leader issues at all. As we climbed the apron to the highway I called for the whoa, made them sit a weight a few seconds, and then Torus took us across with no problem.
Turning the trail intersection into a "lollipop" loop took some minor trail breaking but proceeded easily enough. On the way back across the highway Grace wanted to visit with Ted, but Torus pulled her on across and all was good. Torus looked to be off his gait as we approached the powerline right of way, so I went ahead and called a "haw" to go straight home rather than a another loop around the trailhead parking area,
Just & Rose (lead)
Orion and Capella (wheel)
Approximately four to 4 1/2 miles. Same route as team 1, except we did a second loop around the trailhead parking lot. Rose & Just did not want to take a "haw" to pass the powerline, and we struggled with that for a bit. Finally Orion & Capella at wheel grew weary of just standing around, so drug the leaders to the correct trail. Rose got tangled in her harness in that process, but we were able to move forward to a place where I could hook into a tree on one side and plant a hook in the snow on the other, so was able to walk up and fix the tangle without further issue.
When we stopped at the road crossing we had to wait for a car to pass, which was very good for the dogs. Then when I called 'em up they went across with no issues.
Did the loop at the trail intersection reverse direction as the first team, to get in some more "gee/haw" work out of this little run, and then took the team back to the trailhead loop to add a little distance and some more gee/haw work. The leaders were paying much more attention the second time we approached the powerline from the North.