Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OMG - CASSIE leads TOO!!

It was another bluebird day here in the Interior of Alaska.  The temperature was below zero when I awakened to the alarm clock at 6, and by the time I got coffeed up and fed the team it was about 5 above.  I did my 'morning thing' for a couple of hours, and then started hooking up dogs, hoping to get in a nice training run before the temperature climbed too high.

Today's team consisted of Just and Rose in lead, Grace and Beau in swing and Cassiopeia (Cassie) and Seamus in wheel.  We did our regular 8 1/2 mile trip out to the ponds and back, taking the usual route today rather than exploring new trails.  My goal was to focus on the behavior of the dogs, especially little Ms. Amazing Grace, who has been a roaring stinking bitch with her running mates of late.

To help fan her over-revving jets I put her in a lightweight X-back style racing harness rather then the ManMat wheel dog harnesses I normally run.  That shortens up the tug a few inches, and by doubling her snap through the harness' tug loop and back to the tug line, that puts her back another inch or so.  As a result she was running beside Beau's shoulder with no easy access to his head.

Being unable to snap at his face, she tried trash-talking him as we launched, but he snarled right back, and that was the end of her snarky behavior, at least for this run.  I had both heels planted firmly on the drag mat and could feel the aggressive studs under those heels grabbing at the hardpacked, icy snow in our feeder trail, yet the team still managed to launch at nearly 13 miles per hour.  The slowed to about 12 up the powerline ROW, and then opened up the throttle to 13.2 on the Two Rivers Rd. trail.  They sped up that trail between 12 and 13 miles per hour all the way to the Swamp Trail intersection, and still kept me moving at over 10 all the way to the base of the long hill.

On the hill they slowed considerably of course, but they never really stopped and on the down-hill side leading to the Money Trail I was still hard on the drag.  As we dashed through the trees and twists and turns of the Money Trail I'm sure they were trying to play 'crack the whip' with the sled, and on that hardpacked trail they nearly succeeded more than once.  I think they were enjoying the cooler temperature this morning.

We circumnavigated the second pond, and I called a "whoa" on the way back across the first pond.  That's where I decided to swap leaders, exchanging Rose and Cassiopeia.  I had been planning on testing Cassie up front, and this seemed a great opportunity to do so.  I'll let the video (below) speak for itself.

Music "Great Day for a Sled Dog Ride"; David Gill; Moonlight on the Snow.


  1. Just my 2 cents, Swanny - I would love to hear what you are saying to the dogs - I am amazed how they follow your voice cues. What a good looking run!

  2. Mostly what I'm saying to the dogs (versus to the camera) is "alright" or "let's go" to launch them, "haw"or "gee" to turn them, "easy", "pick it up"or "whoa" for speed changes, and "good dogs" or "well done" to tell them their behavior is what I wanted.

    I'm trying to train myself to NOT yammer away at the team, but rather just shut up and let them run. If I'm chatting away, the dogs have to listen and use mental energy to determine if I'm saying something important (like a behavioral cue) or just yammering away.

  3. Yes, that is what I would expect. Cool to watch 'em.