Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Training Me, Three Runs

Top: Team three coming back from a two mile run to the river... Zeus training Matilda in lead, and pro Quattro running a solid wheel .
Zoom on left in photo and pen pal, Kiddo, ran a perfect duo in wheel.

Buffy and Medio in lead, Zoom and Kiddo in wheel, up the leafy trails.

Buffy and Medio in lead, Herman in team, improbable Rosie in wheel. Herman was just too excited to run with Rosie. Rosie is a very excitable and happy girl. She's not a competitive dog
(couldn't race) but she fills out a team spot with her pen pals . She'll go anywhere just so she can go (sometimes eating her harness in the process).
Each time we run I learn something new about the dogs. Each combination of dogs varies and with the variance comes a different team personality. Each team, then, requires just slightly different handling.
Even though they get free runs all summer long, they are still wild when they see the first signs of hooking up a team. As soon as I walk up with harnesses and start laying out the lines, the kennel is exploding with excitement. I have learned to just proceed with my tasks , ignoring for the most part, the wild screaming. When newcomers are here I ask them not to be prodded by the excitement into hurrying. We need to get it all done right the first time, if possible.

For us, this is early in the season so the dogs are really wild to run. I'm hooking them up alone usually so it takes some planning to get them calm enough to hook up four or more by myself. Calm leaders, of course, make all the difference. Some dogs, however, are so excited to run that they don't give a thought to the calm leader, they just leap and scream and in the process knock me in the chin or gouge my leg or whatever.

The best idea with our dogs (not all dogs) is to let them free to run off their steam before we put them on the picket line. Sometimes this invites other dogs to leap the fence ,but, for the most part, letting them race up and down while I'm getting other things ready, calms them for hookup.
When I have a helper I hook up back to front, leaders last. Of course without a helper the leaders are hooked up first. Always there is a dog that surprises me, sometimes dogs with little experience. Zoom has had quite a bit of experience but in her pen family she is low girl on the totem poles. She is always super sweet and obedient and submissive with her pen mates. In hookup she is a dream, and in running. She's a little short girl but has her mother, Frita's personality, although she is not shy like Frita. She is Martin's daughter too and shows it when the chips are down. She'll plow forward through deep snow and come out charging, just like Martin.
While hookup is harder alone, the best part about running alone is that the dogs get my full attention. I watch each dog much closer and can see so much more about their unique styles.

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