Sunday, March 3, 2013

The dogs are the teachers

Yesterday we had the opportunity to again watch our dogs in action, teaching beginners about sled driving.

We go over the basics of sled control, safety routines,  various bits of informational info about driving a sled and being with sled dogs.   The trails are groomed ahead of time.  The dogs are selected for their ability to require minimal handling by inexperienced drivers.  We very seldom start beginners with more than 4 dogs,
usually 3 or 4, infrequently 5.

The chosen teachers yesterday were Ruthie, age 11, lead;  Buffy, age 11, lead/wheel;  Herman, age 9, wheel;
Zoom, age 9, team/wheel;  Kiddo, age 11, wheel; Navy, age 10.5, lead; Sherpa, age 9, lead/wheel; Yuki, age 9, wheel.  With our kennel of aging dogs our depth of field is shorter now.  Some of the dogs ran with 4 teams yesterday.  Only two of those dogs have not had race experience , either with us or elsewhere.  In their hearts they ARE racing, so sled control is important.

With beginners we also don't do much with commands, although we do tell them Gee./Haw/On By/ No and
Whoa!   It is our experience that the pace is so quick at takeoff that the most important thing is sled control and we focus on how to do that.  The dogs know our trails so well that they'll be pretty much 'push button' to go the usual route. The driver's job is to keep the sled under control for their own safety and desired speed.  We ask them to not let them run full out.  Yesterday we wanted to take a fresh trail so I led the teams on the Skandic, giving the commands and they took the turns as the pros they are.   I can stay far enough ahead to stay out of their way, but I can also slow down to keep the dogs slower.

The beginners also learn the basics of handling dogs:  bringing them to the picket line, harnessing enthusiastic dogs who are wild to run (watch your teeth and eyes);  leading them to the gangline and hooking them up;
releasing the quick release;  jumping on a machine to follow and be ready to assist a team with a problem.

Photos later.

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