Friday, October 16, 2009

Training Log #3, October 16

Its mid October now and in years past we usually have quite a number of runs under our "belt" by now; but this year we have been a bit slower. First of all, it was so warm in September and then there was the dust...On top of that, there is the greenhouse construction and some a couple other side projects. Fortunately in the beginning of October the weather changed for the better for training sled dogs (not so for people who were enjoying the long indian summer). Today we got out for our third runs of the season. Vicky Massey and I met north of Blanchard where we ran on State ground, starting out a friend's property. I had gone today with the intent of avoiding rain tomorrow, though now that I see the latest forecast, it appears that the rain will hold off til tomorrow night. Nonetheless it looks even warmer tomorrow than today so I am glad I got today's runs in.

Speaking of warm, it is much warmer now than the unseasonably cold temperatures we experienced last week, in fact it feels almost balmy in comparison. Our low last night did not dip below freezing, in fact I don't think it dropped much below 40 degrees. I definitely prefer quite a bit colder temperatures for running my Samoyeds but we can adjust when it is warm, we take it slower, stop more often, take a drink or two. Still I hope for their sake, it will cool down a bit.

With a kennel full of girls in heat, I am still training the samoyeds in separate boys and girls teams. So no A and B teams here, we have B and G as someone said today. The boys, with Abby and Cooper ran first today and had the pleasure of sharing the trail with Vicky and her dynamite scooter team (except they were pulling a light racing cart). We did some passing practice which I have been wanting to do with some teams other than Bob's. For the most part that went well except for one pass in which Donner got a bit snippy with one of Vicky's leaders. I'm not sure what was going on but I told Donner to "leave it", which he did, as that is certainly not exceptable passing behavior. Of course this is why we practice, the more we do it, the more comfortable the dogs become. They learn what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior when passing. It becomes pretty automatic to them. In recent years however; I have not had nearly as much chance to practice this with my dogs as I have in the past and I think it is so important.

The "boys" very much enjoyed their run, even with the warmer temperatures. Doing back and forth passes with a team they had not met before was something new and exciting for them. I was also pleased with the leaders performance on turns. At a couple points, Vicky took her team in different directions than I did, and both Cooper and Abby, though they paused initially, took their commands correctly.

The girls went out second, and alas it was getting warmer definately for them by the time we left. So we took it slow and took a few more breaks. Actually we had a few more breaks than I intended because these girls certainly like to hunt. In fact, it would seem that their sole purpose in going out on these runs is to locate all squirrel middens and squirrels. I lost track today. Now I will say that the good thing is that though they get distracted and go off the trail for the squirrels they are definitely better than my old boy Moqui used to be. Once he saw a squirrel, he was like an elephant that wouldn't forget and I used to have a terrible time getting him to focus again on doing what "I" thought we were supposed to be doing ;). Of course that is the thing about working with dogs and running dogs. We each go out for our own reasons. The alaskan huskies, they run because they were born and bred to run. Some of them don't even notice squirrels, or deer even. Siberians, well I think the squirrel would have to run right under their nose to notice. Samoyeds, on the other hand, well it depends on the Samoyed but clearly these girls were thinking about winter provisions! Once again, the key is to understand your dogs and train accordingly. At any rate they were clearly enjoying themselves and keeping an eye out for tasty morsels kept them alert and working (between squirrels). I am hopeful though, that as time passes they will learn to go onby these squirrel "morsels", at least most of them :). Without Abby or Cooper on this team we did a bit more actual hill training this second run. You see the girls tried to convince me that the two hills we encountered were too much and would I not get off the cart and help them or perhaps take a different route! So I stopped for a bit, in a couple of cases, got off, set my brake, and gave each of them a little pep talk before going back and calling them up. In both cases after I did this the girls leaned into their harnesses and pulled well. This is all part of training, and that is why we are out there! We did make it up both hills, the girls did it all themselves, and we stopped for lots of praise afterwards. If all our runs were going perfectly, it would mean that I was not doing an real training with my teams!

As we approached the truck we could hear the dogs from our friend's kennel singing and the girls sped up with anticipation of their return to the truck, greeting their buddies and getting their treats. They arrived with tails wagging and tongues hanging out, it was warm....but they were happy.

After our runs Vicky and I and our friends had the chance to do what all mushers love to do after a run, stand around, enjoy some coffee and a cinnamon roll (thanks Vicky) and talk dogs or whatever else comes to mind. As we relaxed, so did the dogs who were enjoying the warm sunshine now that their exercise was done. So with another set of runs are over, and I sit here smiling as I remember, yes, this is why I am a dog musher.

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