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Monday, December 20, 2010

Montana Sept. 2009 Part 4

Gator one of the best Leaders - retired from racing, used in training

After cleaning the dog yard, the next day, I had the opportunity to work with another group of five unbroken puppies. This trip did not go as well as the first. I made a ton of green rooky mistakes. First I picked the wrong dog to put in lead, Gator. He kept intimidating the other leader who kept trying to get away from him. To make matters worse, I had snapped my lead line to the wrong leader and pulled her harness off over her head. Then I compounded my mistake by lunging for her and tackling her when she broke free. Doug shouted at me to “never do that again.” A dog’s natural instinct is the defend itself and I could have had my face bitten or worse. Doug told me of a veteran Iditarod musher who lost half his nose from a similar situation. I also had snapped the neck line to the wrong ring on the collar and the dog could have pulled out of the collar also, and run free. Most of the collars have two rings; one is for tying them out in the yard and the other one tightens when the dog pulls against the neck line. It is only used with the puppies until they get used to pulling and then is not needed anymore. The rest of the run went better and ended well in the dog yard. All is well that ends well.

Thursday, Oct. 1, we harnessed the third group of five puppies to the 4-wheeler and I took the lead. This group had some issues. Several dog fights broke out and Doug increased the speed of the ATV in order to get the dogs to focus on running instead of fighting. Six months ago, I would have been fighting, too, for my life. But I had been working out over the summer and been jogging. I was able to stay ahead and keep the line taut. In spite of it all, we had to stop and Doug had to break up one fight that just would not quit. He informed me that he would be the bad cop and be responsible to discipline the dogs when they misbehaved and I would be the good cop that praised them when they behaved. He reasoned that he was not taking them to Nome, so if the were afraid of him and ducked away, that was OK; but they had to know, trust and like me if I was going to take them on the Iditarod. You could not have a dog duck away from you or drag the team on the trail. That could be disastrous for you and the dogs. 

One particular dog kept trying to pull back against the towline and when that did not work she tried to lay down. Luckily, it had rained and the ground was very muddy, and we were not going faster than a walk, so all that happened to her was that she got very muddy. Doug said that she was stubborn, but sometimes the stubborn ones made the best dogs. She might be the one to go through a blizzard or across difficult terrain when the other dogs would have quit. When we got back I told Melanie about the dog that thought she was too good to have to run. She asked which dog it was and laughed when I told her. She said the dog was named Princess and she had always been a Princess from the time she was born.


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