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Monday, December 20, 2010

Montana Sept. 2009 Part 5

Friday, we ran the first team again. This time, getting some of them into harness was more difficult. Doug kept yelling at me to bend my right elbow and keep it into my side. This would keep me from pulling my bad shoulder. He said that I needed to go home and do a whole lot of bicep curls to strengthen them and do triceps exercises to counter the increased strength I would get in my biceps. This time I did not have to go very far, but the dogs were barking and the leader got into it. It was Sultan, my old nemesis from last year. He missed the turn and had to be turned. I offered to get off and go to the front of the line and lead him around, but Doug said that would not teach him to lead any better. Instead, Doug told me to get off and walk about six feet away from the 4-wheeler in the direction he wanted to go, to give Sultan the idea to go that way. He later explained that I could do that now because the 4-wheeler was heavy enough to keep the team from leaving me; but when I was on a sled, I should never be more than an arms length away in case I had to jump for the sled if the dogs took off. One of the dogs in the fight had gotten so tangled that we had to stop to undo the mess. I started to pet the dogs but Doug stopped me. This stop was to correct a problem, not reward misbehavior. There would be no petting at this stop. A little farther on, another dog remembered that we had stopped at that spot the last time and started to slow down. We would not be stopping there again. If we had stopped, that dog would have stopped there every time we came back that way. Doug informed me that dogs are a lot like kids. You reward them when they are good. You discipline them when they are bad. You gain their trust. You spend a lot of time with them and praise and encourage them often. This was good advice and would serve me well when I got home.

Sultan - my old nemesis lead dog

When we got back to the dog yard I put the dogs away in the order I thought we might use the next time they went out. The dog I would use in swing would be put in the doghouse nearest the lead and the dogs I thought did not do well would be put in the houses farthest away, to be put at the wheel position in front of the sled. Then I had Doug critique me. He said we would never get out of the dog yard with them in that order. I had put T-bone in the position of swing and had forgotten that he had been there before and did not do well. He dug in and drove well but was easily distracted and needed to be at the wheel. He also did not like the other dog that would have been next to him in swing and we would have had a dog fight before we left the yard, the next time. I was learning, but as Doug said, I had a whole lot to learn and not a lot of time to learn it. While I was gone, Doug would continue to run the dogs to train them and increase their endurance. By the time I came back at the end of the month, he would have condensed the 15 dogs into two teams. He would run each team every other day. They would be running 5-10 miles during each training run when I returned.

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