During the summer months, the most common question that I get asked is ‘What do you do with them in the summer?’
First off, I typically don’t train the team unless it’s below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with a few exceptions concerning the weather (i.e. Wind, humidity, clouds, rain, etc.), which means the dogs typically don’t run from late April to the beginning of September. So what on earth do we do with them?
Sled Dogs are still dogs and just like any other dog, they (mainly) need 3 things (other than, food, water, and sleep) to stay happy.
• Mental Stimulation
• and Attention
And if you’re Steampunk, you also need hugs.
Now count in the fact that these are dogs specifically born, bred and trained to run and love it.
Luckily, these hooligans are mellowed out by the fact that the sun in eastern Washington shines from 9-5 and they don’t like the heat, so they mostly sleep during the day. If that were not the case, I can assure you they would be getting into all kinds of trouble. Which they do anyways.
One common assumption is that Sled Dogs, being working dogs, don’t like toys. Well, I can tell you right off the bat that some of my guys would adamantly disagree. The reality is, or seems to be from my perspective, that sled dogs are not bred to ‘fetch’. They are not Labrador Retrievers, or Golden Retrievers, so it is not intentionally in their genetic nature.
However, they most certainly do have prey drive, and most, (though not all) of my dogs love to chase a toy.
I find that Kong brand toys stand up fairly well against sled dog jaws, so they partake in various keep-away games with each other, as well as chasing it and bringing it back, which I do in short intervals so they don’t get too hot.
The crew is also trained to do something called free running, where they all run loose and socialize with each other while exploring the world around them.
All my dogs have recall training, which means they know how to come when called. Some are better at listening than others, I’ll admit, but I trust them all reasonably well depending on the situation.
Swimming is another great exercise, but not all the dogs like the water. However the few that do, have great fun wading in their horse trough in hot weather, and I’ve even taken a few dogs up to Black Pine Lake to see how they handled actually swimming. My lead dog promptly panicked and leapt off the dock to ‘save me’ because she thought I couldn’t swim.
We try to get the dogs away from the kennel as much as possible by taking a dog for a car ride, wether it’s to go socialize in town, or get out on a hike.
Socialization is really important for Sled Dogs, and that’s one of the main things on our mind during the summer months.
In the grand scale of things, with the amount of time they spend sleeping, and the amount of time they spend playing, we try to minimize the time they are bored to as little as we can, but by the end of Summer, we all start to get antsy for what we know is around the corner.
The team and I ran in the Conconully Snow Dog Super Mush as our final snow race of the season. We finished 7th with a day one time of 1:35:44 and a day two time of 1:36:11. In a field of mostly sprint style teams I’m very happy with how we did. I decide to not go to the American Dog Derby or the Flathead Classic, and instead focused more on the training of the team.
We also have a new teammate!
Nellie comes from Night Runner Kennel, and is my lead dog Freckles’ niece. She is going to be a wonderful addition to the team and you’re sure to see her at the front of the team with her aunt very soon.
I’m excited to say that yesterday I made the official decision to run in the 2018 Jr. Iditarod! A 150 mile race for mushers 14-17 in Alaska. Next year is going to be a tough season both mentally and physically, and I’m not shy about saying that I am most definitely nervous, but I know that we can do it.
It’s time to turn our heads toward next season,
We had an amazing weekend at the ECX. It was an incredibly well run race. The staff were incredible, the trails gorgeous, and the vet team was no less than outstanding. I’m so proud of how the team handled the course, and the yearlings have officially tackled their first race.When you leave the chute you almost immediately climb a set of hills before you get up onto the road most of the juniors race course is on.
Once we reached it, it was pretty much easy sailing up to Salt Creek Summit. The team (and myself) was definitely prepared for the rest of the course, and handled the hills with ease since most of our training trails include steeper terrain than seen the rest of the way. There were a few places on the trail that were a little icy, but I didn’t have any trouble.
I worked to keep them slow most of the time sense it was the yearlings first race and I wanted them to feel confident and happy finishing, and I didn’t want to push them at all.
I stopped the team briefly on the juniors loop to give them all hot dogs; a pre race plan to make sure they were still in high spirits.
I stopped the team again just after going through the turn around, and we hung out for fifteen minutes before continuing back down toward the ski area.
Coming down from Salt Creek was absolutely stunning. There was one section of the trail that looks out over the mountains and some farms down below, and I happened to be going through it when the sun was setting and the sky was gorgeous.
Heading through the iciest part of the trail I moved Robin over onto the left side of the Center line, sense I knew he would pull hard to whatever side I moved him too. The volunteers by the edge were awesome and everything went fine.
Coming into the finish they all looked awesome, and ready for more. Very proud of my team and how well they did. Very happy to have finished in exactly the amount of time I wanted to.
- Lead: Freckles and Tatum
- Swing/Team: Rubicon
- Wheel: Sunny and Robin Hood
- Place: 2nd
- Time: 3hr 35min
We have officially kicked off the 2016-17 Sleddog season! Our first run was a little wacky- the dogs didn’t quite have the rhythm of running down yet. We’ve run three times so far and the dogs are slipping right back into routine. Freckles, the newest dog in the kennel, is doing very well and is going to have settled in very nicely by the time snow starts to fall. She’s going to be an amazing asset to the race team.The puppies are growing up so fast. At eleven months it’s hard to believe their almost a year old. Robin Hood is getting to be very big. He’s a great mover and I’m very excited to have him on my team this year.
My main focus right now is refreshing the dogs on their old training, and teaching the new ones how I operate with the rest of the team. sometimes it takes them a little bit into the run to get on the same wave length.
Each run they keep getting better at behaving well and cooperating.
Definitely excited for the snow to fall!