Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Puppies in training: the making of a sled dog

Sled dog training starts early: Tak's puppies are only seven weeks old, but they're already learning the basics of how to be sled dogs. I don't know how other people train dogs, but for me, puppy training starts with teaching pups the basics: that people are good and to come when I call for them.

Perry leads the puppy pack toward me down the puppy paths

Because sled dogs must work together as a team, I believe in allowing the dogs free time to interact as a pack daily. They work out their differences and, in general, they all get along very well. It's quite a sight to see a dozen or so dogs running full-throttle through our pastures, playing and wrestling!

I also believe strongly that dogs need social/play time as well as physical training throughout the year, not just during training season, so I diligently stick to a strict daily "free running" schedule for my dogs, and the puppies (especially the puppies!) are no exception. At least twice a day, I turn the pups out and work with them, handling each one, allowing them to run and play, and teaching them to run with me along our puppy paths.

Perry follows Marley, our Australian Shepherd, along our puppy paths at the Ranch
There are so many connections being formed in each of their little brains at this age, and I want as many of those connections to be as positive as possible. Dogs learn so much from each other, too: how to not bite too hard, where each one sits in the pack, how to interpret body language, and where their place is with the adult dogs.

In my opinion and experience, dogs who don't have nurturing and safe "formative" years in these critical weeks of puppihood end up having issues later in life. In order to give our dogs the best shot at forming healthy relationships with the world around them, I really try hard to offer a loving and stimulating environment for them to romp and play early on.

(from left) Toots, Tosh and Rasta explore the ruts in papa Yeti's circle
They are each so gorgeous and curious in their own ways. Tosh is quiet and gentle, Toots is affectionate and loyal, just like her sisters, Rasta and Ziggy. Perry is calm and affectionate, but Wailer - just like his name - is the loud-mouthed runt of the bunch and a mama's boy!

When they are done playing, they drift off to sleep wherever they land. Oh, to be young!
They're so trusting, so innocent. It's hard to believe they will grow up to be such amazing athletes.

It's also hard to believe Tak's beautiful puppies are already seven weeks old. Sweet dreams from sled dogs in training!

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