Friday, May 25, 2012


It's not even Memorial Day yet - the official "kick off" of the summer season - and the temps have already been above 90 degrees a few times here at the Ranch. Some may like these temps, but huskies - and really most dogs - do not!

I go to great lengths to keep our doggy family members as cool as possible between May and August. They all have 24/7 access to large buckets of cold, fresh water in each of their kennels or at their dog houses, and we have a kiddie pool that the dogs like to play in on hot days.

Because we live only two miles away from a large state park and lake, I often take a pack of dogs to the beach! Here is a video from our sled dog swimming session this evening. It was 10 month old, Tosh's (all white dog) first adventure in the lake!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sled Dog Training 101

Pulling seems to be second-nature to some sled dog pups. In my experience with training sled dog puppies, most of the time they know instinctively what to do when they're first put in harness.

Our best breeding to date has produced some great-looking pups, and two of them are already harness broken: Perry, who has four hook ups and is running like he's been doing it for ten years already, and his sister, Rasta, who ran in lead next to her dad on her very first hook up. You can see a video of that first hook up here.

Of the puppies from this litter, Perry, Tosh and Rasta, are very outgoing and affectionate. But one pup has been "different" right from the beginning. Louder and more needy than the other pups, he cried and clamored for his mother's attention with loud barks and seemingly constant whining. So naturally, from our themed-name choice of "the Reggae litter," this pup's name was a no brainer: Wailer.

Wailer at nine months

Even though Wailer has been socialized just like his siblings, he is extremely shy and skittish. It's no wonder: both his parents, Yeti and Tak, were painfully shy when I first got them. Over time and with consistent work, Yeti and Tak have emerged from their shells.

Wailer is still loose in a kennel pen rather than on a tether like the others. Until recently, anytime I would put a collar on him, he would somehow manage to chew it off. Several times I have tried working with him on a leash, and he bucked wildly like an untamed horse. Sometimes he even cries out - such is his panic.

Tonight, after free running all the other dogs, I worked with Wailer individually on sled dog training 101. I hooked him up to a long lead rope, and initially, he bucked like a wild horse. Slowly, he calmed down until he just stood next to me.

Lots of praise.

Then I started walking. He took a step, then leaped into the air as if he was trying to fly instead of walk! Finally, after a couple of attempts, he began walking normally on the lead rope.

Lots of praise.

After just 20 minutes of working with Wailer, he was walking around our "puppy paths" on a lead rope like a champ!

Training sled dogs is achieved by the same basic principles as training a pet dog to sit. With patience and lots of praise, they learn their job.

Our first step was walking on a lead rope, and I suspect Wailer maybe be a bit challenging. But once he gets the hang of pulling in harness (and I don't think it will take long), I think he has a ton of potential just like the other pups!

As always...

Spring chicks

It's been awhile since my last post, and that's because we have been very busy with spring projects. We have a small flock of laying hens and one Ameraucana rooster, and every spring, I buy a new little batch of six or eight to add to the flock. I have always wanted a Brahma, but the hatchery I buy from, Meyers Hatchery, didn't seem to have any of this rare breed available for months. I ordered three "Easter eggers" - kinda a mix breed originating from my favorite, Ameraucana, and decided to buy whatever was available in the store that day.

The day came, April 30, and I always let my youngest, Elise, stay home from school on "chick day." It takes about an hour and a half to get to the hatchery, and it makes for a fun and pretty drive.

Elise so happy with her box of babies!
We received our three Easter eggers, and managed to pick out four other chicks from the small selection the hatchery had available in the store. As luck would have it, they had two light Brahmas available! I snatched those up right away! We also walked out with a golden laced Hamburg, a new breed to me, and a blue laced red Wyandotte, another new breed! Here are their photos along with their names :)

The "Three Amigos" - three Easter Eggers, Sunny, Buttercup and Daisy

Isabella, on of the light Brahmas. Not pictured: Spazzy, the other Light Brahma...who lives up to her name :)

Delilah, a Golden Laced Hamburg

Peaches, who is a Blue Laced Wyandotte

And Oatmeal, who I think is a Golden Buff

Happy Spring! And, as always...