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...

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