SP Kennel is a premier sled dog racing kennel in Two Rivers, Alaska, dedicated to the individual dog through excellent health, nutrition, training and specialized care.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Flashback Friday: Fall Training

As we are in the thick of fall training right now, and as a follow up to Aliy's post last week, here is a post from "Kennel Mom" Mickey on October 10, 2007, explaining more about early season training.

_____________

The sleet is falling and the dogs are howling. For us, this equates to Fall Training. This is a “lump sum” term for the seasonal start of training our sled dogs. Fall Training should be clarified.

In human terms, Fall Training would liken to the chores, work and mental concentration that begin again after a long relaxing vacation. Perhaps you were on a month-long Mediterranean cruise. While cruising you notice your waistline expanding and that Workout Room doesn’t out rank the 24-hour “Dessert Bar”. You are probably packing a few extra pounds. You are also mentally out of the loop as far as your job, your home, your bills, and your social obligations. It definitely takes a few days to get back into the grind.

Well, let’s consider that our dogs took an extended vacation. Not only are we trying to get one canine back into the program. We are working with the minds and bodies of every dog in the dog yard!

The adult racers, those between the age of 2 and 9, are the core of the yard. They are excited to get back into the harnesses, but they also know what is expected from them. They have all had at least one season of training and some of them have had many additional years. Even the first day of Fall Training, we can generally hook up rather large dog team to an ATV 4 wheeler and start to put on miles.

We start with distances that everyone would scoff at later in the season. We might run 3 to 5 miles until everyone looks like they have their wind and stamina. Our speed is kept down to 8 to 10 mph. We do this by gearing the ATV in a lower gear so that the dogs are actually pulling against the engine. If we were to use the brakes all of the time we’d have none left by October! Slowly we increase distances, speeds and the dogs improve their endurance. We then begin to incorporate speed intervals and hill training in our work outs. Of course, just like human beings, dogs require rest days to recuperate their muscles, so we have to manage the training calendar precisely. No dog will get any more then 2 days off through out the season.

Manners and obedience are of great importance during Fall Training. The behavior that is deemed acceptable this time of year will be expected through out the season. Manners include a lot of things, for instance: allowing us to harness them (did I mention that they are quite excited?). I have to admit that I have received a black eye or big lip from an overly exuberant dog. I TRY not to get irritated if this happens, for I know that they are quite energized. But, it becomes obvious at this time that we must teach them exactly what acceptable behavior is.

Manners also include “lining out”. (Right: Heidi "lining out" at a race start) The harness system that we have been using for several years does not use a neck line from the dog’s collar to the mainline. The dog is only attached to the mainline with one tug line to his/her harness. Therefore, a dog can face any direction they want and thus pull in any direction as well. This could result in complete chaos if the dogs weren’t actually taught the obedience of “lining out” in the correct direction.

Manners also include a dog’s behavior toward other dogs. Our dogs generally get along. In the yard, the dogs live at houses that are quite close together. They can touch one other and play a lot with their neighbors - commonly siblings (left: Spot and Biscuit spend an afternoon playing)

But, while hooking up a team, arguments can happen. In all honesty, our dogs are not generally “fighters” but squabbles occur once in a while. There is usually a simple reason behind a quarrel and it can often be rectified by monitoring partners. Some dogs are relatively patient as they wait to go. These dogs are generally conscientious and thoughtful. But, other dogs are CRAZY and they appear out of their minds at times as they shriek and wail – simply excited to go! These high energy athletes jump up and down and all over. They might even jump on top of their running partner because they can not contain their enthusiasm. You can see how one dog might annoy another.

Obedience is expected during and after a training run. After the run, the dogs come into the yard and stay lined out. We then go around to all of their dog houses and place a treat or dog food in their food dish on the roof. We walk to the front of the dog team and, starting with the leaders, we let every dog run back to their respective houses. This helps us to monitor their post run condition. Many of the dogs have lived at the same house for years, so it doesn’t seem that far fetched to expect a dog to know where he/she lives. I believe that the more you expect from a dog, the more it will rise to the occasion and try to please you. Of course, dogs will be dogs and Tony will stop at Butterscotch’s house and eat his treat prior to returning to his own house for a treat. Or Teddy insists on running over to play with the retired dogs prior to returning to her house. But, all in all, if you account for the individuals in the yard, most of the dogs will head home.

Our major goals in Fall Training are to begin our training season with a positive, fun outlook and establish acceptable behavior patterns. This way, ALL of us will enjoy mushing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SP Kennel New Crew Member

New SP Kennel Crew member, Spencer, is our "kennel manager" this season.
Spence first got involved with sled dogs when he was 18 and living in Central Oregon. After working with a few different mushers, he decided to make a goal of learning as much as possible about driving and caring for sled dogs. He believed that if he wanted to be serious about dog mushing, he needed to move up to Alaska. The following year, he loaded his Subaru with his dog and everything he owned and began the haul up the Al-Can in the dead of winter.

For the last four years, he has being working with sled dogs in Alaska. He is addicted to the mushing lifestyle and has three huskies of his own - Ivan and Rooney get to participate in our training program, while five-month-old Berlin keeps the puppies occupied.

The day to day activities at SP Kennel's Two Rivers base of operations are certainly picking up in late October. As the Alaskan days get shorter, (we are losing nearly 7 minutes of daylight per day) the training mileage gets longer. Our days begin around 7:30 AM when we meet for coffee and to discuss goals for the day, then head outside and hit the yard around 8 AM.

Spence's day starts with feeding breakfast to everyone. The puppies get some personal time and are often moved to a play pen for the day. Then the yard is cleaned. Afterwards, we all check the weekly training schedule. It lists the daily mileage goals and training routes for the adult racers as well as for the yearlings, with whom Spence spends most of his time on the trail. On most days, there are one to four individual dog teams to be harnessed and trained. All dogs are snacked after each training run, followed by "dinner" at the end of the day.


Spence: Harnessing Viper; Walking Champ to the team; Snapping an enthusiastic Pepe to the line.

We hope to get a photo soon when Spence is actually looking at the camera - however, he's rather camera shy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The New Portraits are Posted!

For those of you waiting, the new dog portraits are posted on the Dog Page.
So check them out!

A HUGE thank you to Jeanne and her camera magic!
And of course ~ as we all know ~ SP Kennel wouldn't be the same without Moira's website magic!

Personally, these are my three favorites portraits:

Waylon is always a challenge to photograph and Jeanne sure captured his intensity without "bug eyes" this year. Junior is a strange-looking girl with huge bat ears, but somehow this portrait makes her look almost glamourous (I said almost.) Lester is a shy guy by nature but this portrait seems to bring out his awesomeness!


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Portrait Sneak Peek!

The dog portraits are complete and we are in the process of updating the Dog and Puppy pages with their new glam shots. This will take a few days so watch this space.

In the meantime we thought you would enjoy a sneak peek at some of them.

Jeanne (right, with Ginger) has managed to capture some real personality in the shots due, I believe, to how well she knows our dogs. I personally love Quito's glam shot as it shows her calm intensity along with her pretty face; and check out Pepe - he's ready to show us his stuff this season!

It's hard to pick a favourite of the puppy pics but look at how laid back and relaxed Rodney is in front of the camera.


L-R: Calmly intense Quito; Pepe rearing to go; Rodney relaxes

We are especially excited for you to see the latest pictures of our yearling class. These are the dogs you will notice the most change from their last season's pictures. Take a look at these comparisons from this time last year and see how handsome and grown up these boys are now!


L-R Champ, Commando and Nomex in October 2014


L-R: Champ, Commando and Nomex in October 2013

Of course, with any photoshoot there are always out-takes!


L-R: Beemer and Mismo forgetting how to dog

Thanks again to Jeanne Schnackenberg for sharing her incredible talent with us!

- Moira

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dog Fan Club Draw #1 - Alaska Day

Happy Alaska Day everyone! And thank you to everyone who joined the Dog Fan Club in the last two weeks. We really appreciate your love and enthusiasm for our dogs!

Alaska Day is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States which occurred at Stika on Friday, October 18, 1867.

To help commemorate this our Dog Fan Club winner will receive these Alaskan goodies (bear claw salad tongs, an Alaska dog leash and Alaska flag) in their packet along with a glossy glam shot of their dog and a Fan Club Winner certificate!

Congratulations to Mary Lynn Roush of Oregon. Mary Lynn is a fan of OLIVIA and she got extra treats and a butt scratch this morning (Olivia, not Mary Lynn)!



Our next draw is on October 31st so look out for a Halloween themed Fan Club draw! The names of everyone who didn't win this time and all new members will be in the draw to win.

Click the button below for instructions on how to join:


Click this button below to take you directly to the Dog Fan Page.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Portrait Day

Okay, so some folks think that we are a little "over the top" when it comes to our dogs. And I'll have to admit that having a day set aside as "Portrait Day" might just put us in that category. But… every school has a "Picture Day" and everyone loves photos of our dogs. So, we do it anyway.

But it is a lot of work! Most of all, we have to thank Jeanne Schnackenberg. She puts tremendous time and effort into her photography. Taking hundreds of pictures are only the first step. She then spends hours downloading and editing the final product. In just a few days, every SP Kennel dog will have a brand new amazing glamour portrait.


Chena and Jeanne look at portrait options; They compromised on the final selection.

The kennel garage was a fine combination of professional flash equipment, lighting panels, colorful back drops and all the fancy stuff that any portrait studio would have in conjunction with biscuits, "squeaky noise" dog toys (including a dancing Snoopy) and dozens of gloves that are tossed in the air for the desired "ear perk look". The very patient photographer's assistants were Wendy and Spencer.


L-R: Tinder was slightly intimidated by the camera; Nelson shows his "best" side

Monday, October 13, 2014

October Training

Training conditions have been perfect this October. Every SP Kennel dog -- except ChaCha (13 1/2 years), Bullet (12 1/2 years) and Nutmeg (10 1/2 years) -- are in harness on a planned weekly exercise schedule.

We have four manageable training teams right now. These teams are established mostly due to the ease of hooking up. In other words, the dogs in the rear of the yard: Driver, Iron, Amber, Clyde and Schmoe will be in the same team. The dogs in the front of the yard: Dutch, Scout, Boondocks, Lydia and Izzy will be in the same team. So, obviously this time of the year, our dogs are not differentiated into Varsity or JV teams. Experienced dogs, youngsters and "tweeners" are all still training together.

Since every dog -- young and old -- are training together, obviously they have different skills sets and abilities. The September and October SP Kennel exercise schedule is set up so that the least experienced dogs can succeed. This is accomplished by establishing an overall training schedule that very slowly increases in mileage and stays at a relatively slow speed. Not every dog learns at the same rate.

The reason that we do this 'conservative' approach is that we know who are "best dogs" were last season. Quito didn't win the Yukon Quest Golden Harness two years in a row on a fluke. So, she and her championship Yukon Quest teammates, Copper Basin 300 teammates or Iditarod teammates can do an Olympic caliber training regime from now until March. But, we don't know who are "best dogs" are going to be. This is crucial.

There is so much potential in every dog! We don't want any individual to 'slip through the cracks' of training. Training to win races doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't even happen in a year. It takes patience, time and a willingness to give your future "best dogs" a chance to prove themselves.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Iditarod 2014 Summary Movie

This past week Aliy was asked to do several company presentations in and around Alaska. Since folks wanted to know what the trail looked like during the 2014 Iditarod, we compiled video clips from the "Aliy Cam".

Enjoy!




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wind Back Wednesday: "S" Litter Pupdate

Happy birthday to Schmoe, Scooter, Sissy and Spoog who turned five years old today!

Today's Wind Back Wednesday (to replace Throwback Thursday this week) is from November 2009 which brought us pictures of the latest additions to SP Kennel - the Pepper x Ranger litter dubbed the "S" litter. How cute are they? All four have matured into great, hardworking and talented dogs with Sissy and Schmoe making Aliy's 2014 Iditarod team!
_______________

We brought the pups inside for a while this morning and had a grand time with them.


L-R Scooter was active and outgoing, especially enjoying time laying on Allen's chest; Schmoe played hard then crashed for a perfect little puppy nap.


L-R: Sissy has the best mustache in the Kennel... Perhaps in the entire dog universe! (We hope her doggie friends don't tease her about it.); And then there's Spoog... What more can you say than "Too cute!"

All the pups are doing very well and growing like crazy! Pepper is a very good mom, and all the dogs are helping to socialize the pups in the Kennel pack.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Snow!


At least 7 inches of fresh snow by Monday morning!


Dingle enjoys the snow.(Look at the pups in the background.)


Four happy puppies: Ernie, Five, Ginger and Rodney. Scooby was off chasing his tail!