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.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Training Time

The dogs know that something is different! The nights have gotten cooler...35 to 40 degrees F. The days now have a beginning and an end. The sun rises at 7:30 AM and sets at 8:00 PM. Do the dogs notice that the aspen and birch are brilliant gold and their leaves twirl downward in the slightest wind? Do they see the squirrels filling their winters caches or the snowshoe hares transitioning to their white winter coats? We'll never know.

What the dogs surely know is that their bodies are telling them that it's time to RUN...!

They bounce and jump....they run in circles around the yard....they call to each other excitedly.....they dig holes to China with energetic abandon. Somehow they know that serious TRAINING SEASON has begun. And they are beyond ready!

Hunter and Stella.

Is summer over yet? I need to pull a sled!

Aliy and Allen are ready too. Tons of hi protein kibble are stored in the barn. Harnesses and ganglines have been organized and repaired. The ATVs have been checked for tire pressure, oil level and fuel. The dog truck is coming out of summer storage. Training record forms have been printed for each potential race dog. Lists of animals due for Rabies and 5-Way vaccines are posted and waiting for vaccination day. Even Aliy and Allen have begun their own training regimes with the help of a treadmill and Bowflex in their 'training cabin'.

Last Sunday was the first real day of training dogs for the 2008/2009 long distance sled dog racing season. The main focus was to get the experienced adults harnessed up with a minimum of confusion and to begin to teach the youngsters the manners and behaviors expected of a professional racing dog. They are all so excited to be in harness again.

At this time of year, the ideal time to run is in the early morning when the temperature is still in the high 30's. On Sunday it was 38 degrees F and drizzling. Perfect to keep the dogs cool. Each team of 16 dogs was secured to an ATV and ran about 3 miles in a huge loop around Fireweed Field. The dogs were given several short rest breaks and their speed kept slow. This week the dogs will increase to 5 miles and travel the trail to Moose Slough and back.

During this early stage of training, the proven racers are used to teach and mentor the youngsters. For example, on Sunday, Hoss and Stormy lead one of the teams. Hoss, 6 years old, is a race hardened veteran. Stormy, age 3, is honing her leader skills. In the swing position, Manny (age 7) was tied with Hunter, a very excitable but bright 2 year old. And Dolly, a bit unfocused at age 2, was at the side of our very responsible, 5 year-old Snickers. All adults, age 2 and up, will train together in preparation for racing.

Two year-old Dolly. An adult body with a teen's focus.

The yearlings will run a less aggressive training schedule than the adults. Their job this season is to learn the basics of mushing, to muscle up and to calm down. Many of them were in harness for the first time on Sunday. Even though each yearling is paired with an adult on the gang line, the scene was pandemonium. This is the time for the musher to exhibit extreme patience, understanding and a sense of humor. The amazing thing is that each of these year-old, unproven Alaskan huskies knew exactly what to do when the team leaders started down the trail. Their championship genes shone through.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, is our third day of training. Think of us on the autumn trails of Interior Alaska. We'll update you on our progress!

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