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last session in first mushing course

by Kyler Laird last modified 2009-02-23 21:03

The rubber meets the road.

date: 2009-02-22 (4670 days ago)

dogs: Sarge/Bob/Calder

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While making lines on Friday with some of the students in the mushing class I heard some of them talk about wanting to bike with their dogs or take them scootering. At least one person was thinking of buying a scooter (for several hundred dollars). It worried me that students might try activities (like biking) without proper equipment or delay their enjoyment of mushing due to the expense. I decided that we would concentrate on an inexpensive activity for the last session in this first series: tire pulling.

Amy brought Bo's tire to one of the first classes and I got the feeling that students wanted their dogs to pull it without realizing how much strength it requires. I put away the tire and concentrated on using the lightweight sleds instead. Today I hoped to re-introduce the tires as a safe and enjoyable exercise by using smaller tires for solo dogs and teaming other dogs.

I was late getting to Mr. & Mrs. Tire on Saturday and they'd already closed. Their tire racks outside were empty. Oops! Kitty called around for another store that would give us junked tires and found Tire Barn. They were very kind to us and provided eight tires in a variety of sizes. I dropped them at Klondike Canine Academy that night.

This morning I decided that I really wanted to reverse engineer some of the newer tug lines I purchased. I was impressed with how they're woven but hadn't figured out how to replicate it. I finally solved the puzzle and became obsessed with making lines using the new method. I finished ten lines before 1:00 and then packed everything off to KCA. After unloading I attached eye bolts to each of the eight tires. Total cost: $1/tire.

Students started arriving for class very early so I talked about what we'd be doing and began formulating my plan for grouping the dogs. While inside, we tested the dogs pulling the tires and then we all went out to the parking lot and gave it another test. I noticed that the two Huskies who were teamed to a medium tire were a little hesitant so I paired them with Bob and Morgan pulling a large tire. They got the gist of it very quickly.

The students had made a couple rounds already and the Huskies were doing well so we led everyone down the road and circled through the trailer park. I tried to go slowly but my team was in high gear. We stopped to let everyone pass us half way but then they were off again, and Bob led them through yards and over logs to go around the other teams. Everyone else did great! It was a thrill to see so many dogs enjoying this work and I was pleased to see their owners working with them, encouraging the dogs and giving them a boost when necessary.

We dropped the tires in the parking lot and returned to the barn for "request time." I had a wagon ready and a few dogs tried it. It's a lot to ask a dog to step into a wagon and pull, especially in a confined space, but they did well. We also took sleds outside and the little boys in the class got to ride in them.

I got a lot of encouraging reviews from the students and am confident that they will be able to put the experience to good use immediately. It was especially fun to hear students talk about meeting up to let their dogs pull together. I encouraged the students to take a tug line and a tire with them and many did.

The participants in our first class were all wonderful; it could have been very stressful had they not been so enthusiastic and good with their dogs. I'm looking forward to using what I've learned to help the next class. Our next class is already full (nine dogs) although I might make room for more because three of the dogs came from LTDR and two are from the same family.

I treated the first class very much as a "sampler" and tried to give students a taste of lots of possibilities so they could decide what best fits them and their dogs. I still want to do that but I also want to use the class to start families on a pulling routine. Next time I want to get started quicker and provide basic tools (harnesses, lines, juice jugs, etc.) right from the start so that participants can have a common experience and develop the habit of working their dogs.

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