Friday, 15 July 2005

July 15, 2005 (posted) Teaching "On by"

Karen L. Ramstead, April, 2005
(originally posted at ScooterClub

Our situation requires that we are frequently around loose farm dogs, cattle, horses - and the worst of the worse - SHEEP. Learning to go by distractions is critical for our dogs.
I think working around a loose dog of your own (or one you know well) is great for helping to teach the dogs to ignore distractions. We have Fly, the annoying Aussie yard dog that 'helps' out at hook-up. The pups and young dogs learn to ignore him and that helps when they meet other dogs. I also try to run reliable front ends in areas I know will have distractions until everyone in the team is fairly reliable at 'on by'. A good leader or two can take your team by just about anything.
Once dogs are getting good at passing distractions when they are in the team I will put them up front with a solid leader and two reliable dogs in swing. The inexperienced leader will have a belly band on too so the 3 good dogs can drag them by a distraction, if need be.
I also ALWAYS discipline MY dogs for any altercation on the trails with loose dogs - whether or not the other dog initiated it, my dogs participated and that makes them in the wrong. I never let my dogs 'off the hook' and make excuses for them. "Who could blame them?" is not a part of my vocabulary. If they get in a scrape - I blame them. It takes two to tango. Participating in any kind of encounter with loose animals is not allowed. This practice now means that aggressive. snarling dogs can barrel into the middle of my team and my dogs (90% of the time) step over or around them.
As we run fairly big teams (usually 14's) it is important that we know our equipment well. I know that shut off in low gear, with the emergency brake locked, and the wheels cranked to one side or the other (it is way harder to get a 4 wheeler rolling if the wheels aren't pointing straight ahead), I can hold my team in most situations. The wheels being cranked to one side can also make sure you don't end up chasing your team for a long ways down a road - however, cranked to the wrong side can mean that you will roll your 4 wheeler or end up with it in a swamp (I speak from experiences on all accounts). Carrying a block of wood that you can wedge under a wheel in a jam isn't a bad idea either and we have done that on 4 wheelers that wouldn't hold a team on their own. I have also used snow banks, mud, trees and ditches to help slow down and/or hold the team in emergencies.
Just a few suggestions - hope they might be of help to one or two of you.
Mark and Karen L. Ramstead
NorthWapiti Kennels
Iditarod finishing and Best in Show winning Siberians

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