Right now I'm just 'playing' with dogs. I'm free running puppies, hooking up puppies, playing with yearlings, enjoying my retirees and giving the main string dogs some short fun runs.
Yesterday I hooked up 1 main string dog - X, 3 retirees - Mo, Odie and Loki, and 4 'yearlings' (they are all closer to 2, but until they are 2 I call them yearlings) - Tie, TopDog, Roscoe and Utin for a short afternoon run.
They roared out of the yard and down the trail. We zipped and zigged through the woods. The snowmachiners seem to mostly be avoiding the trails down my way this winter, so with one or two exceptions, the only trails out there are ones that we have put in by dog team.
They are narrow but after a few runs, well set. After doing about 4 miles with the team I 'gee'd' Moses and X off the set trails and onto our 'Riverbank Trail'. They jumped onto that trail without hesitation, but I realized right away that this trail had not been used, except by a bit of local wildlife, at all this winter.
It took me moments to realize that I probably shouldn't have done that with so many young dogs in the team, but by then going forward was really the only decent option.
Utin never even flinched. He drove hard behind my wonderful leaders, Mo and X. He is a superstar!
The other 3 rookies all had moments of seriously questioning my judgement though. We took lots of breaks and I used trees to tie off to so I could flail up front to untangle puppy lines and tell them all how amazing they were.
In a relatively short amount of time the pups all decided it was easier to just forge ahead and be part of the team. Pretty soon they were a tight little trail breaking unit. I was very pleased.
X and Mo were battling the whole way to see who got the little 'deer trail'. Age seemed to win out most of the time, but X never gave up or backed off.
Certainly, this for Odie, Loki, Mo and X this was 'old hat' but it was a big deal for those 'babies'. I'm proud of them and it was obvious at the end of the run they were proud of themselves.
It is these type of 'doable challenges' to the youngsters that will make them strong and confident sled dogs down the line.
I'm glad I called 'Gee'.