Now I do make a point to try to set up young dogs up for success - I make sure they have good miles under their belts (amount depending on individual dogs), are on trails they know, and surrounded by leaders that will 'look after' things for them/me so the run goes well. The point is to put good, positive experiences on them while gradually increasing the stress/pressure that is innate to being a lead dog.
Some dogs take to being a leader immediately, some require a bit more time, and some require a LOT more time - but in my experience you can get EXCELLENT, quality leaders from all three paths. One of my all time best leaders - Spud - dragged me through forests and fields every time I tried him in lead until he was 5 years old!
|With Grover and Spud at the finish line of one of the toughest races I've even done - the '99 Klondike 300|
So, I don't ever give up on a leader if their first runs in lead are less then stellar, but it certainly makes me happy when they are great from the start!
The past week Skecher, Neo, Pop, Scud and Ryka all had me smiling after their first turns at lead.
The plan yesterday was to give Squib a shot. However Julia has taken QUITE the shine to Fletch ....
....so I decided to change plans and give goofy Mr. Fletch a go.
But Fletch insisted it didn't look very hard and he was ready!!
Things actually went very well for quite a time.
He required a bit of help at the river crossing, but that's fine - that is a tough spot for a rookie!
...but eventually the pressure of leadership got to be too much for my happy go lucky young man and he began acting out.
Fletch's method of acting out is to start scraps with anyone he can. No harm was done, but he was removed from his lead dog position.
His day will likely still come ... just not today!!
Young Squib was pressed into action. He did not bad, but honestly, not particularly great either.
He is going to need a bit more time too - but he did get us back into the yard!!! (Not like I didn't have other leaders to take his place, but it is always nice to end on a positive note with a young dog!).
No pressure.....there is lots of time......