Fixing Funks

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The team is in a bit of a funk lately. We had a bad run on Monday—nothing serious, just frustrating. Mostly, this run was disheartening because it came off the tail end of a few mediocre runs, and I was trying to make it an especially fun, easy run for the team. 

Knox and Blitz are what I’d consider “soft” dogs. Even though they’re big and intimidating-looking, little things can throw them off. This happened last season, too. Coming out of our old California yard, the rig would bounce down a few steps to the driveway. I’m pretty sure this brief event caused them both to have anxiety, and neither of them wanted to get on the line at hookup. After we got out onto the trail, both of them were fine.

The same thing seems to be happening here with the trail around my property. There’s a steep drop off into the woods, which means going down a sloped trail. The first time we ran it, we were on wheels, so I was able to keep things very slow over the rocky path. Then, when we had about a foot of snow, we went slow as we were breaking trail. We haven’t had any big storms lately, so the trails have been a mixture of hard packed ice with an inch of powder on top, or slush, or deep snow in spots and bald in others. We attempted to run the sloped trail when there wasn’t quite enough snow, which meant I couldn’t really use the brake or drag mat. In hindsight I wouldn’t have gone this way, but we managed it successfully, albeit quickly. I think this scared the older boys, because they hesitate when we head off into the woods towards that part of the trail. 

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Denali and Willow want to keep running and I know they’re annoyed when we only do two or three miles around the property. I can tell they’re bored, but we need more snow if we’re going to explore the other trails around us. And I need the entire team to be on board, too. 

In an effort to fix problems, I’ve been putting Blitz in lead—moving him away from the sled so he won’t feel like it’s chasing him. I had him run with Willow, which he’s done before, but it highlighted how unreliable she can be as a leader without Denali to keep her in check. I know it’s a symptom of her boredom, but I really need to have solid leaders on my team. Denali will be eight at the end of this season, and while she shows no sign of slowing down, I have to be prepared for when she retires. Running Denali and Blitz in lead has proven to work better, but Blitz has a long way to go before he’s making confident decisions up front.

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I gave the entire team two days off to recalibrate before running them again this morning. I’m borrowing some different style harnesses from my friend, Megan, to try on Knox. Today he wore the Zero DC, which is similar to an x-back, but without the signature “x” on the back. It’s a little too soon to tell, but he seemed a little perkier. I’ll try the Dog Booties Saddle Back harness next. I also put a 44 pound bag of dog food in the sled to help control our speeds a bit better. I swapped Blitz and Knox’s positions, in hopes that Blitz will pick up on following the leaders in swing/point. Knox was a little concerned with the sled, especially when the drag mat scraped over ice/gravel on the driveway, but I kept it slow and gave him lots of reassurance.

We only did a mile and didn’t attempt anything complicated. I wanted to make this run a good confidence booster—what I had tried to do on Monday. I’ll try the same thing tomorrow and then see what other trails look like this weekend. I’m sure they’d all appreciate running somewhere new for a change!

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