sled dog training

Water World

After all the rain we’ve had, the trails down in the Pine Barrens were more like small lakes. We tried a new 5.7 mile loop, which involved maneuvering through some huge puddles that just about submerged the the rig. The dogs didn’t seem to mind. Especially Dexter – he actually ran better than ever. I guess maybe he’s a Labrador mix after all. 
 Towards the end of our run, we caught up with Jessica’s team and Bryan’s team (fellow Jersey Sands mushers). It was nice having some teams to chase for the final stretch, and to get the dogs used to other dogs nearby. Passing is a different story, but I’m grateful to have other mushers involved in this crazy sport to train with me!

After all the rain we’ve had, the trails down in the Pine Barrens were more like small lakes. We tried a new 5.7 mile loop, which involved maneuvering through some huge puddles that just about submerged the the rig. The dogs didn’t seem to mind. Especially Dexter – he actually ran better than ever. I guess maybe he’s a Labrador mix after all.

Towards the end of our run, we caught up with Jessica’s team and Bryan’s team (fellow Jersey Sands mushers). It was nice having some teams to chase for the final stretch, and to get the dogs used to other dogs nearby. Passing is a different story, but I’m grateful to have other mushers involved in this crazy sport to train with me!

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Fall

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Park Runs

Awesome run this morning after several days of humid grossness. It would have been better if it was a little colder, but that’s my only complaint!

The dogs did great. To start, they usually yap their heads off as we’re leaving the house, which I’m sure isn’t pleasant for my neighbors. Today, they were silent and focused. Dexter has been acting rowdy at hook-up, lunging at Knox and tangling himself up in his excitement. Today, he stayed still and didn’t cause any problems.

The run went perfectly fine, no chasing squirrels, no barking at dogs – granted, they didn’t really see any squirrels or dogs. But I’ll still count it as a win.

What really impressed me was the dogs’ “on-by” when passing people and vehicles. There were multiple instances where we had to pass by moving and parked cars, and they did it flawlessly.

We also passed by a herd of children waiting at a bus stop – all squealing, “DOGGIES!”, no less. Dexter showed some interest, because he’s a social butterfly, but Denali and Knox powered through and he took the hint. 

Despite their issues with other animals, it’s awesome to have them listen to me under most other circumstances. Good dogs!

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Sled Runs

Winter storm “Hercules” (I hate that they name snow storms now) dumped a bunch of white stuff on us the day after New Years. We went for a run around the neighborhood while the storm was still raging to take advantage of the unplowed streets.

Even though it was nearly midnight, the snow reflected everything and we could see just fine. By the time we got back, the dogs had ice beards and our hair was frozen. It reminded me of professional dog teams during the Iditarod or other big races – even though we were only out for about 45 minutes and went less than two miles.

Friday, I had to work a bit, but afterwards we headed right back out. It didn’t get much warmer than the teens, so the snow didn’t melt and the streets still had a sled-able layer of snow.

My goal for today was to get out on some real trails. I dragged my sister along to Six Mile Run to help – and to take pictures while we ran. While we were setting up, a guy walked over and asked if he could take pictures, because “no one would believe him”. I love those encounters. He stood along the trail and snapped photos as we took off and the dogs passed by flawlessly – even though he had a scary hat and Dexter wasn’t too sure about it. 

The dogs run great on snow. You can tell they love it, even if it’s a bit extra work for them. The snow was deep and soft today, so it was slow going. I didn’t mind it, though. The trails were beautiful and I soaked up every second out there. This is why I do it, not to clock in super fast speeds or win races.

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Trouble on the Trails



Denali is an incredible dog. She’s so awesome in harness, that on bad days (like today), I have to remind myself – she’s only a year and a half. This is only her second season in harness. She’s way ahead of the curve, so little slip-ups are to be expected.

We’ve only done a few runs thus far, but I’ve noticed her prey drive is way more intense than it was last year. She used to get excited by squirrels or ground hogs, and even try to chase after them – but I could always call her off. It took 15-30 seconds for her to regain her composure, and we were moving again.

This year, she’s way more focused on capturing whatever it is that darted into her line of vision. In fact, she seems to be going after imaginary animals, too. Or she’ll stop at places where we saw an animal during a previous run and try to find it.

This behavior throws Knox off and he joins in on the hunt. Dexter either joins in, or stands there pitifully while she yanks at his neckline. Today was pretty frustrating, in particular. I had to get off the bike several times to pull Denali out of the bushes and point her in the right direction.

I don’t like screaming my head off at the dogs (especially when I’m around the neighborhood, with the occasional bystander looking on in awe), but they go deaf to my commands when they’re chasing something. Sometimes, a stern enough shout breaks them out of it. Most of the time, though, I need to physically pull them away. And that’s not good.

Hopefully, with more runs, Denali will settle down and be the leader I know she is. And as the temperatures drop, all the little critters will hopefully be sleeping away in their dens.

2012-2013 Mileage to Date: 18.2

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