23 March 2011 2.00PM Temperature 36 F Cloudy
So, it seems that “they”, who ever they are, have declared that winter is over and Spring is officially here. As I look outside, it seems “they” are wrong, the yard is still covered with snow, our trails are still runnable and the dogs still need soup to get their fluids as the water bowls still freeze overnight. But closer examination shows icicles forming from the snowmelt on the roof, bare spots on the deck and an ice rink where the gutter downspouts end. I guess maybe it is Spring after all……………….
However, we’re not ready to give in just yet. I’m actually wishing it was next September already – this winter is barely done and I want the next one here now. The dogs are not ready to laze about either, probably mostly because they’ve been lazing about since January as it is. Faced with the knowledge that once the snow goes, we’re not really able to train very much because of the state the trails get in, I decided to try and run the young dogs to let them see what all the fuss is about. They have spent the winter watching the older dogs go crazy each time we start to hook up and for some of them, that seems to have triggered a response.
However, running young dogs, who don’t know what they are doing, or why they are being asked to do it can be somewhat akin to herding cats, if it all goes horribly pear-shaped. There are as many ideas about the best way to do this as there are ways to skin one of the aforementioned cats. We prefer the as easy as it can be option, which usually means sensible older dog paired with enthusiastic (hopefully) but unfocused (usually) youngster. Being of the sensible and cautious camp, I also prefer to do this with a small team. It does mean multiple runs to get any number of dogs out but it also reduces the chances of me having a heart attack from trying to untangle 10 or 12 dogs, half of whom don’t think that standing still at that precise moment is a good idea. It also is a good chance to nip bad habits in the bud. Much easier to catch a prospective harness or line chewer in mid-munch when you only have 4 dogs to look at, and you know 2 of them can be trusted, unless of course Harry is on the team.
So, that’s what’s been going on here for the last couple of weeks. It’s fun to see the dogs starting to get the hang of what we want, and to see them develop in such a short space of time. It doesn’t take them long to figure out the important stuff, they are all very good at keeping feet out of the gangline, not bugging their running mates, not chewing anything and always pulling.
We’re not quite so clever at the turn taking. Lily, in particular seemed to not realise that haw and gee were actually commands and not just suggestions or random words being spoken for no useful reason. She got herself pushed round several turns when she was on the inside and got a bit of a jerk on her neckline when she missed the haw turn for home. Ruya knows her way home and was a bit perturbed to find her path blocked by a body going the wrong way. And that’s the joy of running dogs, teaching new things and watching those individuals become part of a team.