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What I Learned This Winter!

Sledding/Skijoring is winding down, mud is here...let's have some fun by sharing!

Happy Dog

If you're like most mushers, you learn something new every season.   Share one thing you've learned with the rest of us.  It can be serious or fun--your choice.  We'll list the responses here and if appropriate, add them to the Kennel Tips page.  Email "What I Learned" to Email   or use the Feedback Form.

Please sign your name [or use an alias], but include your state/region/country as a frame of reference.

If your looking for another sled dog check out your local SPCA or humane shelter. A few months ago, on one of my frequent visits to the SPCA, I adopted a 50 pound Australian Shepherd/ Border Collie/ Husky X. He had been through numerous homes and had sat in the SPCA for 3 months. He took to pulling instantly and has become a fine lead dog. He learns commands quickly, works well with the other dogs, and is also on his way to becoming an accomplished agility dog. There are thousands of dogs just like this one who have been abandoned due to their energy or strength making them hard to handle for the average pet owner but wonderful working dog candidates.
Dog Lover, British Columbia, Canada [2/6/03]

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Whippets can dogsled!!! But when they get cold, they can get out of their harnesses and will jump on a moving sled to hitch a ride!!!
Kathy, Ontario, Canada [7/8/02]

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No matter how slow or how few dogs you are running never let go of the driving bow with both hands to dig around in the sled bag for something that you should have on you anyway. You can get quite a surprise about how your dogs can sense when you are off guard and take off like a rocket down a side trail, leaving you dazed, hanging on for your life, while you get your senses back.
Cammy Robinson, Trails End Kennel [6/12/00]

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Word to the wise--don't make your own snow hook unless you KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING! I found this out when I had to stop and fix a tangle and "POOF", my team started to go. I dragged for a while and got my bearings back and went on cursing myself.
Geoff Vukelich, Duluth, Minnesota [8/12/99]

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I learned a few valuable lessons this year... always have extra leaders on the team and always, I mean always, use a screw or bolt to secure QCR on the sled. I  used tape in one race figuring that it would hold. ( I normally use screws--not this time!) Needless to say, my plastic stared to come off one runner in the first couple of miles of the race so I had to keep on stopping to push it back on! Oh s--t, I thought, I'm gonna lose this this if I don't do something about it! Thankfully I had a pocket knife that I used to wedge between the rail and plastic made it the rest of the race approximately 45 miles! Canadian Championship Dog Derby 150 miles, three day race.
musher, Nunavut, Canada

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- My dogs have better temperaments than I do.
- Mega brakes are meant for stopping, not slowing down - get a drag track!
- Just two dogs can pull me VERY fast when there's elk on the trail.
Megan Capon

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When on a lake race (such as Detroit Lakes), rather than analyzing the team ahead of you, (who happened to be Merv Hilpipre) gauging distances, etc., etc., it is a pretty good idea to keep an eye on your own team, so that when one of your leaders stops to take a dump, all the dogs behind him don't run right over the top of him, creating a colossal tangle.
Kelley Franck, Trailbound Kennels, Minnesota

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This year I have learned that beyond any doubts, small dogs always run better on long distances.
Remi Feougier, Quebec, Canada

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What I learned this winter is that it is never a good idea to run dogs without a snow hook, no matter how small your team seems to be. I learned this after the snow melted, and I had put all my stuff away for the winter. A snow storm hit, and I took advantage of the new snow. I thought I would not need my snow hook, and quickly lost my team while untangling them. They disappeared down the road, and I had to flag down a car in the middle of a snow storm before I was able to catch the runaways.
Melanie Desotelle, Minnesota

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It would have been a lot cheaper and less addictive to try heroin than dogsled racing.
Scotty Cassens, South Dakota

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It's EXTREMELY important to know how to fully read your dogs. Nothing makes you feel worse about yourself then watching your best leader drop like a rock on the starting line of a race because she was scared. I learned that sitting for a few minutes with each dog before a race or heavy training run can pay off in ways beyond first place.

Adjust your training around what works for you. Don't forget about family. Take a friend out on a training run with you, or a cousin or sister. Let them know what the dogs do, and why. It helps them understand that these dogs aren't forced to pull, they do it because they love it.
Jessica Tackett, Golden Trails Racing Kennel, Alaska

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Don't ever use sharp pocket tools to cut the zip ties off of rolled up QCR plastic, late at night after a big dinner, and being on the road for two weeks with dogs. I almost sliced off the ends of two fingers, requiring 18 stitches the night before my biggest race of the year, because I was tired and careless.

Traveling with dogs, and going to races can be very physically demanding, and sometimes does not mix well with some of the potentially dangerous things we do connected with this sport. Be careful!
Greg Sellentin, New Jersey

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"Never, ever take your dogs out when you are deathly ill. They seem to sense that you may not be capable of correcting them and take advantage of it. One day, we went for a much longer sled ride than intended, and we know all the dogs were in on it!"
Nicole, Ontario, Canada

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"There's a really good Chinese restaurant in Bemidji, MN, but I can't remember the name of it!"
Steve Bergemann, Wisconsin

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