Sunday, December 27, 2009

Conditioning - Skijoring

One of the many activities that I love to do with my dogs is skijoring!! I don't even honestly remember how I came to learn about the sport or why I decided to try it. Actually, scratch that, I do usually start to envision what it would be like to do random dog related sports with my dogs when I first hear about them! So mostly I just don't remember how I came to hear about it. Either way, I found myself a mentor who told me how to get started and got Heffner fitted for a harness and the rest is mostly history. Sort of.

Pull training with Heffner didn't quite go as smoothly as I had planned. I'll put together some videos using Bess to demonstrate some of the ground work that will usually help to lead to a better pulling dog. I started off having Heffner pull too heavy of a tire. He wanted nothing to do with that. Then I tried a lighter tire and he still wasn't thrilled with it. So we skipped all that and I started using an old cart type thingy that Adam's parents had lying around from when he was a kid. Yeah, Heffner wasn't terribly thrilled about that. After all that, I decided to just scrap the dryland training (this was before I got the scooter) and go up to the mountain once a week to practice!

For anyone who thinks that skijoring is just you lolly gagging along while your dog does all the work, I dare you to try it and NOT discover all sorts of sore muscles in places you never thought you had muscles! It's work just to stay upright! And if you have a dog who isn't always thrilled about staying ahead of momma, it's even more work than you bargained for! Heffner by himself is a very distracted skijoring partner. He wants to check things out along the way and not always necessarily stay ahead of me in the preferred position. Here are some videos of our first winter out.LOL As you can tell, he tends to get a wee bit distracted!;o)

Not the most productive runs, but I will grant him this, he's always looking out for him momma. Every time I fell (and in the beginning that happened more times than I care to count), he would turn around and come check on me. Awwwwww....wasn't that sweet! And no, I most definitely did NOT catch my falling on camera!LOL

With the addition of Bess, I had a feeling that our skijoring jaunts were going to be more productive. Heffner seemed like he would be more of the calming force between the two. He's out there more to have a good time, take in the sights, and check on his clumsy momma (thankfully he doesn't need to do that hardly at all any more!). Bess has been this electric force that wanted nothing more than to RUN! Together, they ended up making the perfect pair! Bess encourages Heffner to keep on going and happily does the bulk of the work when he likes to take little breaks and slack off on pulling. And Heffner gets Bess to STOP! This is a VERY important command to have trained in a pulling dog. More importantly, you need to teach the dog to do this command even when you continue moving. I learned this the hard way!

I was giving a little introductory skijoring clinic this past late winter. I decided to run Bess solo because there were dogs in the group that I knew Heffner would not get along with. And you can't exactly give instruction in a class when you have a dog who renders you non-approachable by some of the people in the class. This ended up not entirely being the best decision. There were a couple things NOT in my favor that day. 1) The snow was icy and VERY fast. 2) I hadn't instilled a good WOAH command with Bess while I was still moving because I'd always just depended on Heffner stopping the team. With the snow being icy, no amount of snow plowing was slowing me down. Once Bess got over the fact that she had to run in booties, she realized that they protected her feet and she could run like a mad dog possessed! And she pretty much did just that! I will grant you that she was quite fast and loving every minute of it, but the only way that I could get her to stop was by falling and getting drug for a ways. It was rather unpleasant and I've never been so bruised and battered in my life! So take my advice, train your dogs to stop even while you continue to move. It's incredibly valuable!

And just to give you an idea of what a difference Bess has made to our team, here are a couple of video clips from last winter when I was running them together.:o)

It is such a rush when they're both running!! There's just nothing quite like it. I will definitely miss running both the dogs this season, but I'll have Heffner back into shape by next winter. In the mean time, Bess and I are registered for her first skijoring race on Jan. 9th and 10th! I'm planning on getting up to the mountain next weekend to run the course and see how she does running completely solo with no Heffner.

In other news, there's a three month old great dane puppy that I'm going to be playing with over the next few months! I just met him and his owner this afternoon. His name is Obelisk (I believe that's how you spell it). His owner potentially wants to have him shown. I'll be working with the puppy and the owner to get him trained up and ready to go and I think that Bess' breeder is going to show him. A lot of it depends on how he matures and when he looks ready to hit the rings. Puppies can go through some pretty ugly growth spurts. Generally what you see at 8 weeks is what you get as an adult. I didn't see him as an 8 week old puppy, so it's hard to say what he'll mature into. Right now he's all sorts of adorable and has his positive conformation aspects. Hopefully he'll hang on to those! Here's a couple of pictures of the adorable little guy!


Kennedy said...

I want to love and cuddle on the adorable little black baby!

FYI, article in the January issue of Dog World on skijoring. :)

Lindsay said...

Well shoot! They scooped the Great Dane Gazette then! I did a book review for them on skijoring with a picture of my two hooked up for the issue coming out in Feb. Dang!

Kennedy said...

Awesome! That's neat. :)

The Thundering Herd said...

Love the skijoring videos. We do scooters and carts, but have never tried cross country skis. Looks great.

Wild Dingo said...

i heard about skijoring from Juno's PT. Because of her hip dysplasia, i don't think it would be good, but we could snow shoe with her. i don't like snow much and don't live in the snow, but we will be living in Switzerland for 2-3 years so i'm bound to take up a snow sport that i can do with both my dogs. the husky i know will love it. she would LOVE skijoring cuz she loves to run but we can't let her do that one. :( but she'll love snow shoeing i think too... can't wait to try it. you look like you're having fun!
wild dingo