Sled dogs are amazing athletes. Watch the drive and power of these dogs in slow motion. Video by Mandy Collins.
Now I don’t claim I’m a professional trainer by any sense of the word. But I will pass on what I’ve learned over the past 40 years of working with my own dogs. These are lessons I’ve learned and sometimes the hard way.
1. All breeds are not the same. They were developed to do and/or look like the vision the breeders had in mind for them. What works for one breed could be totally wrong for another.
2. All dogs of the same breed are not the same. They are a product of their environment and upbringing and events of their lives. They hold to common genetic traits, but they are still individuals to some extent. This is important to remember when working with them. Even your own children are different than their siblings. Siblings are not clones of each other, they all have a certain amount of individuality that must be known to be successful in behavior and learning.
3. The huge debates about being Alpha to your dogs have been distorted and rearranged so many times that it has lost the true meaning of it. That meaning is to be in control of your dogs. You have to be the final say of what they can or cannot do. This is no different than being the final say of your own children, and it is not cruel. It is what must be done, everyone has to learn some discipline, or they will not fit into society…dogs included. You don’t have to do it with a club, but leadership and being the boss must be maintained, or you will suffer the consequences.
4. Humanizing dogs is the most gigantic mistake anyone can make. They are a different species and think on a fundamental level. They do not ponder or overthink everything in life. They follow the code of their genetics…they are animals, not humans. So forget feeling sorry that Buffy got scolded for peeing on the rug. She ignored it two minutes after you scolded her.
5. Your 5-year-old son Jake runs down the aisle at Wal-Mart. You call him, and he ignores you. What do you do? Do you offer him a chocolate bar if he behaves or do you go and get him. Are you going to be subjected to bribery from then on or enforce the rules? Dogs are no different, they respect law and order, and it’s up to you to enforce it. It’s not cruel; it is called “Education” of what is acceptable and what is not.
6. Powerful breeds require potent owners. Not in strength but in the force of will. These dogs possess powerful intentions, and you need to be stronger than them. You have to enforce your rules, or they will own you from then on.
7. One rule I have: Teeth on human skin is not allowed. A puppy nipping on you will turn into a dog that possesses the ability to break your arm when full grown (powerful breeds). This is not allowed and must be stopped at an early age.
8. The reason dog trainers have a job is that people humanize dogs and cannot possibly accept the fact that the dog must be made to behave. The secret is only to use enough force to make that happen. The line in the sand between cruelty and being a good parent is to know how much. This is what separates the good from the bad.
9. Cruelty: I hear so much about tethering sled dogs. Let me ask you what is really cruel. Is it more brutal to have a dog on a rope outdoors, or confined in a 4X4 foot crate inside a house for 8-10 hours a day while you work? I think the answer is obvious.
10. Just like kids, dogs need discipline and education to become productive members of society. To let them do whatever results in the same thing as turning out a teenager with the same disregard for rules. It only leads to heartache. You have to instill the standards, and then you can build on the rest.
You hear a lot about maintaining balance in your life.
You should not overindulge in anything in life you love because it will kill you in the end. To a certain extent that is true if you are talking about drugs, booze, adrenaline, salt, food, and whatever else you love.
Some people are germaphobes, afraid of germs on almost anything. Some are afraid of pesticides, some are afraid of tainted romaine lettuce, others feel threatened by global warming. The list goes on and on depending on the person.
If all good dogs go to heaven, and all good people as well, why do we fear death? Why does every living thing cling to life with everything they have? Wouldn’t it be easier to say this road is too hard, I’m checking out and going to heaven?
When I seek answers to questions like this I turn to the dogs for an answer. They have been here for thousands of years before me, and surely they have the wisdom to enlighten me.
Dogs don’t have Gods that I know of. They have a love of life that is unprecedented by human standards. They don’t care about keeping up with the Jones family next door. They care about living each moment they have left and milk it for whatever they can get.
Does that mean there is no life after death? I don’t know but I do know that if this is the only life I get, I want to get the most out of it that I can. I want to follow the lead of those who have lived thousands of years longer than me. They appreciate each moment and each breath they get.
The problem with higher intelligence is we think too much. We miss our callings in life. We worry and complain about things that in the big scheme of life really don’t mean that much at all.
The dogs who are subject to the will of their owners are constrained by crates, rules, etc. but they take it all in stride. They live for those moments in time when they are free to be what we made them. And they love us with everything they have.
That is their calling, to live for those moments, and that is why sled dogs run. That is why Border collies herd, and that is why police dogs take down bad guys, and service dogs lead the blind. They do it because that is what they love, and what they were bred to be. And we… the creators of their breed and passions are responsible. It is a disservice to reject what we made them. We should help them fulfill their lives, not deny them the very things we created them for.
To deny the dogs their passion is the same as denying your own children education, College, and a real future. In return, these beast teach us that to deny our own passions is also a sin. If this is the only life we get what are we going to do with it?
There are those of us whose needle is more on the excessive side of life. We are driven by some passion, and won’t settle for less than to achieve it. I guess that is the balance between underachieving and overachieving. We balance each other out in the big scheme of life. You have to choose your side and be happy with it.
I happen to know what I’m going to do, do you?
May your trail be easy, and your snow packed and fast.
I find it interesting that groups like PETA prefer to try and shut down a dog sled race, but let humans kill themselves climbing Mt. Everest. It’s okay for people to die doing what they love, but not dogs.
To top this off, they prefer that all dogs should be euthanized in order to be “Free” of them of being slaves.
So if I understand this right, humans are allowed to kill themselves, but dog sledding should be banned and the dogs should be killed by PETA instead of risking a death doing what they love.
Now I may not be the smartest person on earth, but to me, that is some messed up thinking. Dog’s lives are more important than humans, but they should be killed anyway to set them free. How Fucked up is that logic?
This kind of thinking is what is ruining the world right now. In fact, it is not even thinking, its called blind faith, and fanaticism. Where an ideal or misguided concept is more important than the truth.
Number of people that have reached the summit of Mt. Everest: 4000 since 1953
Number of human deaths attempting the summit: Over 250
Number of people that have finished the Iditarod: Less than 1000 since 1973
The number of dog deaths: 143 is the best estimate I can find.
The number of human deaths: Zero that I can find.
I think Sir Edmund Hillary’s comment explains the Iditarod better than I ever could.
“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” ~Sir Edmund Hillary.
This is what the Iditarod is about, accomplishing an extraordinary thing with the help of their dog partners. For without them its a 1000 mile walk.
For those who believe you can force dogs to run should read this book. Everyone else should read it as well. A great story of a woman’s battle with her own loss and fears. A true story of courage in many ways besides just dogs. I thought it was so well written and tells of her two tries to finish the Iditarod at age 47. A story of human compassion, and the trials and tribulations of life both for humans and dogs.
What does thousands of years of breeding The Dogs of Winter produce?
It produces a family member who loves children, works hard, and is a true partner and family member. The lessons learned in the harshest of lands on earth brings the warmth of love and companionship. The love of a dog must never be squandered. For this is the bond they give to us forever.
You don’t want to fool a Siberian, they remember it forever.