Call of the Wild

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Today I want to talk about the challenges of having multiple dogs. It’s similar to having multiple children. With one… you know who did it. With several… you have to grill them into confessing. That is easier done with kids than dogs.

When you find your new sneakers ripped up, who are you going to blame? You show it to your pack and ask, “Who did this?” and they all look guilty. I guess because they all would have liked to have chewed them up even if they didn’t do it.

The crime will go unsolved unless you catch them red-handed. All things of value must be put up high until they reach the age where they know better than to eat dad’s shoes. Just part of raising multiple dogs.

A new thing happened today. Nikki is recovering from her surgery (Spay) and I don’t want her to rip out her stitches. I’ve kept her confined with me now for 4 days. She did really well, but you can only keep a husky quiet for so long.

This afternoon she was laying in her dog bed with her favorite toy and suddenly raised her little snout and let out this long sad howl. My huskies for the most part don’t howl unless they are unhappy. She missed being with Cooper and Sammie… and more so being able to be herself.

The Call of the Wild, the howl to be free, and the free spirit bred into her for generations. I listened to her because that’s what a good leader does.

Because of the fight a few weeks ago with Sammie over a treat, I’ve had to keep them apart unless one is on a leash. Sammie got a chomped on the ear in the last engagement, but wasn’t about to back down. So now those two must be supervised when they are together, one with a muzzle or all hell might break loose.

This is one of those times when you must be the leader and make decisions for the safety of your dogs. Just like you would make a hard decision about one of your own children.

It is not unusual for dogs to not like each other over something. From what I’ve read this is pretty common since day one for those who run dog sled teams. The trick is to know your dogs and plan accordingly. Once again, they are not humans willing to listen to logic…they are dogs first, and your buddy second.

To compound the problems now that Nikki is feeling better I have to give each of them “Yard Time.” In this case it becomes complicated by Nikki’s surgery. You see her and Cooper play really rough. Lots of zoomies and crazy husky stuff.

To sum it up, I’ve spent all day rotating dogs from the deck to the yard. Also trying to give them some time to be with another husky. You see as much as they love us, they also need husky time with each other. I’ve seen how my huskies immediately gravitate towards a strange husky. They know who they are kin to.

This is all part of being a good leader for your pack…doing what is required no matter how tired you are or if a good show is on TV.

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” This saying has also been translated to “the only constant is change.”

This is so true with huskies!

They change quite a bit as they age. They change depending on the dynamics of the pack, they change just because they are bored. They change all the time as they grow and learn. Do not expect them to remain the same for very long. You must be on your toes as some of these changes are subtle but might lead to what seems like a sudden change that makes you think they have lost their minds.

You missed the signs leading up to it. That is why you need to spend time with them every day and actually observe them. That is how you learn about your own husky(s).

Multiple dogs bring multiple situations you have to figure out and deal with. All I can say is you have to do the best you can…weigh the risk to your dogs vs. the wellbeing of the pack (that includes your family.) Then select the best option you can. Just like kids you cannot protect them completely. And you will never be able to predict how they will act in any given situation until afterword’s.

You do the best you can, and hope for the best. You won’t always be right, but you will know you made the best choice you could, given your own set of circumstances. To not make a decision is worse than making one based on what you know at the time.

When you get more huskies, you have to become more in tune with each one. Just like people they each have their own personalities and react to others by the way they are treated. You not only have to look at each dog, but you have to look at the state of the entire pack.

The pack is made up of individuals. Each one unique in its own personality. But when combined these individuals can form a group mentality. It can be either positive or negative. What makes a good team of anything is when all the pieces fit to the benefit of all. That is called synergy: When the group produces a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects (good or bad.)

This is where you come in as the leader. This is when all you’ve done with each individual dog pays off.  From pulling sleds or living together as one big happy family. The work you put in, or don’t put in will show up.

An example from my friend Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes in his book, “MUSH, Leadership lessons learned from a lead dog.”

In my own words, not his:

Each dog learned that I can control him working one on one. I say stop and can make him stop. He learns the commands and knows I can enforce them. So, when you have 14 dogs hooked to a sled if they decide to run…I cannot physically stop them. But they stop for me.

Why? Because each dog on the team thinks I can.

The point I learned from this example is having a dog or a pack under control is the same. The dogs think you can control them so they obey. If they don’t think you can control them you’ve already lost the battle. It’s not about being mean or abusive, it’s about getting into the mind of the husky.

Learn how you dog(s) think and you will go far with a lot less trouble along the way.

Just food for thought on your journey with the husky.

TJ

 

 

 

From my archive: Raising huskies, November 23, 2015

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I suppose you wonder why I write all these observations. To tell you the truth I’m not sure, maybe it will help someone who is brave enough to get a Husky. Maybe it will help dog owners in general. I don’t know but for me it is a record of my trials and tribulations.

Today’s observations are about the pack. Yes, the pack is a social network that only dogs understand. It’s in their DNA and no matter how much you’d like to do away with it, you can’t.

Observation 1: I’ve watched a hundred videos of Huskies howling and chomping at the bit to be selected to be attached to a sled. The funny thing is when I get out Coopers harness out he puts his ears flat and absolutely does not want his harness put on him.

I had a hard time understanding this behavior and wondered what I was doing wrong. Then after looking at the videos I figured it out. Huskies that work for a living are chained to a stake with a dog house nearby.

It’s not cruel but a necessity because if you let a Husky off his lead he is gone. The free spirit in these dogs is strong. They want to roam, hunt, and do the things wolves do. It finally made sense to me. They are a working breed and not all huskies live in the house.

Chained dogs want to escape their bonds and run. Anything is better than being tied up and I don’t blame them. So, when I compare Coopers somewhat freedom of a huge fenced property it makes sense to me. Once he is hooked up to my bike he loves it. He runs, and he does what Huskies have done for thousands of years. He loves to run, and it’s just getting started that is the problem.

Observation 2: This is the one that won’t win me any new friends but it is…what it is. The biggest mistake people make with their dogs is they fall into the trap of believing they are humans. I admit it is easy to fall so in love with your dog that you think he has the same brain power that you do.

Dogs do not have the same emotions that we have. They have a very structured society with its own rules. They are not PEOPLE! This is the thing you must remember above all else. If your dog has problems it is probably because you forgot he/she is a dog and not a person.

So, this part will not be taken well by those of you who think dogs are people. If you follow my posts you know that I love my dogs to death! But I remember they are dogs not my children.

Huskies are rough, tough, and have a spirit to dominate. That is what made them capable of surviving in the harshest climates in the world. They have a huge prey drive and are quite capable of killing smaller animals in order to eat. To a Husky, anything smaller than they are, is a potential meal. Cats, squirrels, yes and even dogs are on the menu.

Huskies want a structured pack. Having served in the Military I understand this more than those of you who have not. There is a chain of command and the leader must lead or all hell breaks loose. Huskies want to know where they stand, who the boss is, and who is not.

Cooper is feeling his oats and is almost a year old. He wants to lead and dominate the girls. He can’t take Sammie yet, and she is the Alpha female and will put him in his place even though he outweighs her. She is a tough girl, and won’t take any shit from him.

That leaves poor Nikki, barely 10 weeks old trying to find her place in our pack, and live another day. For the most part Cooper loves her and they play nice, but sometimes he forgets how huge he is. Nikki is a pup and not ready to hold her own yet.

That’s when I step in and remind him that what every he is doing is enough. I don’t do it out of hate, or some strange power trip. I do it because it’s required to keep order and my dog’s safe from each other. This is the part that people have a hard time dealing with. They forget that these are dogs and not people.

Dogs do not hold grudges, plan to burn your house down, or kill you in your sleep for applying discipline. They expect discipline, because that’s how it’s been for thousands of years. Someone has to lead, and as an owner that is you.

No human in my family will be subservient to our dogs. That is not acceptable if you want to have a great relationship with your pack. Human’s first, dogs second. The pack hierarchy below that is up to the dogs. But human rule is a must. Not for every little thing but for safety of all.

So, for today’s lesson: Cooper and Nikki are enjoying a healthy play session. I’m standing there running interference for the small one. Cooper has never been around puppies before, and for the most part he does really well.

But just like two siblings who start out wrestling, it can quickly escalate into a dangerous scenario in which someone gets hurt. I’m right there and Cooper has his giant alligator jaws around Nikki’s neck. Usually he controls himself but in the heat of dog battle he forgets and squeezes enough to make her squeal in pain.

This is the dog’s way of telling the offender, “Too Hard!”

I grab him by the scruff and yell, “NO!” And give him a good shake, not hard enough to hurt him, but it makes him jump back and look at me. Does he hate me now? No, thirty seconds later he comes over and licks my face.

This discipline is probably less than he would have received from another dog in the real world. He probably would have received a painful bite.

He’s learned that I’m in charge and that what he did was not acceptable. Most people say you should never man-handle your dog. I would agree if it is done in anger, but when you have big powerful animals. Just yelling “please no baby” does not faze them.

Nikki survived, and was back jumping in his face a minute later. She has lessons to learn also, and sometimes Cooper reminds her that she has gone too far. In the real world, this would play out to its natural conclusion.

Nikki might go too far, and receive a terrible bite. I won’t allow that to happen, so I do what is needed to maintain order, without disturbing their natural tendencies as much as possible. So, disagree with me if you want, but that is how you raise dogs. Especially dogs powerful dogs full of independence.

Sometimes you have to be the boss no matter what is going on. Just remember they are not people. It’s not cruel to maintain discipline in your dogs. They are stronger, faster, but not smarter than you.

Do your dogs a favor, apply the amount of discipline they need. Be the leader but fair at the same time. Don’t let your dog’s rule your life. It’s a partnership and all of you have to do your part.

You are the leader, be a good one.

TJ

From the annals of Queen Nikki – 3

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As we prepare for winter here in the palace there is much to do. Cut and stack a supply of firewood, close the swimming pool, power wash the deck, get the driveway sealed, and my least favorite…stain all the wood decks.

This weekend I tackled staining the decks. This is a laborious undertaking and to be quite frank the paintbrush and roller just don’t fit my hand. Physically yes, but mentally no. I hate painting in all forms, and then the cleanup is the cherry on the cake.

So, this morning I worked on the front deck. This deck looks down and out on a quarter acre of fenced in grass (Weeds and clover) that make up the stomping grounds for the queen and her loyal subject Mr. Cooper.

I was not in the best mood but I got busy because I’m running out of warm days. From my vantage point above the grounds I got to watch another episode of “Huskiness.” Yes, the drama between two huskies who don’t know how to paint any better than I do.

Typically, each morning begins with the distribution of frozen marrow bones. Each dog patiently awaiting these royal delicacies. It’s ritual that started with me trying to take a shower and drink at least one cup of coffee undisturbed.

You see when I get up I need some time and “QUIET” until I’m a functioning person. I don’t like to hear dogs throwing fits over anything. I like to ease into the day, not be forced into the middle of some hurricane uproar and the bones help. With the bones, I get at least 45 minutes of peace and quiet.

I guess after several months of this Queen Nikki discovered she was being hoodwinked, bamboozled, and how her royal highness was being made a fool of in front of all dogdom.

Once she discovered this, the amount of time of my tranquility has slowly being cut shorter each morning. You can dupe the Queen for a while, but eventually she sees through the plan.

Queen Nikki has practiced her Ninja skills and honed them to a fine edge. A process made easier by Cooper’s easy go attitude and lack of concentration. He knows the Queen would like to have his bone as well as hers. In fact, she would like to have every bone in all the kingdoms be under her control.

And even though Cooper knows all of this he sometimes blinks. His attention going elsewhere to some dog walkers or a cat cry.

In an instant, the Queen becomes a supersonic black and white cruise missile. She races forward with bone in mouth and snatches up his bone. Even with two bones in her mouth she releases this loud “Roooodle!” To let the whole block, know that she is still, “The Queen!”

I’m still amazed that this little mouth stuffed with two bones can achieve the volume of a marching band on steroids! The tone is that of a dying calf in a mud hole. I’m surprised animal control has not been by to check on complaints of animal cruelty.

To add to this is Mr. Cooper. He Roo-Roos constantly until I come out and save him from the Queen.

I run out to stop the noise…the noise of two dogs that sounds like a pack being boiled in oil.

I’ve talked of this before but today things changed. If you followed me you know I’ve said how huskies never stay the same for long. They think and they learn. Even Cooper who is not so fast in the brain department learns and adjust his plans. It just takes him a bit longer to solve a problem than Nikki.

Today was Coopers day. I had a seat in the balcony of my deck and got to see the whole episode.

Now, I’m staining the railing and not really happy about it. Nikki has buried one bone and stolen Coopers as an extra bonus. She is laying down there in front of him taking her time knowing on it.

Coop is not happy and begins his “Roo-Roo” speech. I told him to shut-up as I’d only had one cup of coffee. This he does and plops down with his head on his front paws eyeing the Queen.

I take notice because he actually did something I told him. But for once his brain is clicking and I was lucky enough to witness it.

He rolls around and plays like that bone really doesn’t matter to him. He’s looking around goes trotting off snooping the fence line and such. This bother’s the Queen because her fun of teasing has ended.

The Queen is momentarily off her guard at this new display or lack of attention to her and the bone.

So, Coop comes back and plops down, not seeming to care in the least about the bone she stole from him. Only 3 or 4 feet separate them as he gets up and does the husky stretch. First the front leg bow, and then the rear leg stretches.

Dumbfounded Nikki watches him with the bone between her front legs. He appears to not even notice as he appears to be just trotting by her.

With the reflexes of a cat he snatches up the bone from between her legs and goes into full after-burner. He is 50 yards away before she even realizes what had just happened!

I swear she was blowing smoke out of her nostrils when she went after him. The Queen was pissed off!

Her one subject had just duped her and was quickly vanishing with the bone!

I was laughing as she chased him all over the property. Now Coop is 20 pounds heavier but several inches taller with a huge stride. Whenever she got close he just exploded in a burst of speed that made her even more mad.

After several laps around the acre of ground both of them were exhausted. Coop dropped the bone and settled down for a nap. Nikki was tired as well and joined him.

No walk was needed this morning after that display of husky sprinting. Cooper was content that he’d outfoxed his tormentor.

I went back to work on the deck. Another chapter in the behavior of my dogs logged in my head.

They are quite the pair, and I’m happy I got to see Coopers revenge.

TJ

The Impulse Buy

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I ran across this meme the other day when I was looking for husky pictures, and it reminded me of why I went to the trouble to write a book. This is exactly the reason for it. So many people buy or obtain a husky and then expect it to act like a plain old lap dog.

I tried to attack the problem of so many displaced huskies at the source. My mistake was thinking that most people would do some research before they get one. When I want to get something that I have no experience with, like a car or scuba gear or whatever, I research it first.

I looked for a book on huskies that wasn’t a detailed, never ending encyclopedia of information, I didn’t understand. I wanted the basics…good and bad. Not a book covering up the challenges of owning a husky. I tried to write such a book, its small… but I told the truth from my own lessons I learned.

Alas, most people don’t research. They impulse buy based on beauty or cuteness. I suppose they also buy a freshly painted car that looks fantastic, but won’t run 5 out of 7 days a week.

This meme I posted makes me sad, and makes me think about how much an owners anger can turn into abuse of a husky. Just because they don’t have a clue about what a husky really is. That’s why I always try hard to help someone especially a new owner.

You should do the same. We may not have all the answers, but we have the experience. I’m pretty sure If I don’t know the answer I’ll be able to find someone who does.

That’s the reason behind FaceBook groups. If we can help each other, or even just one person and their husky… we are helping both of them.

Some can do rescue, most of us can’t. But maybe we can save some dogs by sharing our knowledge and stop somebody from giving up on their dog. We do that by helping them understand their husky. Understanding is most of the battle.

And by helping and supporting those who think the devil just moved into their nice peaceful home. It’s not the devil…it’s a Husky!

TJ

Potential

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I was inspired when I saw this picture of my friend’s new baby husky. A whole lot of things boiled up in my head about this new little life.

I’ve been down this road before, having raised two pups in the last two years. Just like having children I took the lessons I learned from the first baby, and it made the second one much easier. Just like any new parent I made mistakes, and tried to learn from them.

There is so much at stake with a new life under your care. It’s even more difficult with a husky because you are not of the same race, you don’t speak the same language, and you might not even understand what a husky is.

Like all animals Huskies have instincts that drive them more than reasoning ability. Thousands of years of DNA is hardwired into them. How else would a first-time mom know how to take care of the young during birth?

A husky will reach the mental capacity of a two-year-old human at best…and be armed with fang & claw and a pro athlete’s abilities. They truly are an empty cup waiting to be filled. What you do in that first year is critical to the tone you set for your new husky as they grow and learn to adapt into our world.

Unlike a human child, that little bundle of fur will start to grow at a fast rate. That mind will be empty but soak up information like a sponge. A lot changes take place in a husky’s mind that first year. What you do in that first year will probably last for a lifetime. Think about that and re-read it again. What you do that first year will last for a lifetime!

Potential, your husky has so much potential. They can be a positive member or a negative member of your pack (Family) Do the work that first year, and your life will be so much easier the next year and from there on.

You are the leader; it is your job to figure out this dog you brought home. You have the big brain that the husky does not. He is instinctual from his DNA, and it’s up to you to do the rest. Not an easy task, but if you put in the work now it will pay off in the long run.

Remember a husky is NOT HUMAN! This is the biggest mistake all dog owners make!

To put human standards of reasoning and intelligence on them is not fair, and will not work. Treat them with the compassion and understanding you would give a two-year-old toddler. Learn what a husky is and why he acts like he does.

Do not expect them to think like you do! For if you do, you will be very disappointed.

You cannot expect any dog to suddenly forget thousands of years of DNA because you don’t like it.

You can’t use reasoning like you would a human child. They are DOGS! I can’t stress that enough.

A husky is a unique animal that is also intelligent enough to know how to fit into your family if you guide him properly. It’s up to you to understand this breed, and to work within the limits of their intelligence and your own natural instinct to baby them like your own child.

This leads to discipline problems, and anger and frustration on your part. And the truth of the matter is you are the one who caused it because you tried to make them human. You tried to treat them fair as you would a child. It’s very easy to get caught up in that because me and you love them so much. But you must remain firm.

Be fair, be consistent, and above all be patient. Rome was not built-in a day, and neither will be your husky. A husky is challenging because the normal dog rules don’t apply. He has the capability to question your commands, the intelligence to ignore them, and the biggest loving heart you will ever know. But if you don’t understand the breed, then you are bound to have some problems.

The potential of your new puppy is in your hands. What you get in the end will be a product of your work… or lack of work that first year. It is all up to you as the owner of this empty little being waiting to join your world and family.

As you begin a journey with this amazing dog, don’t forget that “Trials and Tribulations” will join you on your journey, but your Husky will help you if you help him/her. It is a partnership, keep that in mind as you raise them.

Happy Trails!

TJ

Slide show – Born to Run

Music by Bruce Springsteen

Band of Brothers…and Sisters

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I’ve told you so many times that I just sit back in my garage and observe the Husky. I’m like a fly on the wall with a camera. I let my dogs be dogs, some people don’t do that, and you are missing some important life lessons.

When Nikki was a puppy I kept her sequestered for the most part because Cooper was just too rough with her. She was growing fast, and so was her spirit. At the age of six months I put them back together in the garage to see what would happen. After a few battles for dominance, they took a nap together.

This may not seem so important to you, but let me tell you what I saw.

I can’t speak to all dogs but I can to speak to the actions of my Huskies. This breed is fierce and full of life. They live on the edge, never giving any quarter, or quitting. The pack is a family of sorts, it doesn’t matter if they are all Huskies but they seem to recognize one of their own.

It’s sort of like some families. You fight, and maybe disagree intensely! But then you all sit down to Sunday dinner that seems to melt away for a short while. It’s the right of blood…to a dog it’s the same only the pack is family. The pack is everything!

They fight and try to climb the ladder just like we do in our world. They have ambitions as much as anyone who works in the corporate world. The difference is when the fighting is over, they are happy with the outcome. They don’t hate like we do, they accept their place in the natural order of things.

Although humans command the highest intelligence on earth, it comes with a price. Sure, we can solve complex problems, we can send men to the moon, and invent amazing machines. But we’ve lost some of the basics of life.

Dogs and animals in general are not burdened by complex intelligence. The live, love, reproduce, and die. It’s just four simple things that seem to get lost in our own lives. Humans fight, and try to outdo the neighbor. It’s all about the material things in life, and not what matters most.

Having a pack to belong to, to be a member of the “Family” no matter what your station, is more important than being alone to a dog. The pack may not particularly like every member, but they accept them because they are one of them. They will never desert them or leave them alone.

Your own family may scorn you for being you. Especially if you do not happen to fit their mold of what you should be in their eyes. That’s okay, because it’s your life to live not theirs.

Expectations from your family, boss, society, and just about anyone else with an opinion, cloud what is truly important in life. Higher intelligence isn’t always correct.

I cannot change who I am, any more than my Huskies can change who they are.

We are all unique, and subject to be who we are. No matter who wants us to be something different than what we were put on this earth to be.

I’m part of the pack, the leader, even if I must enforce acceptable behaviors my furry friends. Do they hate me for maintaining discipline? No, they expect nothing less than fair and equal treatment.

They give you love and acceptance, but they expect the same in return. A bad member of the pack who breaks this rule will be turned out. There is no worse punishment to a Husky than being left alone.

They want and need the security of their pack mates. Someone has their back if you want to look at it that way. It’s a two-way street in the dog world, and in ours.

When the daily battles for dominance and pack order have been fought. My Huskies lie down at the end of the day, and enjoy being close to each other. I’m with them, and they feel secure enough to let me see the loving part of their lives. I feel very privileged to be part of it.

I observe and learn what most of us have lost.

The lesson I’ve learned is about being true to what you are. You cannot change who, or what you are, no matter what anyone else wants.

When the day’s battles are over, huddle close to those who accept you into their pack. Even if you don’t always agree with them, they accept you for whom and what you are. Your soul belongs to you, it makes you what you are. Dogs know this, they don’t even think about it…they are what they are.

Be what you were meant to be…hold those close who except that, and ditch those who do not.

Everyone has a pack, a band of brothers and sisters who feel the same as you. Embrace your life, don’t doubt it…just live it!

TJ

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