Archive for the ‘ACTIVITIES & WORK’ Categoryby Northernmost on August 21, 2012 in ACTIVITIES & WORK, Thunder, Titan, Tracking with No Comments
While Fredrik and I don’t hunt ourselves we nevertheless enjoy training our dogs in the field of blood tracking. A trained blood tracking dog is a valuable resource when recovering wounded game and can also help locate animals that have been wounded in traffic. In Sweden, a registered blood tracking dog must according to law be available within two hours when hunting moose, deer and other big animals, to avoid unnecessary suffering if the animal is wounded but not immediately found. As a result, it’s quite common for dog owners to train their dogs in the field of blood tracking. The great thing about this sport is that your dog get to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors while doing what comes absolutely naturally to him.
We find blood tracking to be especially suitable for restless teenage dogs as it allows them to use both their bodies and brains during a relatively relaxed working assignment. It is also a great activity for senior Mals who may not be able to run on the sledding team but still need regular exercise and stimulation. So far we haven’t come across a Malamute that doesn’t enjoy tracking. Someone once suggested that blood tracking is detrimental to the working discipline of sled dogs since it encourages their hunting instincts and make them more prone to chasing wild animals. In our view, this is far from the truth. In fact we feel that dogs that are trained regularly in the sport of blood tracking are able to focus better at any sport they are involved in, simply because tracking and spending time in the great outdoors make them generally more relaxed, happy and harmonious.
Our boy Thunder has successfully completed the Swedish aptitude test in blood tracking.The test instructor provided the following written critique after the test: “A dog that works purposefully and seeks and solves his tracking task with elegance. He displays excellent tracking ability and good cooperative skills.” Since Thunder really enjoys tracking we are now working towards having him approved as a certified blood tracking dog.
Titan has also tried his paw at blood tracking. Last weekend we prepared a 400 metre long trail for him to practice at. At the official tracking trials the trail is over 600 metres (1969 ft) long.
Mission accomplished – Titan found the hoof! While some dogs like to carry the hoof when the work is completed, others are not that interested and prefer to be rewarded with a treat or toy instead. After the training session we put the hoof back in the freezer, that way it can be used many times.
HOW TO DO IT
When laying a scent line we drag a moose hoof behind us while sprinkling small amounts of blood at regular intervals from a plastic bottle. We use no more than 2 deciliter blood over 600 metres. The trails at the official tracking trials in Sweden include at least 4 angles and a shorter section where no blood is used and we design our trails to resemble these as much as possible. We mark the trail with coloured tape which we place high on trees to make them less visible to the dog. Through these markings we know if the dog is going in the right direction and can gently correct his/her work if needed. To make things easier for us, we use different colours for straight track, for angles, and for sections without blood. We let the track age for at least 12 hours before going out, as otherwise it would be too easy for the dog. When training puppies and inexperienced dogs we use lines that are fresh and gradually build up the level of difficulty. By always laying the track downwind we encourage our dogs to work with a deep nose.
If you are interested in learning more about blood tracking we recommend the following books:
In Swedish: Aktivera din hund genom viltspårning, Kristian Carlsson (2006) and Träna Viltspår : Grunderna i eftersök för dig och din hund, Marita Carlsson (2009).
In English: Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer, John Jeanneney (2004). This book is often referred to as the “bible of blood tracking” and is suitable for beginners and veterans alike. You can also learn more about blood tracking (American style) by visiting the website of United Blood Trackers and by reading the blog of tracking experts John and Jolanta Jeanneney, named Born To Track.
The perhaps important thing to remember when starting your dog in tracking is to trust your dog and allow him or her to work in front of you. Ideally, you should be no closer to your dog than 5 metres (16ft) behind. Dogs are natural trackers and do best when they are allowed to work without any help or interference. Most dogs, regardless of breed, love to track!
Here are some pics from last Sunday’s agility session. Two of our girls are in season right now so we do our best to distract the boys with fun activities to make them focus on something else than just “GIRLS” for a while 😉
Leia goes absolutely crazy when we bring out the agilty obstacles, she loves it!
Tuisku trotting out from the closed chute.
Lyra waits while Fredrik adjusts the height. This pretty pup turned 1 year old last week – time flies!
Sunday is Funday for our Mals as if the weather allows we practise agility together in the garden. All our Mals LOVE agility and can hardly wait for their turn. Some are natural jumpers while others do better at the more “brainy” obstacles. We have lots of fun training at home and also take classes whenever they are available. At the moment we are nowhere near ready to compete with our dogs but it’s a great way of bonding and having fun together, while keeping bodies and brains in good shape!
Lyra tries out the tyre jump.
Thunder practises the weave poles.
Tuisku completes the chute.
AGILITY IS FUN!!!
Lucky boy Tuisku has been out two nights in a row; yesterday with Thunder and Leia and tonight with Titan and Gem. This evening we decided to try a new trail that we have passed by a couple of times when driving to the airport. It turned out to be a nice track for carting as it provided a good mix of running surfaces – everything from deep, soft sand to hardpacked gravel. The sand is good for building muscles and the harder surfaces are good for toughening up the pads.
Tuisku, Titan and Gem practising sit/down-stay during a break.
Our Mals spend a lot of time on soft grass at home so we’re careful not to run them on hard surfaces like asphalt too much. If a dog has sore pads we let him/her rest from training while adding fish oil to the food, as this product works wonders for both skin, coat and pads. In our experience, feet problems are less likely to return when treated from the inside with a quality Omega-3 supplement, than when treated only from the outside with various ointments. Luckily none of our dogs have real “problem feet” but we always examine their pads after every run, just to be safe. A good advice about feet is that if you check your dog’s feet often, you’ll know what they look like healthy and it will be easier to recognize problems when they occur. If a dog has cracked pads we clean and dry the feet and apply olive oil on a daily basis. If the dog is keen to lick it off we put an elizabethan collar on for 1-2 hours per day, before applying the oil, and keep the dog indoors during this time. We never use booties on the trail as a preventative measure, as they often cause more problems than they solve.
The mosquitoes that have plagued us since midsummer are beginning to disappear and the cool evenings are once again perfect for running the dogs in front of the cart. We went out late this evening, thinking we’d have the quiet country road to ourselves. Apparently the equestrian folks in the area were thinking the same, as we encountered a woman riding a big horse, a man driving a sulky and a group of kids walking a pony together with their two dogs. Felt like an entire circus was on the road tonight!
The unusually cool weather of May has been ideal for working our Mals in front of the 4-wheeled wagon. Most of our dogs are still in full winter coats so we aim to avoid the highest temperatures by going on runs early in the mornings and also make sure to take frequent breaks to allow them to cool down properly. During May we have focused on training Tuisku in single lead together with his team buddies Leia and Thunder. You can see more photos from our off-snow runs in our Carting Gallery.
Tuisku, Leia and Thunder – Running equals happiness!
Today we introduced our youngsters, Hilary and Lyra, to packing. Since they are still young it’s too early for them to carry any weight on their backs. Instead we filled their packs with lightweight stuff, such as clothes and blankets, to create the feel of a full load but with a minimum of weight. Both girls got used to having a bulky pack on their back in no time and showed great promise for the future. “Uncle Thunder” came along for moral support and we had a lovely day on the trail, enjoying the fresh breeze from the ocean and lunch on the sunny rocks.
Lyra and Hilary did great on their first packing excursion.
A sunny Sunday afternoon but still cool enough to go carting. Some stubborn patches of snow remain in the forest but it’s looking more and more like spring every day. Our Mals are still in full winter coats but it’s just a matter of time before they’ll start shedding. We’re planning to start bathing and grooming during next week’s long bank holiday. Seven dogs in four days shouldn’t be too bad? On today’s run Thunder and Leia worked in wheel and Tuisku in single lead and everyone did really well in their positions. Good dogs 🙂
Tuisku waiting for the word go…
And off they went!
We have typical April weather here in Lapland – blue skies and sunshine one day, and heavy snowfall the next. On clear days we make trips to the mountains and when it’s snowing we work the dogs on the forest trails starting from home. Yesterday Fredrik took the 5-dog team out for a run while I enjoyed a lazy day in the cabin. After more than two weeks of daily working activities my legs are starting to feel a little heavy and it was nice to take a break from the trail, reading a book in front of the fire instead. We’re at the end of our winter and we have had a really good sledding season this year so I won’t miss Lapland too much when we head home this week. I’m ready to stow away sleds and skis and begin preparing for spring and summer! 🙂
Titan and Gem in wheel, Lyra and Hilary in the middle, and Tuisku in front. Tuisku has been working in single lead several times this season and has done really well!
Titan and Gem resting during a break on the trail.
We went for another trip in the blue world of the mountains this evening. The top layer of the trail was a bit soft from fresh snow and perfect for skijoring with skating skis. We had planned to ski down to Sioskuru but had to change our route as the trail was closed due to avalanche risk in the area. Instead we climbed to the top of Ounastunturi to admire the views of Enontekiö. On our way down we bumped into a group on mountain bikes who were going on a fell expedition on two wheels! Biking in the snow looks odd to me, but they seemed to have a good time. Hopefully the weather will stay cold during the next few days or else they’ll find themselves stuck in deep snow 😉
Yesterday I took the trio for a ride in the beautiful low fell area surrounding the village of Näkkälä. The temperature was around -2C when we left home but due to the wind chill factor it dropped down to -20 C about halfway into the trail. Must have been the first time ever that I wasn’t geared up for the weather. Dressed for spring, I was like a frozen icicle when we returned home in the evening.
My small team of Malamutes – Tuisku, Gem and Titan.
At least I didn’t have to worry about cold feet as I was wearing these fantastic boots. If you’re looking for something warm for next winter I can highly recommend the Swedish Jörnkängan. These boots are handmade and quite pricey but warmer than any boot I’ve tried so far.
Three happy tails 🙂
Another stunning day in Lapland and perfect weather for a picnic! We packed our rucksacks and skijored to nearby Lake Ullajärvi with the pups and Tuisku and enjoyed a lazy day in the sun. It was a good opportunity for socialization as many people passed our lean-to shelter on the skiing trail and the pups had to practise being passive and quiet, also when other dogs were passing by, which isn’t always that easy. We also had company of four curious Siberian Jay birds who came to feed off our picnic. After the trip we headed straight for the wood heated sauna. In other words, a very typical day in Lapland 🙂