The Future Home of Iditarod Dreams: Lynyrd Skynard vs. Barry Manilow
A lot can be said about Balance. The Yin and the Yang. The Black and the White. Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker. The cool side of the pillow… but I am reading a book by Mitch Seavey: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way: Unconventional Sled Dog Secrets of an Alaskan Iditarod Champion, and he sums it up best. Lynyrd Skynyrd vs. Barry Manilow. Yep, thats right, you either rock your socks off to the Van Zant’s or sway to the groves of Copacabana.
In the book Mitch is talking about training leaders and positive versus negative training. I have been a dog trainer for a very long time. Maybe longer than some of my rabid readers have been alive and one thing I have learned over the years is you don’t train dogs just to fit in and do what everybody else is doing.
Sure it might be the “in” thing to do to train with clickers and cute little kissing sounds. But your dogs (at least the ones that I train) have no idea what you are talking about. They understand balance. A dog has no idea its Sunday and they don’t understand shades of gray no matter how hard you want them to. Dogs understand leadership and routine.
In the sled dog world it is much the same. In working these past few weeks with a long distance mushing team I am beginning to see what Mitch is talking about. These dogs are born and bred to pull. That is all they want to do. Sure they want to please the Big Dog (it should always be the musher, by the way) and they enjoy a pat on the head.
But what I am trying to get across friends and neighbors is for years I was going through the motions with trying to train sled dogs. I didn’t quite have a finger on the pulse of the dog’s psychology. Lets just say I was a….
I was attempted to use the conventional methods of dog training to try and build a team of sled dogs and I always wondered why they would quit on me in the middle of the trail. Why GEE never seemed to mean Right and HAW was some show on Saturday nights when I was a kid (HEE-HAW of course).
Now I see what I was doing wrong and I am quickly learning that I am a mere infant among men (what is the saying: Boys amongst Men). I have a lot to learn and if I ever plan to run the Iditarod in two and a half years I had better be an A student.
I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please comment below.
Robert Forto is the host of The Dog Works Radio Show and is the training director of Alaska Dog Works. Robert Forto can be reached through his website at www.alaskadogworks.com