When to start mushing


Eleven week old Alaskan husky


This is a question frequently asked...when to start mushing?

There is no one answer to the question. There are guidelines though.

The most crucial time for training is as a yearling. Meaning the time after the dog is a year old and before two years. To start mushing young you really have to know your dog and what signs to look out for. You don't want to hurt the growth of your dog or make him feel disinterested. Puppies have growth plates that close round about when they are a year old. At the age of 8 months it is however highly unlikely to hurt a puppy with mild exercise. So basic harness training and getting used to pulling something is acceptable. If you are intending mush with your dog, consider to only spay a female after her first heat when she is about 12 months old and a male at about 12 - 18 months. This gives them time to grow good and healthy strong bones. But...If you are not interested in mushing, sterilising a female before her first heat reduces her chances of breast cancer by large. And it is not true that a male dog is less of a male dog if he is sterilised. All that might happen is that he would be less prone to roam, my calm down just a little and be less eager to stand his ground to a another male dog lowering the risks of getting into a dog fight. Note: There are many other factors involved in behaviour, not by far is everything based on hormones.

In the early months as a puppy you can start with short sessions for harness training getting the puppy used to a harness. You can also start with directional cues of Gee (right) and Haw (left), lining out, moving straight and past obstacles.

Never setting your puppy up to fail.

This can include things like pulling a cool drink bottle filled with water.

You can ask a friend to stand on the side of the road with a dog so that you can cue your dog the on by command and as your puppy passes successfully. Your friend can move closer towards you and the road. This is only when your dog can do the basics of mushing and has started to build up confidence.

Like I said the most important part for training is as a yearling this is the time that you want to imprint everything you want your dog to know as a sled dog. Training after this period will be much harder but not Un doable.

Remember to always keep it fun. End the training session at a high point so that your puppy still wants more. Don't stop when your puppy/dog is already tired stop when he would still be able to go further. Read more about starting out training and keeping it fun Start out gradually and as the months go by you can increase the distance and weight. Condition your dog well, this includes nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, building up muscle memory and not doing to much and pushing your dog beyond his limits. Your dog should never know he has a limit, because you should never go that far. Provide the needed food so that it provides enough energy for the type of exercise that your dog is doing.

If your puppy have older dogs to learn from even better as they learn better from dogs then from us.With mushing races it's not always the fastest team that wins but the best conditioned, hearted teams not saying speed doesn't help especially in sprint mushing but in long distance that is not all that counts. The teams that eat high quality balanced food. Gets rest when they need it and run the kind of trails that they compete on. Meaning if you are planning to take part in a race where there are a lot of hills then practice on trails with hills. Prepare your dog for what can be expected. Their muscles will remember the routine and injuries will occur less.

Think of a top athlete they eat exactly right, condition them self’s and practice.

When your puppy turns into a yearling this will be of the up most importance if excellence is what you would like to achieve.

When starting to train either at the beginning of a season or training your yearling don’t over do it. Keep to two day’s a week maybe three. Rest the other days by only doing light exercise like running free or taking walks. Muscles need to rest and repair it self and the slower you start out the less there is to repair. To really have athletes for dogs you don't just jump on your rig and off you go. You work on it and prepare properly.

Lactic acid builds up in the muscles and they can only take so much.The muscles will benefit by starting out slow and building up to longer distances and more frequently. They will get stronger and build up memory. Meaning getting to know what is expected of them.

What your dog gives you out on the trail is a true reflection of the work,love and nutrition you have put into your dog as an individual.

When a dog is in a team of dogs it can be difficult to see what that specific dogs potential truly is. So look for signs of body language and how the dog works when the cart is not really in motion yet.

There are so many factors to dog mushing most of which you will learn through observing and paying attention to your dogs and what other mushers do some you may learn what not to do and from others what to do.

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Louise Basson on the Expresso Show talking about Huskies and Husky Rescue 2012.