American Dryland Mushers Association



    Training is often the thing that new mushers worry about, but just remember "practice makes perfect" don't expect your dog to be running perfectly your first few times out. Just remember start slow. Sled dogs can start harness training around six months of age, but this is often not the case with recreational mushers. Most mushers start there dogs with light weights and then work up to heavier objects. I started my dogs by attatching a small board to their tugline, next I worked with canicross (canicross is a good way to start your dog because most humans can easily stop a pulling puppy, and this is a safer way to start training because a lot of things can happen with moving wheels.) You don't need a canicross belt to start training this way, you could simply attatch a least to your dog's harness and walk behind your dog. It is important that your dog learn the difference between a harness and a collar. Your dog should be able to heel while wearing a collar and pull when wearing a harness (believe me, trying to walk a sled dog that doesn't know how to heal or cannot be controlled on a leash is a nightmere when your trying to get your dog somewhere). For dogs that simply won't listen with a collar I would suggest the Gentle Leader halti-collar (it works miracles).


Teaching Gee/Haw commands 101


   I must admit that most dogs DON'T  have a problem with the command "Hike!" but the other commands take a little bit more work. My dogs see "Whoa" as simply a suggestion and I often have to stop them by force. (We need more practice) But most of the time I run my dogs far and fast, by the time we need to stop their tiered and stop willingly. Although at the beginnig of the trail they pull so hard and jump around so much that I need somebody out in front of them holding their neckline so they don't take off down the trail without me.


   When Training "Whoa" I'll tell you, unless you bought some trained sled dogs from  Martin Buser, your dogs aren't going to stop on command  without lots of training. When starting out,  stop them by force but ALWAYS tell them "Whoa". MAKE the listen to you and don't rely on your bike, scooter, or gig brakes just to stop your dogs, as soon as you are moving slow enough, put your feet down. When your dogs stop praise them even if you did have to forcebly stop them. They will associate stopping on command with good things. Also, do your ground work first and wear a helmet. While stopping keep an eye on the tugline and make sure that it doesn't get caught in the wheel or you may get an exciting trip over the handlebars and end up with some battle wounds. Although you will probably not ever be able to completely trust your dog to stop on command make sure that you've done some training with "Whoa" and that your bike, scooter, or gig has adequate brakes.


                                                              Gee and Haw 

     Refreshing your memory Gee means right and Haw means left. I must admit when I started mushing training these to commands was the most intimidating part of all. I found out that I wasn't able to do a lot of preperation for the command  before I hit the trails. These commands are taught through experience, so train on the trail. The trail that I train on has only a few oppertunities for turning onto a different trail, and I almost always go the same course so my dogs know the trail but I still used the commands and praised my dogs when the obeyed. One day I wanted my dogs to run on the other side of the trail and told them "Gee" I didn't think that they would know the command but my lead dog surprised me by going to the right side of the trail! I once asked a ISDRA bikejoring gold medelist how he trained his dogs for Gee and Haw, he told me "Don't give them a lot of options, maybe just one, but give them the command." I was surprised when his advice was true. So, even if it seems that your dogs may not be learning, you may be surprised.

                                                                   On By

    I have to admit that my dogs had a hard time understanding "On By" I've ended up in bushes after my dogs chased squirels and birds on the trail, and in a dog fight when my twenty-five pound terrier thought he was a pit bull and decided to take on a Black Lab five times his size. After thinkink for a long time for a way to solve this problem, I decided to bring someone to the trail with me with a leash in his pocket. When I noticed that there was a dog or other animal up ahead I asked him to attatch the leash to one of the dogs collars and not let the dogs go near the distraction while I commanded "On By". This Worked! With smaller distraction (such as a squirrel) I speed up the dogs while shouting "HIKE! HIKE!" to distract them. This worked most of the time, but because there is nothing attatched to the dogs to restrain them, sometimes I still end up in a bush.



   "Easy" is a very useful command when riding on a dangerous part of a trail. While training easy on a bike or scooter I hold down the brakes moderetly so the dogs slow down. Talk to the dogs in a calm and reasuring voice when the dogs are going easy. To break out of easy I use the command "Hike" and realese the breaks.

                                                                 Line Out

     To train line out I am often standing on the ground and holding the breaks hard. "Line Out" can also be used as the "Wait" command, although you'll need someone to hold you bike, scooter, or gig while dogs are "Line Out" because the dogs are pulling against their harnesses whils standing still in the "Line Out" posistion.



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