Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Solve not Absolve. Evolve!

     My dogs are happy!  And for the most part peaceful.  They are dogs, they act like dogs, I am not saying they are little stuffed toys.  It's a challenge managing 25 dogs.  Last year that was 2 teams of 10 dogs each giving sled dog rides and 5 retired dogs.  But I love it.  I always want to know them better, care for them better and love them better.  As I look into a set of loving canine eyes I ask "how can I love you better?".  I listen to what I hear.
     For sure, certain personalities are tough and require more "work" or thought.  Most mushers place out dogs who are difficult or fade in the presence of higher performing dogs.  I don't.  I solve, not absolve.  We all (most mushers) breed for better dogs and evolve.  Some musher's kennels evolve quicker, but there is no history.  They may treat the dogs like last years skis: moving on and placing the old, hard to manage, less performant dogs. 
     I realized today I had 4 alpha type females.  They don't share playtime! I have 3 play yards and do 2 shifts of play times.  Each dogs gets about 4 hours of playtime with dogs they like and can relax or play with.  I don't have to supervise 100% of the time because no dog is asked to feel uncomfortable or is put in a position where he or she is pressed into defensive behavior.
     Things do change, dogs become more secure and happy.  Sometimes with age dogs become less secure and ask for quieter play times or different kennel companions.  I watch and alter things as needed.  I try to listen to the subtle calls for change before there is trouble.  Anytime something negative happens I ask MYSELF what I could have done differently or what signs I missed.  There is no use blaming it on a dog, dogs are dogs!  I am the one in charge.
     Play groups may be small, 4 to 6 dogs, but my teams are usually 10 dogs.  Dogs who may not play together work together just fine.  Why???  They don't have big grudges, they aren't constantly being faced with someone that rubs them the wrong way.  They know in harness they work and have a great time.  2 of my toughest girls ran lead together for a few years.  But I listen...   both are incredibly smart and driven but together they were less responsive to leader commands.  Why?  I think because they were working on getting along and did not want to push or pull each other into a turn.  Perhaps also being so close to another tough girl took a little of each's confidence.  I listen...solve and not absolve....they both can run lead at different times.  It's fine!
     Barking Brook history is here: the first dogs I purchased as puppies, the first litter I had.  If I commit to keeping a puppy I try to keep that promise.  The dogs who I adopted as older dogs and who gave me their life-long earned wisdom are here or passed away with love all around them.  17 year old Blanche is one of those gems, and she is tottering abound my living room right now.
     I am a pretty lucky gal.  Having fun mushing with my best friends and now sharing a dog sled tour business with them.  xo