Friday, November 18, 2011

Training Lead Dogs - a gee over tip

Training new lead dogs is always a lot of fun, and is so easy in fall.  It seems like the hardest skills to teach are the turn commands and "gee over".  You get really motivated to teach gee over when you run on a road like we do, or go up to Pittsburg and share the trail with snow mobiles going 70mph.  Also, running sled dog tours like I do, you really need to do your homework in fall to get the team ready and up to snuff.

To teach gee over I start with stopping the team and pushing the dogs gently over to the gee side.  Repeat ad naseum, but when you get that golden moment when the lead dogs see you coming and scoot over on their own PRAISE LIKE HECK!  This is the moment you have been waiting for.  And you need to let them know how great you think they are as they are doing it.  Now you still have a lot of work to do if you have strong lefty dogs.  Keep at this, it matters, it works, you will succeed.  If you think your dogs are getting bummed out, just imagine how bummed out they would be to be in a car or snowmobile crash.
After the dogs get so they know what you are saying, what you want to do is not stop, but use the command shortly followed by pressure on the breaks if they do not respond.  Slow the team down to a crawl.  Then, as they step over to the right, praise like heck and let go of the brakes right away!  Once you get to this point things go a lot faster, because lets face it, these sled dogs LIVE to run.  It also feels much better as the musher, bcs you are not stopping a million times on the trail.  But you need to make sure the dogs know what the words mean FIRST.
Good luck, and good "gee over"!

-Miss W
Owner and Musher
Barking Brook Sled Dog Adventures, llc