Saturday, September 22, 2012

New Things

Skittles holding the line as we hook
up the rest of the team

These days there are many new things around here, and mostly for the canine residents of our household, or in some sort of connection with them.

I love new things. I love trying out new ideas, I love inventions and innovations, and most of all, I love seeing a thing I wanted to try out for a long time, being finally done and working perfectly. Every such time I find myself smiling and thinking how could I EVER be without them and how in the world did I manage until now! J

There are actually two new things significantly big enough to make it to a blog post J

Firstly, I finally went ahead and tried out something I´ve been putting aside for a long time.
In the past I would occassionaly take off a neckline from one or two dogs in the team to ease the pressure of their necks. I did it somehow subconsciously, without much thought given to it. I would occassionaly hear from a musher here and there, who runs their dogs without necklines.
For years, I´ve been running my lead dogs without necklines and have a great success with it.
Last year, at a sled dog symposium in Swedish Kiruna, I attended a great lecture from Hans Gatt, Canada´s premier musher and multiple Yukon Quest champion and top finisher of many long distance races, including the Iditarod.
Hans explained how important it is to run without necklines – how it prevents neck and back injuries from the constant jerking of the team attached to the gangline and the dog running beside, who would dip snow or try to sip from a puddle. 
I decided then that these benefits are totally worth trying out, learning how to run the dogs without necklines and teaching them the new stuff.

So yesterday I found myself stopping the team after about the half way point and taking off the necklinces on every other dog, but the first six. The kids ran beautifully and some didn´t even notice the missing neckline.

I was really excited about this, so I took even more necklines off on the second team. I had pairs of dogs without necklines, running smoothly and beautifully full focus, pulling hard all the way!

But now comes the cherry on the cake. I noticed that several of the dogs changed their gait. Some would spread a little wider away from the central line (mainly wheel dogs, similarly as the leaders do sometimes, when pulling extra hard), while the rest would run and pull in a perfect straight line, in a perfect paralel with the central line. Definitely huge benefits for them, being able to pull the way they need, without being limited by the neckline. But here comes the absolute top – Dogs that pulled and run sideways usually, and a couple of those who tend to crabbing when the speed doesn´t fit their gait, did straighten completely out! Seriously.
Some of the younger dogs who tend to lean to a particular side of the line or prefer a certain side more, have straightened out as well. I was exstatic!

We have solved a number of issues during one single run. How awesome is that?!

So all I can say is that if you ask me what I think about the no neckline theory, I´ll definitely tell you: „Go for it!“ But have safety first in your mind. If you must cross or run alongside roads with some traffic, you might want to have a second person coming with you as a passanger. Or try it out on a safe stretch of the trail, then attach the necklines again. Try it with one or two dogs first, before taking them off on a whole running pair or several dogs. Step by step. No rush. Believe me, it will be so much worth it!

Sorry I have no pictures of the team without necklines. But I will try to take and post them some other time.

Don´t be afraid of change – with safety in mind, of course! J

Have a great day!

1 comment:

susie said...

I am happy that this worked out for you! Hans runs his entire team without necklines even while training. I still use them for most of my team dogs while training due to having many young dogs in there, but the goal is 'no necklines' as they get better. Thanks for posting and sharing and reminding why it is important.