Relationship Training

Relationship training–

When it comes to the sled dogs, whether we’re talking feeding or running, I try to keep things fresh and interesting. I do this by varying the times of day that I feed them, the amounts that I feed them, and the types of food that I feed them, almost on a daily basis.

Same thing for training runs. I might run them five days in a row at a constant ‘long’ mileage, then spend a week running every other day focusing on short muscle pulls, then start pulling double headers where I run them long and fast, get them back in the yard and let them stay in harness and on the line for a couple of hours, then take them out again for a muscle run.

I run them on a full stomach and on an empty stomach. I feed them when I come back in from a run immediately, and sometimes I won’t feed them at all. I run them in the dark in howling wind driven snow storms and in the blazing sun drenched heat of the day.

My dogs don’t know how much food they are going to get or when they are going to get it, when they are going to get hooked up or how often, or how far they are going to go or where or under what circumstances.

Confused? Aghast? Think that I’m talking gibberish?

Well, let’s just look at what I’m preparing my team and dogs for:

300-1000 mile races that can take anywhere from 65 hours to 10 days to complete. During the course of these events, my team will have to run at all hours of the 24 hour clock, heat of the day and dead of the night both, under any condition that Mother Nature decides to throw at us. They will have to consume huge amounts of food and water pretty much at every opportunity, and these amounts and the time and circumstances of their delivery will bear almost no relationship whatsoever to what life in the dog yard was like.

Same goes for the traveling part of the race equation.There is simply no way of knowing what the trail composition will be like ahead of time, and in most cases when you look at races that take as long as the Race to the Sky to complete, it is safe to assume that you will see every condition imaginable.

I call my system the Relationship Training Method, and that is because I am constantly looking for the relationship between the dogs and myself to be strengthened, and when I’m doing 5 mile obstacle courses in early June, I’m looking for the relationship between them and some piece of the Iditarod Trail, for instance.

My personal belief is that a rigid schedule, a rock solid formula for training and feeding, does not give your dogs the skills that they will need to run at the top level of any of these big distance races. In fact, in almost all cases, a solidly structured routine will prohibit a musher and their team from reaching their peak performance during races, because what you have really been teaching your dog’s all season is to always be at their best, to always come home to their cozy little dog houses, to always eat the same amount of food delivered under the same best case ‘dog yard’ scenario, to always run when the weather is not too bad or when the groomer has just gone out, or to only be hooked up when they are leaping and spinning and eager to go, etc, etc.

I’ll dig into my methodology a bit more tomorrow.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….


2 Responses to “Relationship Training”

  1. makes perfect sense to me. they have to be ready for what ever you throw at them. ours dont have a rigid feed time either, they never howl and beg around dinner time, just carry on with life till it comes then wolf it down fast as! i think it makes for good eaters, when it comes…eat!!! they get fed every day, sometimes wet, sometimes dry, sometimes with meet, sometimes kibble and some gravey. but they nearly always eat.
    thanks for sharing jason!

    • Sounds like you’re doing great, Matt–sometimes it helps to have your own ideas/procedures validated, eh? My own system is ripped off from a number of people who all do it much better than I.

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