1. Offer water and keep it consistent. During the winter months, it can be hard to keep water available to dogs at all times without it freezing. Our solution has been to hand-carry small, white, one-gallon buckets from dog to dog whenever necessary. After a training run? Here come the white buckets. A hot afternoon? Here come the white buckets. Catch a dog eating snow? Here come the white buckets. Dogs aren’t eating their dinner? You get the picture… We do this often enough that anytime they see that small white bucket they know water is coming and they transition into great drinkers. This is an invaluable habit when we get out on the race trail. Shiny metal bowls mean the food is coming and white buckets mean water is coming. Consistency.
2. Train the dog, not the team. These are individual athletes we are working with and they need to be treated as such. Here at Husky Homestead we rarely panic about a dog missing a few training runs. Catering to the needs of each dog is a great way to receive elevated performance from the team as a whole when race time arrives.
3. Move ‘em around. Pay attention to where dogs are running in the team and assess their performance based on that position. Young dogs, especially, can look great on one side of the tow line and borderline drunk on the other. Got a healthy dog that you are still not getting a smooth gait out of? Try a different harness. We have had success with the Howling Dog Hybrid Light Weight Harness, it allows for standard x-back configuration as well as side pull options. On certain dogs, we have gone so far as to rotate between both tug points and both sides of the tow-line in the same run for a total of four different arrangements. This diversity in tug points and pull angles allows a dog to work different muscles and build a more uniform strength or “protect” an area of concern if coming back from an injury.