Since Spring is here, it's time to think about PUPPIES! Last week, Aliy decided it was time to start the Latino puppies' training. We found small traditional harnesses for each of five puppiesand managed to get them on to the main line. We chose a team of slow, steady veterans including Cha Cha and Bullet in Lead, Teddy and Mismo in swing, Hank and Nelson, Pepe and Felix, and Izzy in Wheel by herself. Aliy jumped in the sled bag, and I (Wendy) on the runners and off we went down the driveway. I fully expected to have a slow, trotting run; with puppies stopping and sitting down, not knowing what to do with themselves. "How much can 20 lb puppies pull anyway?!" I wondered. Much to my surprise, we rocketed around the first corner and I found myself off the runners and running down the driveway after a puppy team and sled! They go MUCH faster than I imagined. Aliy had them stopped and waiting for me as I jumped back on and we took off again--this time I was much wiser!
Puppy training takes patience and enthusiasm. Every 5 minutes or so, we'd stop the team. I stood on the brake while Aliy went down the line clapping, petting and praising the puppies; sometimes untangling or straightening puppy lines. She'd hop back in the sled and off we'd go again. Our total trip was about 2.5 miles down the Baseline trail and around Pheasant Farm Road and back. We stayed to the wide hard packed trails to give plenty of room to turn around. People ask, "How do you train the puppies to run on the mainline with harnesses?". Aliy always responds, "It comes naturally, we really don't have to train them". Though I had heard this discussion a few times before, I really didn't understand how naturally it comes until I watched the Latino puppies. They have NEVER been in a harness before last week. We put them on the mainline and they ran in straight lines following their teammates. They had tight tug lines and pulled immediately. They pulled the whole way without resting or sitting down until we stopped them. They had their tails tucked and ears back and "smiles". In case we thought the first run was a fluke, Wes hooked the puppies up again with the veteran adults. This time only 2 or 3 puppies went on the line. Each one performed great again! Nelson and Mismo, the two largest puppies, seem to really "get" the running part. Felix and Pepe gettangled when stopped because they love to play. Izzy continues to pull with all her strength. At the end of the day, they were born to run, and that's what they are doing. Their parents, Biscuit and Quito, just finished both the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in 2nd place. It's in the puppies' bloodlines to be champions, and they are well on their way to becoming just that.