First steps with a sleddog puppy

As some of you might have heard, the family got bigger, my boyfriend got himself a greyster puppy, Kute. Greyster is a mix of greyhound and German shorthaired pointer tracing back to 25-time World Champion Lena Boysen Hillestad. Kute’s father was also born at her kennel, while her mother is a pure GSP.

We got lucky, because the litter was literally next door, so we knew the puppies from day one, but Mikal only choose when they were almost 8 weeks old (I wanted the black male since the very beginning… It was a very anxious 8 weeks for me!)

Now they are 4 months old, so we have been living for 2 months with the little black devil, and his training begun day 1.

It’s no secret that Mikal got Kute in order to continue racing in sleddog sports, but he obviously wants to include him in everyday activities too. In order to make it as easy as possible to bring him pretty much anywhere it is very important to start socializing from a very early age.

Kute has been already doing a LOT. We try to face him with various different situations with positive experiences and set the boundaries from the very start and stick to them. Many of the rules Mikal and his family are using are new to me also, and of course, personal. Some people  for example sleep with their dogs, while we don’t let ours into the bed. So please keep in mind during the puppy-diary posts, that these are not instructions “how to raise a sleddog”, these are our experiences and only how we are doing it. How Mikal and his family has been doing it. And although I haven’t seen all the dogs they’ve had, the ones I did are damn good ones. So I have no doubt that Kute will be no exception.

Even though the little black devil is quite young he has done and seen a lot already.

When it was warm we brought him to the waterside. At the first times we also had Anti (sometimes Tivo) and Bolt, his brother there and just let them play. Anti was retrieving balls and swimming, and we were acting very happy (“good boy, super job!” etc.) whenever one of the puppies went a bit into the water (so they understand that is something we want), but did not try to make them swim or anything, just let them be. Once they were used to this, we were sometimes making them go in a bit deeper for a toy or a stick, but still, just slightly out of their comfort zone, their paws could still touch the ground, so they wouldn’t get scared.

Then one day we went out and Mikal swam in with Anti and his ball, left Kute with me and Tivo behind. The little guy did not like that and suddenly just went into the water and started swimming after them like a pro. He pretty much went from zero to hero and once we were over our first shock we were obviously encouraging him. Now we have a swimmer puppy, without any bad experiences with the water. He thinks of it as a fun activity and that’s exactly what we’ve wanted.

Why is it so important to us? This way we will be able to train him in the summer during the warm days, help him cool down and tire him at the same time. I wish the huskies would’ve learnt to swim at a young age too…

When we are walking, he is almost always off leash once we reach the forest. This way we can practice his recall, so by the time he will be ready for freerunning, we will have no problems with him. He is also getting used to different terrains (he is usually running  around in the bushes and not on the road) and tires himself more, since he is running up and down, back and forth. Whenever we find something interesting, we are trying to use it in order to provide even more experiences. Like last time, we had to cross a small brook, or when we found a small wooden bridge. Of course Kute is skeptical at times and needs some encouragement. We went over the small bridge for example several times. He was not so eager for it in the beginning, but by now he has learnt that there was nothing to be afraid about.

Kute is also travelling a lot. We are usually using his crate, we put toys or pig ears into it so he can occupy himself. We also try to tire him before putting him in and this I find so important! Instead of trying to get rid of a bad habit (for example crying/shouting in the crate) we try to avoid that, so he gets more of a positive experience. It’s way easier and less stress for both dog and owner.

He is also travelling perfectly on the front seat, even if I am alone in the car. Of course I never drive far like this, mostly only next street to my workplace, but it’s nice to sometimes just “throw the dog in” and not look for the crate, pack everything out in order to fit it, etc. for a 2-minute drive.

We also drive like this many times when we go for a walk to the forest, which is literally 500m from us. You might ask why? And the answer might be surprising: so Kute does not cross the border of the property.

In Norway they don’t really have the husky-proof fences I am used to, but they still let their dogs simply run loose on the property. For me it’s a shock, because if I would do this I would have to gather my dogs from the next village or from a farm, but apparently, the dogs for example at Mikal’s homeplace are not leaving the property. In order, to teach them this, they simply don’t let the puppy cross the “border”. Ever. This includes walks too, to make it more obvious and strict. So we also drive down to the forest instead of walking. I won’t lie, this is weird for me and I kept forgetting it (I took Kute out for a walk directly from home already), but if you think about it it makes complete sense. Of course, a GSP mix has a different temperament than a husky, I have a hard time to imagine my dogs would stay around, if I would be persistent on not crossing the edge of the property… And I guess we will never know now how they would react.

Kute was also brought to the city, to shops, to our workplaces and to an outdoor fair (he has already been to his first race and several common trainings too!). He always have been a quite cool guy, but it’s nice to get him used to all the different sounds, the loads of people and the different environments. Just think how many things are happening at a race! The loudspeaker, the spectators, all the barking dogs… For Kute this will hopefully not be a shock. The season has also started last weekend, but I will talk about the first race experiences in an other post.

Apart from everything, that we are doing in order to prepare him for racing, all these things and many others are super important to make sure we can enjoy life together. I recently read something on facebook, on the page of the Norwegian National Team of Nordic Style, that really stuck: “Ved å gjøre denne jobben med valpen vil man få en hund som yter sitt beste for deg under konkurranse, men også en hund som takler de hverdagslige utfordringer. Det er jo tross alt flest hverdager i løpet av et år” which roughly translates to “By doing these with the puppies, one will get a dog that gives its best during competition, but also a dog, that manages the everyday challenges. Afterall it’s mostly everydays during a year.” And this says everything I think. Bringing Kute to sleep outdoors or in a hammock, or getting him used to elevators will probably not help him become a better sleddog. But it makes the everyday life easier, and let’s face it… We are not on races every day of the year.

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